If you’re not ready, holler “Aye!”

I am standing in the kitchen making dinner, listening through the open window to Ryan and Nolan as they play whiffle ball in our front yard.. They’re actually playing nicely together, not being overly competitive.
Nolan stands over a patch of dirt, in front of a bush, which represents home plate, while Ryan hurls the ball towards him.
Ryan always tries to throw the ball too hard, and usually has trouble finding the strike zone, so Nolan just sits there, letting the ball bounce off of the house behind him.
Nolan comes in for a drink of water, and without even thinking I tell him, “It sounds like you guys are having a great time out there. Tell you what: you keep up this good attitude, and I’ll come out and play with you.”
Nolan does a little hop, and says, “COOL!” before he runs back outside. I hear him tell Ryan, “Wil says he’ll come play with us!”
They’re both excited to play with me…that’s cool. I’ve been really busy these past few weeks, finishing up my book, so I haven’t been able to play with the kids very much. They’re getting to that age where they want to hang out one minute, and the next minute I’m so incredibly uncool they can’t even stand to be in the same room as me. Hearing the genuine excitement in their voices makes my heart swell.
Dinner is really easy tonight: It’s a curried tofu with rice dish. I put the rice into the rice cooker, cut the tofu into cubes and put them in the pan. I dump a bunch of curry over them, and I race out to play.
I’m thirty years old and a parent, and I’m racing through my “chores” to go play outside.
When I get there, one of Ryan’s friends (who is also called Ryan) has come over to play, so we immediately separate into teams: Nolan and me against the Ryans.
Nolan steps back up to the plate, and Ryan proceeds to walk him. He then walks me, then Nolan again, and we quickly load the bases with ghost runners. The sun is rapidly sinking into the mountains to the west, and the ball is getting hard to see, so I suggest that we call the game so the Ryans can have a few at-bats. Nolan agrees, and we send our ghost runners back down to Triple-A as we head
into the field and take our positions on the grass, and in the street.
Nolan pitches a few balls to Ryan, but it’s really too dark to play any longer. Like every other time we’ve had to call a game on account of darkness, I resolve to install lights over our front lawn so we can play at night, local building codes and my wife’s desire for a normal suburban house be damned.
We’ve been having fun, though, and like the only child who finally has someone to play with, I don’t want to go back inside; back to being a grown up…so I suggest that we play hide and seek.
They all excitedly agree, and I’m It.
We quickly define the boundaries, and “Safe.” I close my eyes and count to one hundred by fives.
As I shut my eyes and begging to count, the world slows, and I hear my own voice, twenty-one years distant, calling out the same numbers. I’m nine years-old, head buried in my arms as I stand at the light pole on our street which was “Safe,” Boston plays on my parent’s Techniques turntable, while my dad cooks fish on the Webber Kettle in the back yard. I can smell the smoke as it drifts over the house and hangs in our yard, in the still summer evening.
5…10…15…20…25…30…
I’m ten years-old, and I run like crazy, trying to evade Joey Carnes. It is summer, hot and smoggy. My lungs burn with each breath.
35…40…45…50…55…60…
I’m eleven years-old, and I can hear the stomp, stomp, stomp of my feet hitting the ground as I look for a hiding place. It’s springtime, and the grass is cool and damp beneath me.
65…70…75…80…85…90…
I’m twelve years-old, hiding behind the side gate, crouched down, my arm just barely touching the arm of the girl I have a crush on as we hide together. While we listen to the kid counting, I try and fail to screw up the courage to hold her hand. In middle school, she’ll break my heart over and over again.
95…100! Ready or not, here I come!
I open my eyes, and I’m back on my street. The kids are well-hidden. Lost in my memories, I didn’t think to listen for their footfalls, and I have no idea where they may be.
I walk slowly around a hedge, and see Ryan begin to run across the street, towards “Safe.” I run at him, hoping to cut him off, but he’s too fast for me. During my pursuit of him, his friend has made it to “Safe,” leaving only Nolan undiscovered.
I walk down our street, towards our neighbor’s house, and see Nolan racing across the front yard next door. I give chase, and we both run straight through the heavy spray of several Rain Bird sprinkles. Nolan runs very, very fast, but ends up going Out Of Bounds. We return to “Safe,” laughing, wiping the water from our faces.
Nolan is It, and begins to count. I run across the street, hiding behind a tree. When I was a kid, I never hid behind trees, preferring cars and fences, with their clever ways to spot an approaching “It”…but I know that if I stand still in the October darkness, he’ll never see me. I’m wearing a black
“Ataris” T-shirt and long olive shorts…I’m practically invisible.
Nolan finishes his count, and the chase is on. It is several tries before he catches someone, but his attitude never sours. We are all having a great time playing together, being kids.
Finally, I am just too wiped out to play any more, and I head back inside. Anne asks me to drive Ryan’s friend home, and on the way to the car, Ryan’s friend tells him, “Your house is so much fun! You’re really lucky that your Step-dad plays with you.”
Ryan agrees, but warns him that we don’t always play like that…Ryan tells him that I’ve been writing a lot, so I spend a lot of time at my desk. It’s the first time in months that I’ve played with them like that, he says.
He’s right. Most of the time these days, I have to be a grown up, and I can’t play very much.
But last night, I got to be a kid again, if only for an hour or so, and while I appreciated the sentiment from Ryan’s friend, he didn’t quite have it right.
Yeah, there was a lucky guy out there playing…but it wasn’t Ryan.

