San Juan Bautista

I’ve been here before. A warm evening last October, we drove to past ranches, through foothills, the setting sun turning the landscape to glowing gold. We parked on the main street, past the Mission, foothills rolling away on each side, ate dinner in the patio of a restaurant. We passed drinks, plates, across the table: Try this. How is it? Do you want some? What do you think? Dinner finished, stomachs full- satisfied- we stood under the vines, by the entrance to that backyard stone patio, smiled for a picture.

I’m back now. San Juan Bautista.

The youngest cousin- youngest and the tallest, except for Stevy- has a baseball game here. He came earlier, driving along those same roads in the uncle’s truck. I arrived later, flying down the highway, the yellow-hot sun still prominent in the sky, above the hills. The aunt, two cousins, myself arrive moments before the grandparents do, and it’s mere minutes before we’re settled into the bleachers.

It’s a small town- not quite tipping the scale at 2,000 people- and this little baseball field is the center of it all. One square block of grass, baseball diamond, three rows of bleachers on each side of home plate. We’re in the middle of the town; the town in the middle of the hills.

They play baseball, and we watch. Watch batters, pitchers, outfielders. We watch balls hit and missed and two outfielders collide, land on their backs, as they both reach for a pop fly. We can’t help but laugh at that, sitting where we are in the top row of the bleachers, passing each other handfuls of sunflower seeds, trail mix. On the field, they hit and run, swing and walk. On the bleachers, we move, too. Slide from one to another; the grands, the aunt, the cousins. I’m on the middle row, early in the game, but innings pass and then I’m in the back, between aunt and cousin, another cousin leaning back, leaning in. Leaning into the huddle we’ve created. We tell stories, laugh, give advice, get ideas, watch blue uniforms and orange uniforms race around the diamond.

There’s a snack shake to our left, stout wooden hut on the corner. This small town corner is one fourth baseball diamond, three fourths homes, and I watch a man on the opposite corner step out of his house, cross the street to the snack shack. Four minutes later, he crosses back, three hotdogs balanced on a plate against his chest. Dinner. Later, as the cousin on the field stands, bouncing, at attention, at first base, the oldest cousin, sitting on the bleachers next to me, climbs down, returning two minutes later with a plate of nachos. Minutes later, we’re licking nacho cheese off our fingers, washing down jalapeños with trail mix, more sunflower seeds.

The game almost over, we stand, leaning against the wooden wall behind us. To the left, the houses, simple, square, beautiful houses, seem to reflect the brilliant glow of the setting sun. To the right, the town of San Juan Bautista lives, moves; cars rolling up and down the street, families moving back and forth in the Saturday evening glow. And in front of us, the baseball game unfolds, the ring of baseball on bat echoing across the sweet, peaceful little town.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nina
    Mar 17, 2014 @ 18:57:05

    I like this… makes me want to travel somewhere south of the 49th parallel. :) Not to sound all like a literary snob, but your writing reminded me of Steinbeck for some reason… simple but poignant snapshots of real life I somehow relate to but have never experienced.


  2. nataliaria
    Mar 17, 2014 @ 20:24:30

    Oh, believe me, I won’t judge your literary tastes when it comes with kind words for me. :) Really though, thank you, Nina!


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