Last night I stood while the Star Spangled Banner played at the travel league baseball game we attended to watch our grandson, Sam, play. Everyone stood. Men took their hats off and held them over their hearts. A few people kept their hands at their side. That’s okay – they were free to do so.
And as I stood there, with the words of our national antherm going through my head, another flag scene flashed through my head. From a movie.
I looked around the ball field. Someone had done a good job getting it ready for the game. Baseball stadium aromas came from the concession stand – hot dogs, fries, mozarella sticks. Maybe that tickled the noses of the nine and ten year old boys standing on the field, hats off, while they listened. Maybe they didn’t know all of the history behind the flag they were honoring. That’s okay – they were free to think what they wanted.
The movie was one I hadn’t seen in years. It popped into my head as I surfed Netflix. Oh, yeah, I thought, why don’t I watch that again? Sally Field played her part so well in it.
The music stopped, everybody put their hats back on and it was time to - Play Ball! Moms jabbered to each other on the bleachers. Younger siblings tapped Dad’s pant leg to ask for money for a freeze pop. If someone fetched a ball that had made it over the fence – guess what? – that fetcher got a Free freeze pop. Fun.
It was very hot out and I was glad I could sit and watch the game in shorts and skimpy sandals. Many of the other women were similarly dressed. Sunglasses, sunscreen and shorts. The summer baseball watching uniform of women all over our land. We’re free to dress that way.
The movie was Not Without My Daughter.
The game looked close in the beginning. The kids were pumped in spite of the heat. Coaches roared instructions to each batter and fielder. Parents yelled encouragment. “Okay, Eddie, this one’s yours!” “You can do it, Sam.” “It’s okay buddy – you’ll get it next time.”
You just don’t get more American than this. Our national pastime in diminutive form. Shaping kids for the competitiveness of the world. Maybe some of the parents were even re-living their own glory days in Little League. That's a part of it, right?
Betty’s husband lied to her to get her and their daughter to leave America and go back to Iran with him. The Shah had fallen and he wanted to be in his homeland. He had no intention of ever returning to America. Moody had every intention of keeping Betty there against her will. Custom dictated she must cover up from head to foot unless she was at home. Not a hair on her head could show. She was his wife and under his rule. She would become like other Iranian women, some of them Americans like Betty. He beat her and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave. She loved him. But she loved freedom more.
The game rolled on, the sun went down and we were clobbering the other team. We began feeling sorry for the other kids. We cheered or clapped when one of them made a good play. They’re all our kids, really. Both teams played their hearts out.
Betty eventually found people willing to help – people, I believe – who were a direct answer to her nightly prayers – the ones she said with her daughter. They were people who loved freedom, too, and were willing to risk life and limb to help others achieve it.
About half way through the game a cop car drove by the field. They slowed down. I turned and smiled. They wanted to see part of the game. They weren’t there to make sure the women’s heads were covered or that no one was dissing the government. And no machine guns. They were just guys who liked a kids baseball game. Sam’s team won by A Lot. We cheered. We got up stiff from sitting for so long. We got into our cars and went home, tired and happy. Free.
It took over a year for Betty to make her harrowing escape. In the most intense part of the movie we see her scurry away in the dead of night clutching her daugher, hopping from car, to horse, to bus through the hot and dangerous mountains of Iran. Our hearts are in our throats at every check point where men with machine guns wait hoping to catch those trying to get out. We’re sure her husband is sending vile men to kill her.
And this is where that other flag I was thinking about at the ball field last night comes in.
In the last scene we see Betty being dropped off on a street corner in a small town. She looks around, a little confused. The streets are empty in the wee hours of this morning. We don’t know where she is until we see her turn her head towards a sound – the sound of an American flag snapping in the breeze, bold and beautiful. She can hardly believe her eyes, then tears well up as she hugs her daughter, and begins running towards the red, white and blue fervently whispering,“We’re home, baby.”
And so am I.
Image: Chuck Felix Free Digital Photos