Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend

Did you know that baseball has a smell?

It doesn’t smell of one particular thing. It’s not just sweat, pine tar or unwashed uniforms. If Glade created a room freshener called “Opening Day,” you’d need essence of a well-worn mitt, old cleats encrusted with infield clay and the leathery aroma of the ball, itself. 

I’d buy cans of it and spray it all over the house.

The smell of baseball makes me remember a brownstone in Brooklyn, packed to the gills with baseball-nutty immigrants who grew to love (and become slightly obsessed with) the most American of pastimes.

It will be no surprise to learn that my family loved the Dodgers, named -- legend has it -- due to the fancy footwork necessary to “dodge” getting flattened by a trolley car in the busy borough we called home. But that was a bit before my time.

I was raised on the New York Mets.

My grandpa and uncle, often joined by my mother, grandma and a constant stream of aunts and  cousins, spent hours watching them and cursing them but, really, loving them in front of one of the first color TVs in the neighborhood. Housed in its own huge veneer cabinet -- complete with doily and candy dish filled with colorful, cellophane wrapped sour balls -- the lure of that green field and the blue sky above it, showcased on that convex screen, soon sang its  siren song. 

How I loved these guys--each so different but
so good!

It was from my very own spot on the carpet in front of the men in their easy chairs that I learned the rules, came to recognize the varied styles of the commentators, and, most significantly, connected baseball to an unequaled sensation of safety. 

Yes, Ump. I was safe.
Cocooned in a space where nothing could harm me more than the tickle of the popcorn my uncle might toss and then pretend he hadn’t, I spent many happy hours and, soon, I, too, genuinely loved the game.

And, specifically, I loved the aspect of baseball that many people criticize--the length and pace of those nine long innings. A baseball game has no time limit---it takes however long it damn well takes.

 Accept it, people.

But baseball isn’t slow, it’s measured. It doesn’t drag, it’s nuanced.

You said it, George.
Bursting with the constant possibility of excitement, we delighted in the suspense of an apparently lazy inning only to be catapulted from our languor by the sudden drama of a great play or thrilling hit.
Even Chewie plays.

Those moments, however rewarding, are second to the epic arguments about the faults, foibles and strengths of the players…the bonding over hatred of the umps (based on their most recent call)…and plotting Draconian revenge for heinous trades (Tom Seaver in 1977 is the perfect example. I still haven’t recovered). We fretted over injuries, memorized stats and, simply put, united over true affection for a home team

Play-offs and pennants were icing on the cake (or should I say “field”) but when the Mets won their first world series in 1969, it changed our lives in an almost biblical sense. David defeated Goliath that year and the following season I began to nag my mother to take me (I was eleven) on the two hour subway ride to Shea Stadium.

My first time there was so memorable that I remember exactly what I was wearing, that I stood on the final leg of the trip so to fully experience the elevated Number 7 swing into the curve of the holy ground of Flushing, New York and that we sat* next to a cheerful man who, when he bought his family ice cream, bought some for us, too.

I defy any artist to mix a more beautiful shade of green than the sunlit emerald of the outfield. Revealed after winding through Shea’s concrete tunnels, perfumed by the pungency of  absorbing years of spilled beer and wafting smoke from grilled Italian sausage, I remember gasping as I stepped forth on that first visit and, blinking in the sunshine, saw it in person for the first time.

Shea. I shall miss you forever.
I agree, Yogi.

Aware that my passion for the game is flagging (it's not so much fun watching alone), Tom and Charlie have encouraged me to rediscover my interest so, I’ve begun watching again. The ghosts of my grandpa and uncle stop by occasionally but, mostly, I’m by myself--eager to email the kids afterward about that great play, hit, save or infuriating error.

Can I recreate the magic of my youth? It’s doubtful but, surely, there is more magic to be made.

I still love it. And it must love me back because baseball still makes me feel good. Despite all its changes and new faces, a home run is still exciting, the umps are still blind and the grass is still that crazy green.

I can still smell it. Let’s see what the season holds…..

*For you Shea fanatics, we sat in the green seats on that first visit but in the sunshine, not under the dreaded over-hang.

