Zane and Tilde negotiated their way through a mass of people crowding the front lawn. An expanse that could easily be mistaken for a soccer pitch, or the outfield of a major league ballpark, was the site of a winner-take-all flag football game between parents and the Henry Ford High School Regional Baseball Champions.
Kimmie, Zane’s mother and Tilde’s old college roommate and sorority sister, had been at the party for a couple of hours already helping the other mothers prep the massive amount of food needed to feed so many growing teenagers. The end of the year party and tournament celebration was the event of the season.
“Are you sure it’s okay for me to be here?” Tilde jumped out of the way of a couple of players crashing to the ground.
“Look, most of the other kids bring both of their parents, since it’s just me and mom, you’re our plus-one.” Zane helped his teammate up and pushed the tackled dad back on the ground. “Besides, you are family. You’re mom’s sister.”
“Sorority sister,” Tilde said.
“Don’t matter, you’re my Aunt T, end of discussion.”
Zane insisted on bringing Tilde to the party so he could introduce her to Coach Mark. Since taking over the baseball program at Henry Ford five years ago, Mark had turned a last-place team into champions. Because of Mark, Zane had secured a full-ride scholarship to Tilde and Kimmie’s alma mater.
The night before the party, Tilde and Kimmie stayed up late talking. After college, Tilde moved across the country from her hometown, got married, and had a daughter. After 20 years together, Tilde’s husband died of a heart attack. Finding herself a widow and empty-nester, Tilde turned her amateur shutterbug hobby into the travel photography business she’d always wanted but never got around to starting.
A job brought Tilde back to her college town, giving her a chance for a long visit with Kimmie and Zane. Periodic trips back and monthly Skype sessions helped keep Tilde and Kimmie’s friendship strong and allowed Tilde to watch Zane grow up. Now, a senior in high school, and his team’s star catcher, Zane wanted to show off his famous “aunt.”
“You’re going to like Coach Mark,” Kimmie said when Tilde and Zane came through the food line.
Kimmie joined her son and Tilde on the porch to eat burgers, baked beans, and potato salad.
“What’s Coach Mark’s last name?” Tilde said. “I can’t just call him Coach Mark.”
“It’s Cameron,” Zane said between bites. “You guys want some more soda?”
“I used to know a Mark Cameron when I lived here,” Tilde said after Zane left. “I can’t imagine it’s the same guy. You said the coach came here from Montana.”
“He did, but he’s from here originally,” Kimmie said. “Was the Mark you knew the ‘one that got away’?”
“You could say that,” Tilde said. Kimmie nearly choked on her sandwich.
“You can’t leave it there,” Kimmie finally managed to say.
“My Mark was my first serious boyfriend. We dated my whole senior year. I thought we would get married when I graduated high school,” Tilde said. “But, he moved to Texas and I never saw him again. That was almost 30 years ago.”
Before Tilde could tell any more of her story, the women could hear Zane coming back from getting drinks.
“I want you to meet my Aunt T, Coach.”
“What’s your auntie’s name?” Coach Mark said as they climbed the stairs to the porch
“Not auntie, Aunt. T.” Zane said. “When I was a kid I couldn’t pronounce her name, so I just called her T.”
As the coach and his player walked up to Tilde and Kimmie, Tilde stood to shake hands.
“Coach,” Zane said, “this is my Aunt T. Her name’s actually…. “