Growing up away from town, us kids were isolated especially during the summers. Mom didn’t drive when we were little, and Dad worked construction jobs keeping him away from early morning until late afternoon, where he promptly went to work on his garden and checking on his cattle.
Our simple joys were either going to our summer league baseball games or Saturday trips to the grocery store where, after saving money from picking strawberries, we got to buy Topps baseball cards.
I can still smell the rock-hard stick of bubble gum that came with each pack of cards. The flavor from the gum lasted about 30 seconds, but the treasure was not the gum, but the hope of getting an all-star ballplayer, especially a St. Louis Cardinal like Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, or Joe Torre.
I can still feel the smooth finish of each card, with the glossy poses from some of my favorite players. More times than not, however, the players I got I had never heard of coming from long forgotten teams like the Seattle Pilots, Washington Senators, or Montreal Expos.
My older brothers would often try to trade me some of their own unknown players for a Lou Brock or Kenny Reitz. I’m sure they ripped me off a few times, but I didn’t care. If I could keep my Richie Allen or Bake McBride cards, two of my favorite players, I was happy.
Part of the joy of getting baseball cards is the anticipation of who is inside. And then, after getting the cards, you arrange them by teams and add them to your collection.
I still have many of those old cards from the early 70’s in a large tub container. Some I cashed in for insurance after a flood in Joplin around 1999 reached our basement, ruining several cards. I also keep a few of my more valuable cards in protective sleeves, hoping someday my sons will pass them down to their sons.
Baseball season approaches, one of my favorite times of the year. It brings back memories of days gone by playing jean ball in our yard, summer baseball at Mang Field, and opening fresh packs of cards on the living room floor.
The joy of anticipation brings me a small taste of the joy of anticipation that awaits when I get to shed the wrapping of this aging body for the freshness and newness of a new eternal body. As I remember the joys of growing up in the Ozarks, and memories like baseball cards come to mind, it seems all those joy-filled, simple memories are small currents that eventually lead together to the river of joy that awaits for all who have put their faith in Christ.
I can’t wait!