Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Funeral in a Small Town, Part I: "Nanny"

I have witnessed a life coming to a close. Not the sudden violent parting of body and being, but the slow leave taking that occurs when a human being simply wears out. Like a candle that burns brightly until there is nothing left, flickers valiantly, then simply winks out; the smoky plume of it’s life force curling heavenward.

My husband's grandmother was 89 years old and lived a long, full life. She was born in 1916, and died on July 25th, 2006, in her sleep, with one of her beloved daughters snuggled against her, just the way they did when her children were small. So many nights she stood vigil at one bedside or another; through fever, nightmares, heartache and hunger…this time they stood watch over her, even knowing they could not protect her as she protected them. 9 children, six boys and three girls, took turns waiting for the end, not wanting her to be alone when at last she was called home.

She was ready. Though her mind was still sharp and her blue eyes still twinkled with life, her body was ready to lie down for eternal rest. Though diminutive in stature, with all the substance of a sparrow, she was fiercely independent, capable and strong, even into her late eighties. Her dignity was affronted by the dependence and frailty that eventually confined her to her antique four poster bed; the one in which gave life, and the one in which she left it behind.

She was a woman of strong faith and she was one of the very few Christians I have known who lived as she believed. She was ready to go to Glory. She did not fear death, but welcomed it. For her it was not an end, but a beginning. As one who fears the finality of death and is stricken with terror at the thought of lying in a cold and lonely grave, her conviction was an awesome and beautiful thing. As I stood at her bedside gazing at the frail form nearly obscured by bedclothes, I thought that I would give up my youth and my vitality for just a fraction of her faith, or a tiny morsel of her peace.

I knew her for 14 years, but I did not get many opportunities to talk to her one on one. With 9 children, 22 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren, her time and attention were precious commodities. We usually only saw her at family gatherings, where numerous people clamored for her a seat next to her. I didn’t feel right about taking time away from anyone who loved her and so, I usually just sat back and listened. Mostly, she did the same, smiling and nodding as her family filled her in on the goings on in their lives.

There were rare occasions however when I was able to talk with her intimately. She saw a lot in her 89 years, and it was amazing to listen to her stories. She told me about her baby sister who died when she was 9 years old. Eighty years later it still brought tears to her eyes and a catch to her voice as she recalled it for me.

She said "I can still her crying. ‘Oh ma poor little hayed. It hurts fit to split Sissy’. Mama gave her some lixir (elixir) but it didn’t help none. The next day she died, and we had to burry her right quick. It was the meningitis, but we didn’t know no better back then."

She also recalled the first time she wore pants, and how she worried over what Ennis (her husband) would think. She was married in a time when the man ruled over the household, so despite her independent nature, she deferred to him in all things. She fretted that Ennis would be angry, but all he said was "Just remember that attire ain’t fittin for church." Ennis died before I met my husband, but their relationship was fascinating to me, because her submissiveness to him was so strikingly at odds with her strongly autonomous character. Once when asked why she had so many children, she replied "Why Lord a mighty child, a body just didn’t tell your Daddy no." But this was said with a funny little self-deprecating smile that led you to wonder just whose idea it really was.

She was the only one who never said anything critical about me nursing my children, or my views on childbirth. She told me how she birthed her first 6 babies at home in her own bed, attended by her own mother and aunts. She smiled as she described feeling safe and comfortable in her own bed with her baby at her side. But a grimace twisted her piquant little face as she described the first time she gave birth in a hospital. "It weren’t no kind of place to be havin’ a baby." she said with emphatic distaste. This was said in support of my pursuit of doulaism, which might as well have been Satanism, so reviled and misunderstood was it by the women of that small rural town. She was letting me know that she understood and agreed that sometimes, the old ways are best. Her small, but potent expression of support stopped the comments and I never again had to defend my views or listen to imprecations about "titty-babies" or "hodang feminists".

Perhaps the most valuable to me where the stories she told about Husband growing up. She would laugh as she described his exceedingly mischievous ways, remembering how she had to whup him for this or that and how he would refuse to cry. He was the only one who was not contrite when she or Ennis had to discipline him. The other cousins would hang their heads in shame at having been naughty for Nanny and Papa, but not husband. He would glare at her with defiance in his eyes, little hands balled into fists at his sides. She would gaze upon my son, my spirited child, as she spoke and then pat my hand in understanding. "That boy is Husband made over" she would say fondly, but with a note of sympathy in her voice. That comforted me more than she could ever know because I felt that she understood the struggles I faced with my stubborn, argumentative, determined child. She also said, "I reckon husband turned out alright." and that was her way of assuring me that one day the struggles would be over, and Diminutive one would eventually become a kind, well-adjusted and productive adult. I loved her for that.

When I think of all the things she saw and experienced in her lifetime, I am infinitely sad that I didn’t get to talk to her more. I should have made a point. I should have let the children run wild and the dishes soak in the sink and the floor remain unswept to spend more time talking to that amazing, intelligent, god-fearing and kind-hearted woman.

She lived through both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the War on Terror. She lived through the Great Depression. She saw all the Kennedys assassinated. She watched Nixon resign on live television. She watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon the month before I was born. She saw the invention of television and then watch it evolve from black and white to color to flat screen high definition wonder. She witnessed the death of Segregation and the birth of Women’s Lib. She watched her mother, crying with jubilation and pride, vote for the first time.

She watched her family grow from one to hundreds. The pride she must have felt when we gathered each look out into a sea of hundreds of people and know that they are there because they love you. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying. Her children and grandchildren are a diverse lot. There are preachers and teachers and policemen and nurses. There are alcoholics and thieves and wife beaters. After all, a person can't plant a garden that size without a few bad seeds turning up. But she loved them all without limit or condition. She didn’t expect perfection, she only prayed that one day, those who were lost would be found.

She had a heart attack two months ago. Everyone knew it was the beginning of the end. And though her death was expected, and folks sat on pins and needles for months waiting for the news, the shock wave that coursed through the family at her passing was powerful and destructive. The outpouring of grief was at once upsetting and awe inspiring. She was so very loved.

I visited her shortly before she died. Her beautiful white hair spilled across the pillow as luxuriant as ever, and her blue eyes twinkled just as brightly. But her body was painfully frail, and her will to fight was gone. She wanted to see her beloved Ennis. She wanted to at last look upon the face of the God she had worshipped for so long. She wanted to go home.

The last thing she said to me with a wan little smile was "You tell them boys to behave". She told husband "I love you." He clung to her, knowing it was probably the last time he would embrace her tiny little form.

The call came at 4:00 am Tuesday morning. I had to wake husband and tell him that his beloved Nanny was gone. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but it was nothing compared to what would come in the days ahead.

To be continued…..