172 thoughts on “If you’re not ready, holler “Aye!””

  1. Hi Wil!
    Sounds like you had a lot of fun playing with the little ones. I wish I were that lucky, but my cousins are a bit too young for baseball. Bummer!
    Anyway, have a great day!
    Take care!
    Big hugs from Heather

  2. That’s such a beautiful and touching entry, Wil.
    I used to play football with my dad and cousins and your words summoned many fond memories for me. Trust me… I think Ryan is lucky, too. :) One day he may look back and think about you as well.
    This is the first time I read your blog. I think I will continue to drop by.

  3. Wil,
    You seem like an awesome stepdad’ Some kids fathers (like mine) are never around to give pep talks to there children, or even to play ball with’ Its great that you are able to spend time with your kids! :)
    P.S. There is another fansite out there for you!!! I happen to be a fan of yours, for a very long time.. The site is new- its my tribute to you!! http://wilwheaton.topcities.com/ it will have a bio, pics, filmography and more! Please bare with me fans! Thanks! :) Wil is Great!

  4. Wil…
    The more you live with them now… the more you will have to write about later.
    You are only 30.
    You live the book. After you live it, the stories remain in your head or on various sheets of scratch paper. Once that book is written it is there. Done. It can be revised, updated and rewritten.
    Children cannot.
    Books are timeless.
    Children are not.
    Jess

  5. You’re both lucky. He’s lucky to have you, and everything else, and you’re lucky to have him, and everything else. You’re both lucky to have had the experience, and with an experience like that… well…
    I’m glad that it was like that, as cryptic as that is…

  6. Dear Wil Wheaton,
    If i ever have a child, i will name him Wil or Liam. I can’t remember my dad playing with me like that. Maybe i never gave him a chance to play with me. I don’t know. Note to self: I MUST play with my kids ;) You’re a great father.

  7. I don’t even remember how I found this site but I’m glad I did. I’ve read it for the last three or four months. Wil’s a good guy. I Live In O.C. I think he lives in Pasadena? Seems like a guy with a sense of humor, likes good books…feh-good article, Willy Wil…keep it up, punk.
    p.s. http://kevynnmalone.blogspot.com/
    Thanks.

  8. i found your site through the anticoulter.com site. nerf herder, ozma, lotr? this is the best thing i’ve ever found at four in the morning.

  9. Normaly I just lurk here, but I gotta say Wil, you really moved me with this one.
    Brought back memories of playing hide & seek with friends as a kid. Good times.

  10. Uncle Willy,
    Your last posting on OCTOBER 9th was excellent. But like a addict, I need more. 5 days…no new posting on wilwheaton.net…getting shaky. 2nd revisit and no new Content, CONTENT, CONTENT…
    Please help, anything, throw us a link. Feeling dizzy…

  11. You certainly have a gift Wil.
    The last person who’s writing stirred my emotions was that of J K Rowling, hmm yeah the Harry Potter woman, Maybe i’m just a sucker for a happy ending.
    I do miss being a child, being a grown-up sure does suck sometimes…especially when you can’t blame the kid down the street that no-one likes for your problems. Oh well such is life.

  12. I have been out of this for awhile so I’m a little lost about the book thing.
    You’re writing a book, Wil?
    AWESOME!
    I wanna do that before I die. So what’s the theme or whatnot of the book, I just want some general info.
    BTW, I saw the episode of The Outer Limits you were on this weekend. Cool stuff!
    Latah!

  13. I’ve been reading your website for more than a year, but this is the first time I’ve actually written. By the way, this definitely reminds me of Stand By Me. After I finished reading, all I could hear was “Yeah, he gets like that when he’s writing.”
    Seriously though, it’s great that you play with the kids. I’m only an aunt at the moment, but playing with those kids is the most important part of their day. Besides, it keeps us young too. Who wouldn’t want to take one hour out of their day to have a little fun? Keep it up.

  14. Uncle Willy,
    7 days and no new posting? I am way bummed. As you know, the BLOG readers drug of choice is new web content. Don’t make me abandon you for Andrew Abb on GMTPLUS9 – it’s geeky/artsy but less personal. Time to share more…let’s get a move on.
    Thank You!

  15. Holy cow, when did Wil Wheaton begin to remind me so much of Stephan King? Cheers to you and your talent. The same thoughts that have gone through my mind so many times…the moments when you can relate to a book more then you can to anything else at that moment…that’s how your stories have been grabbing me. They were wonderful.
    –mel

  16. Kidhood

    I found WilWheaton.net a few months ago but most times I checked it, it was kind of boring so I forgot about it. I stumbled across a link to it on another blog I was checking out and clicked it…

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