THE LONG DRIVE THAT ALMOST ENDED MY CHILDHOOD
[January 2nd] -- I was one of those boringly honest kids growing up in the 1960's. While my friends were beginning to find excitement in shoplifting and stealing their parent's alcohol, my idea of living on the edge was making a peanut butter sandwich and not cleaning my dishes. When my buddies began to get into trouble, I'd just walk away. It wasn't that I was better than them, or that I had a better morals and values. No way.
I was that afraid of my father.
Those of you who live in the general area of Seven Corners might recognize this building as part of the Lake Barcroft Apartments complex (or whatever they call them now). This building faced Leesburg Pike. My family moved here in 1968 from our house in Alexandria. Until then, I had never lived in an apartment. Though the living space was nice enough, I had a hard time getting used to the cramped play space the complex provided.
All that summer, me, Rolo, Eggy and Phil would play baseball on that tennis court. The pitcher would stand by the net, and the batter would take his position farthest away from the building. We were young, we were skinny, and we were bad. The longest drives would hit that back fence. Try as we might, no one ever hit a fair ball out of that tennis court.
After the spring thaw, we returned to the tennis court to continue our baseball games. I was now 13. Phil and Eggy positioned themselves in the "outfield," and Rolo pitched to me. Now, you have to understand, I had no idea that I had grown four inches and put on twenty or so pounds. I wasn't skinny anymore, and I had grown into my arms and legs. I dug myself into the make-believe batter's box, raised my wood bat high over my head, and waited .....
.... Rolo did his best Luis Tiant imitation, kicking his leg high and stopping midway in his delivery before the ball began its journey towards me. As always, I swung as hard as I possibly could. Something different happened, however. I hit the ball.
The sound of the ball hitting the bat was new to all of us -- none of us had ever hit the ball that squarely. Rolo's head snapped back towards his outfielders. Eggy, never a good baseball player, came in on the ball before realizing its direction. Phil ran backwards with his hand out searching for the fence like he'd seen Frank Howard do dozens of times. He stopped and looked up.
The ball kept going.
It was the first ball I'd ever hit that went as high as it did far. I never moved a muscle as I watched it ascend towards the sky.
And the building.
The ball never began its downward arc. It was still rising when it crashed through a sixth floor balcony window. I saw the ball shatter the glass -- and then, a few moments later -- I heard that sound that scared all kids - the sound of breaking glass.
And yet I did not move.
After what must have been ten seconds, Eggy shouted "Great hit Farid! A homer." Then, from one of my friends came this screaching admonition:
Each of us took a different rout from the tennis court. I ran and I ran and I ran towards my building, sprinting up the stairs, opened the door and locked it behind me. I panted in fear for another fifteen minutes.
No sirens. No police. No building managers.
Later that night, the joy of not getting caught gave way to the guilt of breaking that sliding glass window. I wanted to apologize to the tenant, but if I did, my dad would have to pay for the window, and I would most likely die. So I did the next best thing.
I went to the manager's office the next day and got one of the complex's brochures. I took it home and opened it to the page where it talked about Lake Barcroft's "luxurious play areas and wide open spaces, ideal for children and games of all ages." I circled those words and then drew a line to a picture of the tennis court. "It's a lie" I scribbled.
I snuck out of the apartment around midnight and tip-toed back to the tennis court. I had to stop and appreciate that hit just one more time. I then took the back stairs up to the 6th floor and crept to that apartment's door. I slid the brochure under the door and ran as fast as I could home. Satisfied with a job well done, I went to sleep.
Though the hair still stood up on the back of my neck every time I heard a police siren, I began to slowly forget about that broken window. It had been more than a month, and not Eggy or Phil or Rolo or me ever discussed it again. I mean, who knew if the complex had spies. Soon, I stopped thinking about it entirely.
That is, until later that month. I had just come back from the swimming pool and was getting ready to make some lunch when the doorbell rang. I opened it to find a middle age man with a big smile and a baseball in his hand. He tossed the ball at me and said, "I think you lost this" and then - just - walked - away.
I was confused. I glanced at the ball and noticed the block letters that read: "Farid Rushdi - 6143 Leesburg Pk. #424."
Oh my gosh.
The ball that I hit that May, the ball that shattered not only a sliding glass window but also my innocence, was not as anonymous as I had thought. That man could have turned me in at any time, but instead took pity on me and my feeble attempt to own up to my mistake. I never saw him again though I never went out of my way to find him. The guilt of what I did that day still causes a pang in my stomach when I think about it these many years later.
I should have told the guy, but I'm glad I didn't. My father wasn't understanding enough to accept my mistake, and I wasn't strong enough to take his punishment. All in all, it was a wash.
But, man -- you should have seen that ball fly out of that tennis court!
The Rembrandt had NO play facilities at all. I'd often cross that side street that separated the two complexes and play basketball on that tennis court (there was a basketball that went crossways accross the tennis court.)
If the 'Rolo' that you mentioned is Rolando DeLeon, that I knew him! We both went to Bishop Ireton together. If I remember, Phil was "Phil Lambert" whose dad was a teacher at J.E.B. Stuart. I have no idea who "Eggy" is though. I don't remember you -- sorry!
"Eggy" was Ignacio Azorbe, a little kid but a good athlete (though he was terrible at American sports but deadly at soccer). His family came from Greece and he was able to speak Greek to his parents and English with us.
In fact, all of us had parents who didn't speak English first. Rolando's parents spoke Spanish, Eggy's parents Greek, My dad spoke Arabic and Phil's parents were from Texas. Phil's dad was the hardest to understand -- picture "Dr. Phil" on steroids. "Son, there's cows and then there's steers. Be a steer, son. You don't want the world to milk you."
I don't remember ever seeing anyone playing tennis or baseball but I do recall seeing some pickup basketball games (and wanting to get off the bus and play too!)
Thanks for these articles. As we get older, we forget some of the background in our lives. I had forgotten all about that bus and that bus stop.
I moved away many years ago. I tried to google "Lake Barcroft Apartments" and didn't get a hit. Maybe they changed their name?
You mentioned that your apartment building faced Columbia Pike, but Bailey's Crossroads appears to be at least a mile east of the address you provided (6143 Leesburg Pike). Did you mean to say that it faced Route 7?
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