Friday, July 28, 2006

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

"North and South II; Funeral in a Small Town"

My husband's grandmother passed away this week. She would have been 92 next week. She had 9 children, 22 grandchildren, too many great grandchildren to count, and two great-great grandchildren. She was an amazing woman who led an amazing life, and I have a lot to tell you about her life and death. Her funeral was also amazing. There were several hundreds of people there, and never have I seen such a lengthy procession.

I have never been to a Southern Baptist Funeral. Where I come from, funerals are sedate, dignified affairs and respect is demonstrated by hushed revenerence and solemnity. This is not the case with Southern Baptisit funerals, where it seems that respect is demonstrated through exuberant audience particpation.

This was the boys' first experience with death and funerals. I prepared them for what Nanny's body would look like and explained that people would be very sad and many of them would probably be crying. We do not attend church, due to the fact that we are Godless Heathens, but I had lectured them at length about proper comportment and exacted promises of sterling behavior. I thought I had it all covered. However, due to my own ignorance, I had not prepared them for people who had been sobbing disconsolately only moments before breaking into jubilant shouts of "Halleluja!" and "Thank You Jesus!" while waving their arms sinuously to and fro. I'm not sure who was more taken aback.

So...this is yet another chapter in my story of a conservative Northern city girl transplanted amongst colorful rural Southern folk. As prefaced above, it will be titled "North and South II; Funeral in a Small Town." It almost wrote itself and I can't wait to get it down in black and white before the evocative sights and sounds fade from my memory.

Stay Tuned. And, if you like, read the first installment: "North and South".

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Will Work for Personal Gratification

I need a job.

I have been a stay at home mom for 11 years. 11. Years. As mentioned in a previous entry, I threw myself headlong into being supermom. My house was always clean. My kids were usually clean and dressed nicely. Fresh haircuts. Portraits every three months on schedule. Trips to the park, storytime and various educational venues were a regularity. I cooked dinner every night. And I felt gratified, because my children were small and they needed me. I was being what's known as a "good mom" and that gave me a sense of accomplishment.

For a lot of years, being at home was what I wanted to do and I did it, happily. I secretly sneered at women who went back to work. I thought them selfish and short-sighted. Now I am realizing, it's okay to need something more. I'm understanding that people need external motivation and validation. They need accolades. They need respect. What has brought about this realization? Well, it's been creeping up on me for a couple years. But....

Today I slept until 1:30 pm because I couldn't think of a good reason to get up. Not one. (Don't call husband is home) My toilets are all dirty, I need to do laundry and the cat boxes desperately need chaging, but that could not provide the impetus I needed to drag my ass out from beneath the down comforter and I was struck with the realization that I don't really care.

Why scrub toilets when they will only be shit in again, probably only a matter of moments after I have finished. Why mop floors when they will only get spilled upon exactly 32 seconds after I put the mop away? Why make beds and tidy the house when two boys will blow through like a Hurricane leaving a path of destruction and chaos behind them? Why prepare hot meals from scratch only to hear "Yuk" and "What is that anyway" and "I think I'm allergic to lima beans."?? Why spend hours doing something that I don't enjoy and that I get absolutely no satisfaction from, when it is utterly pointless anyway? What kind of sentient being continues to do something that perpetually gets UNDONE?? At some point, even the dumbest creature will wise up and stop putting forth the effort. I didn't like busy work in school and I'm no better at it as an adult. This dumb creature has finally reached her threshold for boring, mindless drudgery.

My kids are both in school now. They are largely independant in that they can feed and dress themselves, use the toilet and see to their own personal hygeine. They pour their own cereal and milk, they toast their own bagels. They can work all the household appliances and electronic devices better than I can. They can read. They don't want to be pushed on a swing anymore. More often than not, my presence is an annoyance. I am becoming superfluous, and this will only become more and more true as the years go by. Autonomy is a good thing. I know this. But it's kind of a jolt all the same to realize you are no longer essential.

So...I signed on to be a stay at home MOM. And I realize that chapter of my life is over. I am at a crossroads and I don't know which way to turn. I should have prepared for this. I didn't. And now I'm screwed. My brain is atrophying and I am becoming increasingly depressed over the fact that I have nothing to look forward to every day except more menial labor.

So I need to make a change. That much is clear. But how? What do I do? I was once a confident, respected, up and coming career woman, but I have been out of the workforce for ELEVEN YEARS. That doesn't look so good on a resume. And any job that would be worthwhile is not going to provide the kind of flexibility that I need to straddle the line between Motherhood and Wage Earner. Any job that would isn't going to pay squat.

A couple years ago, I decided to work at a well known retail establishment part-time for a little extra money, and to get out of the house for a while. It was an unmitigated disaster. Because I learned that I do not take well to being given orders from someone who has all the intelligence of a raisin. It is not in my nature to follow directives that were issued with very little cognition or common sense. It was all I could do not to sneer in the face of someone who insisted upon acting as if they were supreme ruler of all things retail, when I knew they didn't even graduate from high school. Yes, I'm a snob. Shoot me. The point is....I'm not a good minimum wage employee.

That leaves me very few options. Sure, there's the writing thing...but let's face it..that's a crap shoot. I could spend years writing a book only to have every publishing house reject it out of hand. The freelance thing...well, that's maybe a smidge more realistic, but again, there is the potential for a buttload of time wasted only to face rejection after rejection. Only a handful of writers actually make it and the chances that I will be that one in a thousand is pretty slim. Pragmatism is a bitch.

Maybe I need to go back to school. Maybe I need another baby. Maybe I need a hobby. I just need.

I'm sure I'm not the first woman to go through this and I won't be the last. That doesn't make it any easier.


ADDENDUM: Christ on rollerskates that was the whiniest most blatanly self-pitying thing I have ever written. I'm somewhat nauseated by it. I won't delete it, cause that would be disingenuous. So now you know...BA is just another desperate housewife (markedly meatier and decidely less glamorous than those on Wisteria Lane) in the midst of a full blown identity crisis. I hope you still respect me in the morning.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dammit Hollywood

You've done it to me more times than I can count, and still I get sucked in by your slick celluloid promises. (Yes, I know you don't actually use celluloid anymore, but I like the alliteration.) Like a child hoping for a glimpse of the bearded one on Christmas Eve, I wait, breathless with anticipation until Opens June 4th arrives. I perform herculean feats of organizational genius and bend the laws of physics with my mind to procure a babysitter at a point in time that our bank balance and our schedule are in harmony. This happens slightly less often than my kids agreeing on anything, slightly more often than a solar eclipse.

The scenario is much the same with only small details varied here and there:

The big day finally arrives and I prepare carefully. I marvel at the appearance of my ass when I put on pants that are devoid of elastic. I admire the curve of my breasts when I don a top that does not bear any kind of advertising legend. I weep a little at the sight of my waist. Hello old friend. I lament that these wonder garments cannot flatten the post-partum belly that has plagued me for 8 years, and briefly ponder whether total transformation from coarsened world weary charwoman to svelte and stunning supermodel (well, somewhat less lumpy sort of good model, at least) is worth the torture of control top pantyhose. It is not. But no matter. It's still a hell of a transformation. I look like a girl.

