Friday, June 29, 2007

How to hold on to a dream

    At the tender age of 7, my parents divorced. The meaning of this was not my vocabulary. I was raised on a steady diet of images from a black and white T.V. set, living in the world  of "The Donna Reed Show", "Ozzie & Harriet" and "Leave It To Beaver". Despite moving from L.A. to N.Y, I believed that at any moment, my father would be walking through the door.

    I was already accustomed to waiting. He was a traveling salesman and was not a "household fixture"prior to the divorce. A few years passed, and he showed up a few times. The visits were always brief and integrated with a business call to a client. I never had his undivided attention.While I became accustomed to waiting, every once in awhile that feeling would get interrupted by friends who boasted of going to Yankee games with their Dads.

  In the fourth year of the divorce,a clearer picture of the reality of the divorce was received. Both my parents remarried. I inherited a new stepdad and stepmom almost simultaneously. Nevertheless, I kept my eyes glued to the door, and waited. I was not waiting for him to come and turn my world right side up again, I was just waiting for that moment , where I could know him as my Dad.

  My Mother was well aware of my feelings and thus arranged for me and my sisters (both older) to spend a summer (1962)with him and our new stepmom. My 11 year mind kept it simple for me, it was a chance to spend time with my Dad, visit my cousins, Aunt and Uncle and Grandma who also lived in L.A. and to be in the same town as the L.A. Dodgers! (I was a huge Dodger fan).  I went to my shoebox of baseball cards and selected the top players of my collection,  and slipped a rubberband around them. I packed my one and only favorite board game (called All-Star baseball) and told my Mom, "I'm ready". (I let her pack my clothes!)

 She took us to the airport. There were no police, security guards or resticted areas. She was allowed to walk with us to the door of the plane and hand us over to the stewardess. The stewardess took me in the cockpit to meet the pilots, who showed off all the dials and handed me a plastic set of wings to pin on my shirt. We all saluted each other, and I was escorted to my seat. I may have been sitting, but my young spirit was flying!

 My Dad greeted us with his big warm hug and carried our bags to his car. It was like a dream, being withmy Dad, in Los Angeles, Summertime. I sat next to him in the front seat of his Caddy. "You a Met Fan?" he asked. (It was the first year of the Mets). I made a face of disapproval, "they are the worst team ever!" I exclaimed. "I am a true blue Dodger fan...they are in first place ya know!"  ... He laughed, and said.."well I wasn't sure, and I wanted to play it safe" as he pulled a pair of tickets from his shirt pocket ..."tickets for Friday nights game ...Mets Vs. Dodgers!'  My mouth fell open, blood rushed to my head,I shrieked..." Oh My God!!!I'm going to see the Dodgers!!! Chavez Ravine...Oh My God!!"  I reached in my pocket and pulled out my deck of baseball cards and flipped through till I came upon Dodgers. Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Murray Wills, Duke Snider....I was to see them at last!.   My fathers voice broke in.."Now hold on to the tickets....O.K.!".....He handed them over to me, Bright orange tickets with the date June 29, 1962. (I still have the stubbs)

  I was in his car no more than 5 minutes when I already declared that this was going to be the best summer that I would ever have!

  "Dad?" I asked...."Have you ever heard of the board game "All Star baseball?".... Of course, he had no idea and did not know why I was asking..."Well, I brought it with me, and I was wondering if you would like to play it sometime?"

 He smiled and said...."sure...afterall, we have the whole summer".


Forty five years ago, to this very hour, I returned home that night from a game and a time that fulfilled a dream of mine, and I have only need to fill a dream once and it lasts an eternity in your heart.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Field Of Dreams...What you can't imagine, most often comes true

With boys grown and out of the house, my mind slips back, around the corner....

 To those who have dreamed upon the baseball fields, there can be nothing as elegant as the sight of a neatly cropped baseball field, with its white lines tracing a path from the batters box to the green grass of the outfield.

  At the tender age of six, my fisrtborn sons addiction began. I was impressed at the valor he displayed while fielding ground balls that were taking wicked hops right at him! I was impressed with the courage he displayed at swinging at a ball thrown mightly in his direction! I was impressed with his energy scampering around the bases with a hard plastic helmet on his head that wobbled like a wounded wing of a bird!

 It was my greatest pleasure to be able to coach him and the boys in the neighborhood on this field of dreams. Our abundantly eager appetites to play this game, made Spring the most heavenly season of them all! With each new Spring, new lessons were taught, new strategies were added to our arsenal. Curveballs and sliders were tweaked, pickoff moves precisely tuned, and diving catches perfected as we dreamed of snatching victory from the opposition in their last at bat.

  The years rolled along, trophies and team photographs lined our hallway. Our conversations were a mixture of what he learned in school that day and a scouting report of who we were facing in the next game.

  We traveled far and wide to meet the competition. It didn't matter where, just as long as there was a team and a field to play on.

  The final Spring came, his Senior year in High School. We both knew that it was time to put the glove down and concentrate on a college and a career. My heart sank with the final out of his last game.It was a long and fabulous run. In the salt of tears was the sweetness of the memories that I was blessed with.

  A few weeks after that last game,it was time for him to depart for college. The car packed with his belongings,gave me the sinking  feeling of an exodous, not the joyful feeling of an adventure. Before we headed onto the highway, I pulled into the complex of ballfields where he played and I coached. I asked him to come out to the mound with me (he was a pitcher). As we headed out to the mound, I began playing a mini highlight reel of the many years we practiced and played there.The countless hours that we spent dreaming, hoping, laughing.

  We reached the mound and we both looked around, this time, there was no battle to be fought, no stategy to be executed, just a father and his son. I began telling him how proud I was of him. That it was a joy and an honor to have had such a wonderful front row seat to his "field of dreams". I removed a small jar from my pocket and squatted down. My hand cupped some dirt from the mound. I stood up, removed the lid from the jar, and slowly poured the clay dirt into the jar. I gave the jar a little shake, smiled and said "that does it". Continuing with a baseball sized lump in my throat, "Being your Coach all these years gave me a very distinct advantage. Everytime I felt you about to falter, everytime I felt your disappointment with yourself I could call for time out and walk out to this mound. I could come out here and give you the words of reassurance and blow a little wind beneath your wings to carry you through. While you are in college, I won't have that privilige to call "time out". In this jar, I have collected the sand from every field that you have played  and dreamd on. Your dreams are very alive in this jar. Keep this close at hand, let it serve as a reminder to you, of those that love you and will always cheer for you."

  He smiled and read the inscription on the jar's label. "Every Spring there was a new season...a chance for us to watch you on your Field Of Dreams....Always dream!"

...............One the true blessings in life, What you can't imagine will happen , most often comes true.