Don’t doubt lipstick magic

Published 8:25 pm Saturday, May 26, 2012

The crack of the bat hitting the ball, grass-stained uniforms, rained-out games, popcorn and Gatorade — these are the signs of springtime in a baseball-loving family. Safe! You’re out! Run! These all are words you expect to hear along with lots of whooping and hollering at a baseball game. But one word you don’t expect to hear: apply, and yelled loudly enough that half of Beaufort County can here it. Yes that’s one of Carla’s favorite words to call out in excitement and desperation at each and every game of baseball that our 7- and 8-year-old boys play.

For those of you who know Carla, I am certain you have big grins across your faces.  Carla is clever, as exciting as a trip to Paris, a party looking for a place to happen, going faster than a speeding bullet (most of the time) and, without a doubt, as loving and encouraging as they come.

Now, Carla isn’t just a cheerleader — she is the cheerleader, and, mind you, it doesn’t matter whether the child is on our team or the opposing team, she cheers for them all. With chants of: “You got this one,” “Way to get a piece of it,” “Keep your head in there,” “Way to hit the ball” and “Great job,” she sets the bar high and is the example of a good “fan.” It’s about having fun, it’s about being a team, it’s about friendship, and, maybe, just a little bit about winning, but Carla is a true fan, not of the sport, but a fan of the children.

She has nicknames for every child on the team, 11 heaven, Taco, G and D man and so many more. She knows which children want their names called out, which ones need to focus while hitting and the ones whose names you scream only after they have hit the ball.

Carla also has a magic lipstick that brings the boys luck out on that ball field. The lipstick is some scary shade of 1980s frosted pale pink, probably not the best shade for anyone, but Carla wears it to every game. She says it brings her luck, and the boys, too.

Around the third inning of the second game of the season, she started passing that tube of lipstick around for all the mothers to put on. She was worried about the way the boys were playing, and we all needed to bring them some luck. Well, when Carla asks you to put on the lipstick, it isn’t so much as being asked as being told to do it, and now! Any fear of germs or cooties goes right out the window.

Carla’s lipstick was worn down to nothing; we were scrapping the tube with our little fingers, trying to coax out whatever little bits of lipstick were left. So, there we all were with our lips shaded pink, and, yes, the boys pulled it together and won.

The following Saturday morning, right before the game, Carla shows up with a plastic bag in hand. She starts handing out tubes of lipstick, 1980s pink, to all the mothers and grandmothers within reach. She looked at us all as we fumbled to open our tubes, held her lipstick up over her head and hollered “apply” just as the boys ran out onto the field. Each and every mother did, and re-applied every time Carla called out to us.

I don’t know if it is the magic of the lipstick, or the game, or the team, or the coaches and parents, or a combination of it all or just the magic of Carla, but it works.

Come on out to the sports complex one Saturday afternoon, see all these children playing softball or baseball and just listen for a bit. I am sure you will hear the word “apply” come bellowing from the backfields. Follow the sound and you will find Carla. In all her glory of 1980s pink frosted lipstick, she will be cheering on one or two or 14 little boys who know that because she has hollered at them in praise and encouragement the next home run is theirs.

A Yankee with a Southern soul, Gillian Pollock is a wife, mother of two ever-challenging children and director of Christian Formation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.