We fight traffic that rivals the seventh level of hell on a good day to make the matinee cut-off, which we do, but only because husband slows to 30 mph in front of the ticket window so I can jump out, execute a perfect rolling drop, thereby bowling over and eliminating several line standers, and successfully purchase our tickets at 5:59:5. We get popcorn served in grocery sized paper sacks, and sodas in cups resembling barrels of crude oil. They are the smallest size offered and cost more than the price admission. But, it's all about the experience, and as far as I'm concerned, you can't watch a movie in the theatre without popcorn. We settle in our seats with our troughs in our laps and begin shoveling it in with both hands.

Ellen DeGeneres once did a sketch about how people can't eat popcorn piece by piece and she's right. There, in the dark, among strangers, we eat like snarling beasts crouching over a kill, desperately trying to devour every last morsel before some larger, scarier predator can take it from us. Or perhaps we are expecting the Popcorn Police to appear with a flashlight, wielding a kernel shaped badge, whispering "Ma'am...the condition of your thighs would suggest that you've repeatedly breached the maximum intake threshold. Please put down the bag and follow me." Whichever the case, it isn’t pretty. And yet...we can't seem to help ourselves. We are powerless in the face of hot buttered seduction.

And inevitably, after all of that, it is not very long before I realize that I have, once again, been deceived. Duped. Shanghai'd. Suckered. Bamboozled. Conned. Hornswoggled. Because this is not the story I have grown to love. These are not the characters I have imagined so vividly in my mind and come to think of as old friends. This is not the ending that made me sigh with contentment because it was just that perfect.

Damn You Hollywood! I put on lipstick and matching underwear and this is how you repay me?? With this garbage? This Sham? This perversion? can you let them bastardize your intellectual property in this way? Obviously Jane Austen had no say in Kiera Knightly being cast as Elizabeth Bennett in that farce that dared call itself "Pride and Prejudice", but Stephen King is still alive and kicking and from all reports, quite able to do battle in the name of literary integrity if need be. C'mon…Molly Ringwald as Frannie? Jack Torrance, though...I will admit...that was some casting genius. And Dan Brown....Tom Hanks...seriously? I mean, I love Tom. I really do. He is far and away one of my favorite actors, but he just is not Robert Langdon. Hollywood, I am weary of being romanced by your cinematic foreplay only to be denied satisfaction.

You may wonder what has prompted my outburst, and I will gladly opine upon the latest disappointment in a long string of box office letdowns.

The Descent, by Jeff Long is a novel of stunning complexity that explores the philosophical struggle between good and evil. It is tapestry of anthropological, historical and theological elements all woven together to form an rich and riveting epic that challenges 20th century ideals regarding the origin of man and his position of supremacy on the earth. This book is so many things, but what it is not….is a horror story.

Yes, there are moments of horrific violence and spine tingling terror, but they are intended to illustrate that man and beast are still closely linked at that we are not so evolved as to be immune from the savagery and brutality that allowed us to survive, evolve and dominate. While these moments are undeniably captivating in a deliciously gruesome manner, they are not the central theme of this book. And, I believe, that they are sufficiently barbarous as to make for a thoroughly unpleasant viewing experience.

Nevertheless, Hollywood has seen fit to bring this epic on the silver screen. I will admit that at first, I was excited, titillated and optimistic. But after viewing the trailer, it was plain that they have corrupted the story to the point of being all but unrecognizable in an attempt to make it fit the mold of horror story extraordinaire, with enough blood and gore to make Texas Chainsaw Massacre look like a children’s fairy tale. For shame.

I’ve had enough. I realize that there are no really original ideas anymore; just recycled concepts that have been given a 21st Century spin for the modern viewing audience. But please...stop plundering my bookshelves for sensationalistic fodder. Stop pillaging our literary masterpieces for box office glory.

Because in an age of super-sized, wholesale, mass-produced sameness, these tales are the only thing left that are truly unique. Unique because no two people imagine in the same way. Don’t take that away from us. Don't put your computer animated, green screened, digitnally enhanced and craptastically commercialized vision of our stories onto a fifty foot screen, thereby branding it into our consciousness, forever obliterating the images we have carried within us; personal, special and unlike anybody else’s.

For my part, I will no longer be beguiled. No more make-up and matching underwear for empty promises. No more breathless anticipation for a distortion of my beloved truth. No more money from my bank account will make it's way into your smarmy and unprincipled pocket.

Who's with me?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No Suitable Title Comes to Mind

It’s funny how the details of our experiences are chosen by our subconscious and then preserved with perfect clarity, just waiting for something; an aroma, a snatch of song, a well loved painting, to resurrect them, while others simply disappear into the mists of time. I wonder how our minds select which memories we are allowed to retain, which memories will plague or comfort us the rest of our lives. I wonder why we can’t forget things best left unremembered. I wonder why we can’t remember things we struggle not to forget. I can remember my grandpa’s funeral. I can’t remember the sound of his voice. I remember the words he spoke, but not the tone or timbre. I want to.

The thing I remember most about that day is how tightly her impossibly cold hand clutched mine. She absently ground the bones in my hand together in her mounting anxiety. The fear and desperation were telegraphed through her icy grip. I tried once or twice to disengage my hand from hers, but she only clutched me more tightly. She had held my hand for the entire two hour bus ride, and every minute since then. I stopped trying to let go and accepted that I was her lifeline to sanity and safety until this whole horrible mess was over with. I was 17 years old.

When we reached the clinic, I was told I could not accompany her since I was not a relative or an adult. But when she quietly but emphatically refused to let go of my hand, the stern faced nurse/receptionist relented with the admonishment that no monkey business would be tolerated. We exchanged looks. Neither of us had the heart for monkey business. The suggestion was mildly insulting, but we were too scared and sad and sick to protest. We only nodded mutely and followed her broad back through scarred and yellowed swinging doors. The mingled odors of smoke and antiseptic made me a little queasy. My stomach lurched. I swallowed hard. She swallowed hard. Her grip tightened.

We were shown into a tiny examining room, where she was handed a paper gown and curtly told to remove all of her clothing, even her panties. The nurse gave us a hard, searching look before closing the door behind her. Suddenly my fear was replaced by anger. We were young…looking back it breaks my heart how young we were… and we shouldn’t have been in a place like that. But we didn’t deserve to be treated with such disdain. And I was angry at him too. He should be here. He should see this. See her. I cursed him for a coward and thought about the night he had tried to kiss me; laughing at how I trembled, knowing I needed to hate him for what he had done to her and not caring. But I had pushed him away, and the surprise on his face was a satisfaction like none I had ever known. I held onto that anger and used it to blunt the edges of sharp fear that knifed through me.