Put him him the Hall of Fame!!!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Nothing Says "I Love Mom" Like a Pink Baseball Bat

This is just.....
Last week, after a perfectly lovely Mother’s Day, Seth wondered aloud as to where the boys will “take him” for his Father’s Day weekend. “Las Vegas?” he mused. “Although I hear Nashville and Miami are very nice, too!”

It appears that Seth was under the delusion, after having been exposed to the hoopla and huzzahs that Mother’s Day has become, that he is entitled to an extravaganza, as well---specifically, a "bachelor" type party complete with strippers, drunken tattooing and other shenanagins. 

Once I was able to convince him that this is not the case for Father’s Day (including that his days of strippers and shenanagins are now strictly visible only in his rear view mirror) and deal with the pouting and comfort eating that followed, I had to agree that Seth’s perceptions about Mother’s Day are correct.

A sweet little holiday has blown up into something unrecognizable from not only my youth where mom got a homemade card and a hug but even my years as a young mama where the card and hug rule still applied.

Our immersion in social media is greatly to blame, wouldn’t you agree?

Can you spare a few
wire hangers? I'm running low.
Several days before the second Sunday in May, many of us start searching the archives for adorable photos of ourselves with our mothers and we slap them up on Facebook, plastering our “walls” with cute sayings and art that has been created for this purpose alone.

I noticed that almost all of my friends’ kids were also changing their profile pictures to include their mothers and I spent the week in a cold sweat---would my sons do this?

My boys, who, for the most part, seem to like me just fine, are notoriously removed from most seasonal dictates and the corresponding social media mayhem. No, I reasoned….they would not.

I would be humiliated.

Come see, Woody! He looks just
like Frank Sinatra!

So I started my campaign: dropping hints, emailing them irresistible photos of us smiling into the camera—hoping they would choose to pin our private affection to the public busom of Facebook like those giant bubble gum corsages from many decades ago--penny Bazookas sewn together with a ribbon and worn for a special day. Well, hell, didn’t I always want one of those when I was little?

People will think those ingrates don’t love me, I privately lamented as more and more Facebook tributes popped up until finally, they did it (boys, I’ll put the checks in the mail later today). Whew!

See, world---they love me, they really do!

There are brunches and lunches with photo ops and exhausted florists making deliveries for 48 hours straight as they bunch posies, wrap raffia and exchange quizzical looks when faced with transcribing cards where one brother, who shall remain unnamed, horribly insults the other brother in the card of his own mother’s bouquet…just before signing it “Love, Charlie.”

The stores promote countless sales. Restaurants offer Mom free sundaes. News anchors smugly remind us again and again not to dare and forget the momentous day. Even professional baseball players are forced to wear pink cleats and helmets and hit with pink bats in honor of Mom. There was enough bright pink on the field last week when the Mets played, to confuse any self-respecting flamingo enjoying a Mother’s Day Mimosa in the stands.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved it. I ate it up like the attention whore I’ve always been (thanks, Mom).

Posting photos, opening cards, smiling at my reflection in the mylar of my balloons and fielding phone calls, I was Eve in the Garden of Eden on the very first Mother’s Day. 

She, too, wondered if her boys would remember and it actually did get a little dicey since this was before Al Gore invented the internet. But Eve’s kids managed to mail their cards on time and everything was just fine until all that unpleasantness began with the apples and the snakes.

I'm very worried the kids will forget it's Mother's Day! After all,
it's the first one!!
"Oh, Joffrey...come give mama a big hug."
My son, Tom, was home for Mother’s Day and we followed a drinking game’s rules while binge-watching Game of Thrones. Instead of tossing back a shot, Tom had to hug me whenever someone was disemboweled, mutilated or suffered a hideous amputation in a sword fight. This made for lots of hugging so mama was happy. 

Father’s Day simply hasn’t achieved the status of Mother’s Day. Oops, too bad. I take good care of Seth every day so if he wants an extra slice of cheese in his sandwich on June 19, I’ll see what I can do. Where he got this idea about a weekend of craziness in a penthouse suite in Vegas, I don’t know but if he calls you to organize it, please just hang up. 

As for “Susan Says,” she enjoyed her day greatly. I hope all you lovely mothers reading this did, too.

A philosophy I have tried to live by.