The lawn’s mowed to resemble the perfect cricket green of our imagination.
Reality. We gather stumps, make shift – they might be a bin, or plastic wickets, or even more up market free standing metal ones.
Next each family member is called, usually loudly and persuasively by youngest, whose life calling is in this ritual.
It’s late afternoon, he knows better than to try in the midst of Queensland heat.
Hats on, sunscreen even for the late hour, and out we go.
‘Who’ll bat first?’
Not their Dad, he’ll slog it too much and make us run all over, although he also bats deliberate catches when he’s had enough allotted time at the crease and needs to quench his thirst.
Eldest loves to bowl. He’s even filmed his brother and his own bowling actions so both can improve. He will bowl fast and hard, because he’s training youngest. No easy balls from him.
I picture the Waugh brothers putting each other through their paces.
It can be serious stuff this backyard cricket.
Fielders into position, youngest into bat. Eldest bowls. No mercy, but youngest is gaining talent day by day, and he can bat when the going is tough, later he will have a great day batting at the super eights in primary. ‘Thanks big bro,’ he will say.
Mum (that’s me) positioned with camera for a capture of this classic ritual but ready to set it down for a catch, maybe.
Then it’s Dad batting against bowling eldest son, and there’s a true battle on. He’s determined to have his Dad out.
‘Give it your best son!’
It’s on for young and old.
Youngest children are spectators now and I am sole fielder.
Hubby slogs it, grins – and eldest paces back, Lillee like, to his run up. The ritual is repeated. Each child has a bowl to him, but it’s a field day. One day they’ll have him out!
Daughter varies, sometimes she’s in for the game and other times she’s doing something more interesting in the garden, like filling a bucket with water, what’s she up to, the mind boggles.
Now she’s called to attention, ‘grab that ball.’
Little Athletics was short lived for her; she just liked playing in the long jump/ sand/ pit too much.
There’s variations on this ritual – now we head of to the beach, and the scene is played out again, but this time there’s soft sand, ocean and people walking their dogs, who sometimes like to field.
At times there’s additional family members on visits, after long absences from grandchildren’s lives.
Again I am poised with camera, until called to the crease, to enjoy slogging the ball, and having my kids dart, crab like, everywhere on the sand.
Poppy’s into it, enjoying building the drama. He keeps spare tennis balls in his shirt pocket, for when others end up out too far in the ocean.
Daughter is not left out; she takes to the crease, and does her best. Poppy’s a gentle bowler. Now she’s also keen to bowl. She’s working to perfect her technique.
Now she’s attempting fielding, but not for long, soon the bucket is being filled with goodies to make into art when she arrives home.
For a moment we play heroes like Watson, Ponting, O’Donnell, Lillee and Marsh. We are beyond the backyard, beyond cricket hero boundary times– and on perfect cricket greens.
You can read more of June’s Stories at her blog Pearlz Dreaming.
First published ABC Open, 500 Words, Family Rituals, November 2012.