She cried as she undressed. I didn’t know what to do or say to make her feel better, so I busied myself with folding her clothing into neat little squares as she handed them to me. I rolled her socks into a ball, and carefully concealed her pink polka dotted underpants beneath a crease in her blue jeans. I folded her enormous GAP sweatshirt into a fleecy mound and then placed the entire pile on top of her shoes and turned to help her with the gown. I had not seen her naked recently. Once we had undressed in front of one another with no thought to embarrassment or modesty. But for many months now she had kept herself covered with baggy shirts and heavy jackets. Winter in Wisconsin was an accomplice to the concealment of her burgeoning form. I gasped audibly as the truth of her condition and our reason for being here hit me like a slap in the face. She blushed through her tears and pulled the gown closed.

We sat, quietly, timidly, waiting.

A man came in and introduced himself as Dr. X. He surprised me by being kind and gentle. Seeing her tears, he pulled out a handkerchief and swabbed her face. He told her it would be alright. He told her they would take care of her. He told her the most important thing anybody had ever told her. He said, she was not a bad person. She didn’t believe him, of course. How could she? But she needed someone to say it. She needed someone to believe that she was not a sinner or a coward or a murderess. Her sobs turned to small hiccoughs and the tears slowed. He examined her quickly and then said, “Let’s take care of this so you can go home, okay?” She clambered into the wheelchair obediently and he wheeled her out. I was unsure whether to follow. Surely they wouldn’t let me in THERE, would they? I didn’t want to go. But the susurration of the rubber wheels halted and she turned to beseech me with an outstretched hand. Our eyes locked and I shrank from the pleading. I looked at the kindly doctor, willing him to forbid me. He looked at me for an impossibly long moment and then inclined his head for me to follow.

"I AM NOT THAT STRONG!!!!" I longed to shout. But I followed meekly without uttering a sound.

To this day, I don’t know why he wanted me to go in there. For her? For me? For a larger purpose? To preach the gospel of abstinence? I wish I could find him and ask him. I wish I could tell him how that experience changed me forever. I wish I could tell him thank you for being kind to her. To us.

The nurses, who were not unkind, but who went about their business briskly, placed her on a table and erected a barrier over the lower half of her body. Seated at her head, I was relieved, but it made her uneasy. She couldn’t see what was being done to her, and I suppose it would have scared me too. She was given several injections and an IV. I didn’t know what they were going to do, but I knew it was too late for any of the “easy” procedures. I was gripped by panic, suddenly. I didn’t want to see this. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to know how a problem like this is solved. She grew groggy and I wished for some of what they had given her. As she drifted, her grip on my hand slackened. Freed, I did not know what to do with my hands. They stole to my chest and hovered over my heart, which felt as if it might burst from my chest. I must have looked stricken and afraid, because the kindly doctor came and lifted my hand from my breast to hold it in his own. It was huge and warm. He said "You're a strong young lady. She's lucky to have you for a friend." I felt a little better. His approval cheered me, and the anger I had felt at his refusal to grant me asylum from this ugliness abated.

He disappeared and returned gowned and masked. I knew it was time to begin. I tried not to hear. I recited poetry and song lyrics and movie quotes in my head, desperately avoiding the bloody reality unfolding beyond that flimsy white barrier. At one point, she began to cry out in pain and I felt sick again. He assured her it was almost over and indeed, as he spoke, I heard what I knew was the sound of her body yielding the contents of her womb. A slick sound followed by a small forlorn thud, and it was over. She panted with relief. I sagged against the table, still sick. There was a smell that permeated the room, a smell that was rich and human. Years later as I attended my first birth, memories that had long been buried were resurrected by that smell. Then, it had meant death to me. Now I know it as the primal aroma of new life.

She was taken to recovery where she slept for what seemed like hours and hours. I was left alone with my thoughts, unable to concentrate on the novel I had brought with me anticipating a lengthy wait in the waiting room. I could not banish the thought of what I had seen by accident as we exited the procedure room. I glanced back for reasons still unknown to me. I saw a nurse with a shallow pan. There was blood on the rim and some smeared on the sides. She laid the pan gently on a metal table, and then, touched the contents in what I can only describe as a caress. There was sadness in her eyes. I looked away quickly, not wanting to witness the disposal of that tiny little body. But her tenderness brought tears to my eyes for the first time that day. Someone understood that this was not just a "problem" or a "procedure", but a baby. A baby that was now, dead. Part of me was very angry with her for not acknowledging that. I was angry even though I know that it would have destroyed her to think of the baby as a living breathing creature. I tried to work through my anger and confusion as she slept. My own judgement bothered me. It could have been me.

When she awoke, gray and trembling, my anger was gone, replaced by a deep weariness. I wanted to go home. And so we did. On a dirty bus, back to our clean lives where nobody knew what we had done. I went back to school while she stayed home "sick". I endured the looks and the whispers while she hid. We stayed friends for many years, but we never spoke of that day again. Ever.

I think the experience touched us in different ways. I became a birth junkie and eventually a doula; eager to rejoice in each and every new life, entranced by the miracle of birth. She has no children. I wonder if her heart aches when a baby cries. I wonder if she is haunted by the abesence of that child. I wonder if she will ever get over what happened. Mere spectator that I was, I don't think that I have.

You might be surprised to learn that I am vehemently pro-choice. I would never, ever consider an abortion for myself. I just couldn’t do it. But I have never been a scared teenaged girl with elderly parents who were devout Catholics and preached the wages of sin as death and eternal torment in the fiery pits of hell. I never had to face the prospect of being ostracized by my family. I have never been a victim of a sex crime, forced to carry the offspring of my attacker. I have never been desperately poor with too many mouths to feed already. I have never been told my baby had a defect that was incompatible with life, or that if the pregnancy was brought to term, his or her life would be filled with pain and suffering.

I have only been a girl who was raised in a lower middle class family with loving supportive parents who would have helped first and lectured later. I have only been an adult in a safe and healthy relationship, with the means to provide my children with everything they need and most of what they want. I have only been me, and I can only decide for me.

I do believe that abortion is taking a life. I do believe it’s wrong. For me. But I also believe that I, and only I, have the right to decide. It’s a sad and terrible thing with no easy answer. So ask the right questions and follow your heart. Don’t let political rhetoric and religious dogma influence a decision that YOU will have to live with the rest of your life.

And please, for the sake of every child that ever has or will draw breath, do not mistake abortion for birth control. Life is too precious to hinge upon the adolescent shame of purchasing condoms.

My friend and I have lost touch. I don't know where she is now, or if she has exorcised her demons. I hope she has forgiven herself. I forgave her a long time ago. I should have told her that. I hope she can forgive me.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Grown Men Should Not Wear Baseball Pants and How Was I Supposed to Know He's Famous?

(Warning: Insanely long post, the first 2/3 of which is shameless bitching. If you're not in the mood, skip to the part about balls.)

Well, we're back from our whirlwind tour of Charleston's baseball fields. The World Series was a disappointment to the boys. The lost every game. BUT...they should really hold their heads high. Mere moments after arriving at the park for our first game against the St. Simons Stingrays, I learned that we were the only AllStar team playing in our age group. All the other teams were travel teams. Those of you who have not yet been indoctrinated into the world of youth sports are probably wondering where the difference lies.

Travel ball teams have a much longer season and practice year round. Quite often, the same players are retained season after season. Some of the teams we played had been together three or four years. One mom I spoke with said "Well, we just came for the experience. We don't really expect to win any games, we've only been together 8 months." Snort. My boys have been together 8 weeks because AllStar ball is bascially just summer ball, with a season between 8 and 12 weeks long. The team is disbanded and then re-selected every summer. So, just when the team is really becoming a cohesive unit and playing really well together, the season ends.

So, despite that, all of our games were lost by only one or two runs. We fought hard, and we certainly did not hand them any victories. We surprised a lot of people by being competetive. Still, the boys were disappointed. They don't realize how well they did. All they see is the wins and losses, and after taking the State Championship, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

It didn't help that the coach berated them for their performance. Instead of taking responsibility for making a poor choice in taking them there, he berated them for their performance. He also chose to center all his strategy around one player, who, though admittedly an excellent pitcher, is not equipped to carry a team to victory singlehandedly. No player is. AND...he showed blatant favoritism to certain other players, one being his own son, and the other being the child of a woman he is romancing. I realize getting laid is a priority for many men, especially one who has likely been spanking the monkey solo for quite some time, but there is simply no excuse for treating any kid better or worse than the others. And of course, there is his Star Pitcher, who became so egotistical that none of the other team members could stand him by week's end. There is nothing more irritating than an 11 year old with a superiority complex.

The Coach also treated several players with barely concealed disgust, neither of whom deserved it. One of them was my son, who took issue with Star Pitchers's attitude and called him on it. He was angry and frustrated with the situation and rightly so. At one point, my son was pulled after walking ONE batter, while Star Pitcher was left to load up the bases not once, but twice, walking in several runs. During one game, Star Pitcher announced "I have to do ALL the work around here." During another game, he loudly scolded the second baseman for letting a ball get by him. He has no idea how close he came to having his teeth knocked down his throat by more than one teammate. Insufferable little bastard. My son finally had enough and made a comment to Star Pitcher about his attitude and for not acting like a team player. It was heard by the Coach, who, from that point on, treated my son like a pariah for daring to criticize Star Pitcher. My son was benched for HIS attitude. Unbelievable.

The other player that he picked on was one whose mother is a little....abrasive. She noticed and commented on these issues from the very beginning of the season and made herself a thorn in the Coach's side. Her son paid for that. He could do nothing right and every play he made was commented negatively upon. Even when he made a good play (he made several absolutely beautiful plays while we were there) the Coach found something negative to say. It was so conspicuous and persistent that the other Coaches and even parents started making a point to make positive comments to the child to compensate. How incredibly unproffessional and immature. It really is inexcusable for a grown man to behave that way.

I have issues over this. Pretty deep ones actually. We should never have been there. By winning the State Championship, we qualified to play in the Dizzy Dean World Series with other AllStar Teams. We would have had a fighting chance and we could have saved thousands of dollars, since it was held in our own state. Had I known the situation beforehand, I would have protested. Loudly. And the way he treated the players is absolutely inexcusable. He singled them out with harsh criticism in front of teammates, parents, and spectators. At one point, he threw a full blown tantrum in the dugout over a player error. It was so bad that my husband had to intervene. The coach did not take that well and basically told husband that if he didn't like it, he could take a hike. Thankfully, husband is not the kind of person who quails in the face of histrionic bloviation and stood his ground. He reiterated that such behavior was not acceptable and reminded him of the SPORTSMANSHIP awards we had been given that season. The Coach has frustrated me from day one because of his poor organization and communication, but I believed that he was well intended, if somewhat misguided. But now he has lost all of my respect and my son will not play for him again.

I really try to look at the positive in any given situation, but this experience has really gotten to me. I had to get it all out, so I appreciate it if you made it through my self-indulgent rant. Please don't let this discourage you from getting your children involved with sports, because our experiences have been largely positive. And, I really believe that being involved with sports has many more advantages than disadvantages, despite the inevitable issues that may arise.

Despite all the drama, I think the boys still had a good time. Scott Fletcher went above and beyond to put together a good program. They got to see a minor league baseball game at opening ceremonies, where they went out on the field and were introduced. They fed us dinner free of charge, and all the boys got a free wooden bat. They had a great time, and it was an excellent way to kick off the World Series. They had one night where the players competed against one another in various skills competitions. They had a cookout and a terriffic fireworks show afterwards free of charge. The boys enjoyed that enormously, although I personally found it a little chaotic and boring.

So, throughout the week I came to a couple conclusions, one being that grown men should not wear baseball pants. They think it makes them look professional. What it really makes them look, is...tumescent. Because baseball pants, for some reason, accentuate the ole baby makers. Big or small, low hanging or sticking close to home, what you see when a man wears baseball pants, is balls. I understand now how a man feels when confronted by a woman who has large, erm, assets. You can't not look. It's like that scene in Forest Gump when Jenny removes her bra. Forest doesn't want to look. Forest does everything in his power not to look. But in the end, Forest looks. Because he just. can't. Help. it. And that's how I felt this week when everywhere I looked I saw balls. Buff twenty something college guy balls, middle aged guy dunlap disease balls, portly old man balls. Balls aplenty.

I didn't want to look. I did the Forest Gump ceiling stare so often I developed a cramp in my eyeballs. I was less reticent about the buff twenty something college guy balls, (who wouldn't be??) but I still didn't want to look. And I sure didn't want to get caught looking. But I did. More than once. I am obviously no better than they are, the pigs.

And there is a lot of adjusting. I suppose it was the heat, which my husband says causes balls to stick to the inside of the thigh. But it seemed that every time I had to talk to one of these men (and, being the team Mom, there many instances) they were adjusting themselves. The players can be forgiven, because they were all wearing cups and I can totally sympathize with the torture of having one's most tender flesh corralled within an unyielding and unnatural garment; the binding, the's inhumane. But adjusting one's self in mixed company is really very poor manners. When I expressed this to husband, he just shrugged and said "When you have to, you have to." I'll remember that the next time my panties are firmly wedged into my ass crack.

After we were eliminated from the competition, we stayed on for several days to do some real vacationing. We visisted Patriots Pointand toured the USS Yorktown. It was amazing, and awe inspiring. So many men have died for this country. Too many. The heroism goes beyond what any of us can really conceive of. My oldest son, who is an emotional and tender hearted child, was moved to tears as we read the names on a too large wall inscribed with the name and rank of those who have given their life in service. It was a sobering reminder that regardless of whether we agree with the reason behind any given War, the sacrifices made by the men who fought are profound. The conditions aboard that boat and the submarine we toured were a very salient and startling testimony to the hardships those men have endured to protect our lives and our freedoms. It was a good thing for my boys to see. They have been somewhat enamored lately of War, as young boys often are. I wanted them to see that War is not a game. And though noble, it is not romantic or glamorous. I think they got it.

While we were watching a film in the shipboard theatre, my phone rang. It was Scott Fletcher, whom I had spoken with many times over the course of the week, several times in person. Nice guy. We talked for all of four minutes about mundane team issues. When I hung up, my son casually inquired who it was.

"Scott Fletcher" I replied.

"Scott Fletcher???" he squeaked.

"Yeah. Scott Fletcher."

Obviously, I was missing something.

"MOM. Do you KNOW who Scott Fletcher IS?"

"Um, yeah. The guy I was just talking to."

He rolled his eyes in disgust and appealed to husband to enlighten me.

"He's kinda famous, honey." husband said.

"For what?" I asked.

"FOR BASEBALL" they replied in unison.


Well, Duh. Barrett FLETCHER World Series. I suppose that makes sense. They don't let just any yahoo put on a World Series. But how the hell was I supposed to know? It's not like he was Jose Conseco, or Randy Johnson, or David Justice. Everybody knows them. I never heard of Scott Fletcher. And there was nothing about his appearance that would indicate he was a somewhat famous baseball player. In fact, he looked to me like a porn star, circa 1975. I had to do some major tactical avoidance when talking to him, because his balls were prominently on display in his Disco inspired short shorts that would have been more appropriate at Studio 54 than a baseball tournament. You remember the kind I'm talking about. I had a pair that were baby blue piped in white. I wore them with my baby blue satin Shawn Cassidy baseball jacket and matching satin cap. But I was 9. And I had no balls. Anyway, his attire, combined with his feathered leonine blonde hairdo and handlebar mustache certainly did nothing to clue me in to his illustrious past as a Major League Baseball star.

Appearance notwithstanding, he was, as I said, a super nice guy. And he seemed genuinely concerned that all the players had a good experience at his World Series. I suppose it was glaringly obvious that I didn't know who he was since I was the only one not genuflecting, but he didn't seem offended by that. Perhaps he even found it refreshing. Oldest son however, was incensed that I had been in the presence of baseball greatness and was too ignorant to procure an autograph. He'll get over it. Maybe. Someday.

The next day we hit the Public Beach on the Isle of Palms. The Isle of Palms is one of my most favorite places and we hope to own a beach home there someday. Hopefully before we are too old to enjoy it. There are clean and well maintained public showers, dressing rooms, abundant parking and reasonable chair/umbrella rental. I find that Atlantic beaches are SO much nicer than the Gulf Beaches. They are clean and clear and much less...icky. Nevertheless, oldest son was not going to be persuaded to actually enter the water. Sharks, you know. The problem with having a gifted child who actively seeks out all manner of disgusting, macabre, or otherwise disconcerting information is that they know too much stuff. Like, how many shark attacks were recorded in 2005. Like, the fact that even a small bite from a fulll grown shark can be fatal. Like, the fact that the ocean often looks deceptively calm while dangerous riptides are raging beneath the surface. SIGH. Thankfully, he also knows very useful and potentially life saving information. Such as the fact that you should piss on a jellyfish sting. Or that you should use a stick or tent peg or similar item to sufficiently tighten a tourniquet (in case of shark bite).

I didn't push him. I didn't even suggest that he get in the water. What I did, was buy two skim boards, which I worldlessly handed to Diminutive One, who, characteristically, did not hesitate to charge into the water and hop onto his board. Husband hit the water and frolicked among the absolutely perfect waves with Diminutive One. They were big enough to give a nice little thrill, but not so big as to be dangerous or scary. Pre-Pubescent One and I sat quietly on the beach. I reading a magazine, he worriedly watching the fun, vigilant for dorsal fins. After about thirty minutes he simply picked up his board and walked to the water's edge. There were people out so far they were barely a dot on the horizon. They were obviously not being swept out to sea by riptides. They were obviously not being devoured by man-eating sharks. It was quite clear that they could stand easily with their heads above water. I guess this bolstered his courage somewhat because he put his board in the water and began skimming. At first he stuck pretty close to the beach, but soon he progressed a little farther, and a little farther. Feeling brave, he began using his skim board like a surf board and got so caught up in riding waves that he forgot to be on the lookout for sharks. Mission accomplished.

His fear abandoned, the rest of the afternoon was a carefree family romp under the sun, and a day I will not forget for a long time. When we returned to the hotel to shower and prepare for dinner, I hugged Diminutive One and inhaled deeply, getting one last lungfull of sand and sun and sea. I kissed him and tasted salt on his skin. Today doing laundry I pulled a small t-shirt from the pile to stain treat it and caught a tendril of sea air before it dissipated in the mundane aromas of home. It made me smile.

Later we ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. I got all the Trivia questions right except one. I didn't remember that his favorite book was Curious George. The kids were impressed. Husband rolled his eyes. The tables bore signs which read "Stop Forest Stop" or "Run Forest Run". You flipped it to "Stop Forrest Stop" if you needed something from the server. I thought it was quaint, but it soon became a source of annoyance as my progeny endeavored to bring each and every server to a screeching halt by flipping the sign at the exact moment they reached the threshold whereby it was actually possible to still stop, but not without much spillage and uttering of curse words through clenched teeth. Kids. Gotta love em. Or hogtie em until the food comes.

We concluded the evening with a Ghost Walk. Again, this took some gentle persuasion to get Pre-Pubescent One onboard. Meandering through haunted Charleston in the dark with only a flashlight and a guide of questionable repute was not his idea of a good time. However, since his little brother did not raise even a small objection, he agreed. They both did well but there was some hand-holding in the graveyard at the end of the tour. Truth be told, standing in a pre-Civil War era graveyard that is widely reputed to be haunted, at midnight no less, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a little bit too. But it was good kind of scared. A yummy little spine tingling "what if" kind of scared. The boys concurred and they both expressed satisfaction at having completed the tour without having dissolved into piercing womanly shrieks at any point. They enjoyed the ghost stories very much and realized that sometimes being scared is fun. It was a fruitful couple of days.

So, was that enough boring vacation diatribe for you? I know I promised something more cerebral upon our return, but my home is piled high with sandy, sweaty laundry, the van is still loaded down with vacation detritus, and I am making up for seven nights of no sleep in a hotel room with a snoring husband and a blanket stealing 7 year old. Gimme a couple days to recover. Why is it that everyone else returns rested and rejuvenated, but Moms need a vacation from vacation?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Have Player Will Travel

We are on our way to the World Series in Charleston, S.C. We will return on July 15th, hopefully victorious, and assuredly poorer.

After that, there will be a short respite before fall Rec ball begins. I promise that when I return, my posts will be more varied and substantive, and address important issues such as: The peril of eschewing undergarments in hot weather, (Working title: Gravity is Not Your Friend), the strange affliction that renders men and boys inacapable of hitting a target that is nearly a foot in diameter, (Working title: There's a Reason Women Sit to Pee) and sibling rivalry (Working title: Cain and Abel; Alive and Well in Spongebob Pajamas).

Until then, I will repost one of my favorite pieces for your reading pleasure. Some of you have read it, some have not. I hope you will enjoy it regardless.

A Blessed Thing

We are traveling down a rutted, sun dappled, tree lined road in a sleepy little Southern town. It is so picturesque that it could easily be mistaken for some utopian 1950's TV town. If a person didn't know better, they might almost expect to see a primly coiffed woman in a pill box hat and day dress walking to market with a shopping bag over her arm, or a freckle faced boy with a slingshot hanging from his back pocket climbing an aged oak, far above the sidewalk. On the surface, it's the kind of town that makes outsiders long to pull up stakes and move there, happily sacrificing 24 hour convenience for Rockwellian charm.

As we turn the corner however, the view turns to images more in keeping with a UNICEF commercial than that of a picture perfect whistle stop town. There are barefooted and big bellied children playing in front of sagging, dilapidated homes with their doors propped open with cinder blocks to dispel the gloom. There are dogs wallowing in yards devoid of a single blade of grass. They snarl and snap at anyone who ventures near; fierce from hunger and neglect. There are stoop shouldered women hanging out threadbare laundry, there are overalled men tinkering beneath the hoods of late model automobiles. An infant wails and it is a plaintive sound; as if it doesn't really expect to be heard, doesn’t expect any solace or comfort. This street is also sun-dappled and tree lined, but it does little to combat the air of dejection and destitution. It is a profoundly hopeless place.

In this part of town, white and black live side by side in a kind of desperate harmony. It seems that poverty is a great equalizer.

As we approach an intersection, I recognize a small house with peeling paint and crumbling stone columns. The graying boards of the front porch are bowed with age and rot. A torn screen door swings to and fro in the breeze. It has not changed much since the first time I saw it, except that it is empty now, and even more forlorn. No curtains grace the windows and no cheery light shines from within as it did that bitter November evening almost 12 years ago......

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law seemed oblivious to the abrupt change of scenery. Their faces were bland with acceptance, while mine undoubtedly registered shock and horror. Never had I seen such profound poverty, such pervasive and immeasurable need. It made my underprivileged childhood seem affluent in comparison. In an unconscious gesture of protection against something I could scarcely comprehend, my hand stole to my swollen belly. Dear raise a child in this filth.

I thought about the clean and cheerful nursery at home; the piles of tiny, snowy underthings and receiving blankets washed in Dreft, the AAP approved baby equipment impregnated with Microban, and the carpet I had steam cleaned myself with scalding hot water in an effort to eradicate all traces of pestilence left behind by former occupants. I thought about the pediatrician I had already selected and the vaccinations I had already scheduled. As I thought about these things the happiness I usually felt was replaced deep and aching sadness. I was ashamed at how I had taken them for granted, and I was angry that anyone should have to live the way these people do. But there was also a creeping melancholy and a little resentfulness at having my warm and comfortable holiday marred by such ugliness. The baby kicked hard as if to punctuate these thoughts.

"Here we are!" my mother-in-law chirped brightly.

I wondered at her cheerful tone. Can't she see what is all around her? She opened the trunk and extracted bags and boxes which she divided among us. I got two enormous shopping bags from Sears. My unpregnant sister-in-law got a huge plastic crate full of canned and dry goods, with a large foil covered platter balanced on top. My mother-in-law carried an unwieldy autumn floral arrangement and several gaily wrapped gifts.

She knocked on the weathered door and called out, "Miss Jimmy? It's Linda. Can we come in?"

There came no reply, but after a few moments the door creaked slowly open, and a wizened face peered out into the night. In a quavering but emphatic voice she exclaimed over God's goodness at bringing her visitors and flung the door open wide in welcome. We traipsed in and laid our spoils down on a bed covered with an old chenille spread. Aside from a listing bureau, several mismatched chairs, and a small drop leaf table, there were no other furnishings in the ramshackle little room.

She embraced my companions, and as I turned to introduce myself I stopped and stared. Standing before me was the personification of Mother Abigail. So precisely did her appearance match my mental image of the fictional character that I was momentarily speechless, and I know that my jaw dropped open as I studied her.

Her sparse hair was gathered into a tiny little bun atop her cottony head. Her kindly brown face was heavily lined and her smile revealed pink and toothless gums. Her faded robe was belted beneath her low slung bosom, and fuzzy slippers matted with age peeped out from beneath the frayed hem. She was diminutive, but stood ramrod straight. Her eyes, though hooded by prodigiously wrinkled lids, twinkled with humor and intelligence. It was impossible to guess her age. She was both infantile and ancient; an ageless and sexless being that exuded quiet dignity despite her squalid surroundings.

"So, this is Linda's first grandbaby." she said. "That is a blessed thing."

She laid a gnarled hand upon my belly and caressed the bump of my baby's behind. I am not the sort of person who encourages or cultivates physical contact with strangers. So ordinarily, uninvited belly fondling, which is disconcertingly common, would arouse irritation and resentment in me. Her touch however, was curiously comforting and I did not object as she continued to follow the contours of my baby's body with her warm and capable feeling hands. She cupped them together just above my pubis, cradling the baby's head almost as if in preparation for gently coaxing the tiny form from my body.

She looked me in the eyes and said "God has given you a strong and healthy boy. He is good to you, child."

She held my gaze as I weighed her words. She couldn't know how I struggled with faith. She couldn't know that I felt like a fish out of water in the South, where religion is a way of life and beliefs are handed down from generation to generation like a wedding gown or baby blanket, cherished, unchanging and uncontested. But I felt as if somehow, she did know.

Since my unborn baby had stubbornly refused to reveal its sex on the ultrasound, I did not know if her assertion in that regard was correct, but again, I had the uncanny feeling that she had not simply hazarded a guess, but rather stated an unequivocal truth. I admonished myself for being taken in by such foolishness. She had a 50% chance of guessing correctly after all. She couldn't see into my womb or my soul, I reasoned. And yet, the feeling persisted.

After serving us hot tea and butter cookies from a battered tin, the rest of the visit was spent examining the treasures we had brought. Her thin and faded robe was exchanged for one that was brightly colored and heavily quilted. One bag yielded several sets of fleecy sweats, an array of matching turtlenecks, a multitude of flannel nightgowns, sturdy cotton underwear, heavy woolen socks, and a pair of thick soled house shoes that made her sigh with pleasure. The other bag contained two new pillows and an electric blanket with dual controls. There were creams and lotions and soaps that made her giggle like a young girl, and necessities such as toothpaste, deodorant and Fixodent. Even the toilet paper was exclaimed over, and she allowed that her tough black fanny wasn't accustomed to quilted softness.

I was humbled watching her, and a little surprised at myself. I am not by nature a histrionic person, nor am I often given to flights of fancy. But this tiny, shabby little black woman had affected me deeply, and I didn't know why. Reflecting on it years later I came up with the same ridiculous answer that struck me that day. Neither skepticism nor pragmatism could dispel the notion that there was something otherworldly about her; a spark of divinity that could not be diminished by her poverty.

When it was time to leave, she hugged us all and said "Praise Jesus, for he has truly blessed me today."

Linda didn't seem to mind that Jesus was getting the credit for her generosity, though I knew that she had spent many hours choosing things that would see Miss Jimmy through the winter in her drafty, decaying old house and paid for it all herself. It didn't seem quite fair that she received no thanks for her effort.

But Linda only smiled and said "Jesus can't help blessing you Miss Jimmy."

She patted my stomach once more and murmured "Bless this baby Lord, that he may do thy service."

We left, and several months later I gave birth to a baby boy, seven weeks early. The neonatal team was standing by, ready to deliver life saving measures to my premature infant. They didn't hang around for long, however. My son was a whopping 5 lbs. 14 oz. and came out complaining loudly about the state of things. After they had established that he was breathing well, I was allowed to nurse him. He latched on easily and maintained a vice grip on one breast or the other for most of the next two weeks. He was indeed, strong and healthy.

After the hubbub had died down and I was alone with my baby, I thought of Miss Jimmy, who had died quietly in her bed several weeks earlier. I never saw her again, and she never met my son. I had envisioned placing him in her thin arms and watching her face as she cooed to him. I couldn’t have said why I felt compelled to take him back to her, but I was gripped by inexplicable sorrow at not being able to do so. I tried to console myself with the knowledge that he had already been touched by her.

I return to the present with a start. My son is talking to me, but it takes me a moment to clear my head enough to respond to him.

"Mom. Mom. Mom! Why are you staring at that old house?"

"You and I went there once." I reply. "Nanny took us there to see a lady."

"The one who predicted I would be a boy?" he asks. He knows the story well.

"Yes, that's the one."

"Was she a sorceress?" asks my youngest.

"No." says my oldest. "She was an angel."

I never told him that. I look at my husband who shrugs. He's been around this stuff his whole life and doesn't find it strange at all.

"Maybe." I say. "Maybe she was."

(This story is mostly true. There are embellishments here and there, mostly to fill in places where my memory is vague or missing. I have struggled to write this for three days, and still do not feel that I did an adequate job describing her, her circumstances, and the way that she affected me. I leave it to you to decide if I told the story well.)

*Mother Abigail is a fictional character in the novel The Stand, by Stephen King. In this tale of good versus evil, Mother Abigail is the personification of good, and a sort of female Moses who leads her people to the promised land.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Thrill of Victory

It's funny how things can turn out completely different from what one expects, isn't it? But it's very gratifying when the universe bestows a gift upon those who deserve it.

My boys won the State Championship.

They went undefeated in the tournament. First game, 8 to 5. Second game, 19 to 4. Third game, 12 to 6. Last night, 16 to 3.

At a point when it was still anybody's game, my son hit a home run with bases loaded and 2 outs. My heart was in my throat. I couldn't look. I felt somewhat ill. The smack of that bat was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard in my life, and the grin that lit up my son's face as he rounded the bases was a sight I will remember and cherish the rest of my life. And I will also remember the diminutive coach, jumping up and down on the third base line, windmilling his arm so hard he could have taken flight, urging him home.

There were many spectacular moments in that game and all the boys had their shining moments. There were plays that made us hold our breath, gasp, and scream with unabashed joy. There were a few bad calls; one in which the first baseman caught a very low, slow fly ball and threw it to third for a double play. But the umpire said the ball hit the dirt before it bounced into his glove. It so did not. Even the other team said it did not. It was clearly caught. But a call cannot be reversed except by the head official who made the ruling in the first place. But Mr. Firstbaseman made up for it. He channelled his frustration at that call into a monster hit that gave us two more runs.

There was a play by the third baseman that was so beautiful you would have thought you were watching major league ball. The right fielder hustled his behind off to make a catch that seemed downright impossible. The pitcher threw strike after strike after strike. (My son was to take over in the 4th inning. I'm glad he didn't. I don't think I could have taken the stress.)

They worked so hard this summer only to have victory snatched from them time and again. But they never lost their spirit, and they still went into every game happy to be playing baseball. Even if they had not won, they would still be true Champions.

At the award ceremony immediately following the game, they received trophies, t-shirts bearing the "State Champs" legend, AND...they were given the second sportsmanship award of the season. All the coaches, umpires and Dizzy Dean officials vote on whom the award should be given to, and they were unanimously chosen to receive the award. I know some people look upon a sporstmanship award as a token gesture, but it is no small thing. No other team from our park has brought home two sporstmanship awards. We were as proud of that award as the Championship, if not more so.

Last night as I was tucking pre-pubescent one in, he said to me..."That felt good."

Yeah. It sure did.

This will probably be my last baseball post. I know, I can hear the sigh of relief from here. We leave for the World Series on Friday and then our season is over. I thank everyone who has endured my many posts, both good and bad about baseball. I thank those of you who have commented and expressed encouragement even though I have been too crazed to reciprocate. I have been reading and enjoying your brilliance and have been grateful for the diversion in the wee hours when I couldn't sleep for worrying over money and team issues.

This is the life of a sports Mom. People snicker and sneer about us, but this is what my boys love and if I want to be with them, I have to love it too. Before I had boys, I barely knew the difference between a pop fly and a line drive. Now I can quote just about any rule verbatim. I know why you shouldn't bunt on the second strike. I understand why sometimes the coach doesn't want the batter to swing. I know who Dizzy Dean is. And I know that I will never forget the days and nights we spent in the bleachers eating popcorn and peanuts, bonding and cheering for 11 year old boys who dream of Major League glory but who are, for now, just happy to be particpating in the Great American Pastime.

I complain about the hectic schedule, dragging coolers and chairs and equipment hither and yon, and the hoardes of money we have spent. But one day my boys will be gone. And I will miss it. A lot.

Congratulations Knights. You are all winners, with or without a State Championship.