The Forever of Opening Day

We trundled to school today side-by-side, hands in pockets.  The whipping wind still trying to push us back into our heavy coats and the doldrums of a long winter’s hibernation, but little G and I instead embraced our windbreakers, basking in the high sky and sun that beckoned toward warmer days…

…and baseball.

The two of us were indeed a sight to behold.  Gunnar shrouded his freshly-laundered Bryce Harper jersey with the traditional navy jacket of his Nationals.  He didn’t seem to mind at all that his Dad looked more like he was headed to the Breakfast Club, the shimmering satin blue of the vintage 1987 Mets jacket shimmering garishly in the early spring glare.

And so we smiled and shivered knowing that this illusion of forever, this connective tissue of our family moving into its fourth generation, was our reality once again.  So with our fist bump and kiss, we separated, but this time knowing that our pattern starts once again.  Knowing that when I see him after Math Club, the question “How was your day?” will not be replaced, but merely substituted, as “What was the score?” in our family means pretty much the same thing.  It is the beginning of that maze of conversation that may lead in endless directions: school, girls, politics, friends, girls, climate change, girls—on and on.  But that binding agent, that common ground that grounds our relationship—it always starts “What was the score?”

And that is what is so beautiful about baseball—a game that mimics life.  It’s seemingly endless schedule.  It’s leisurely pace.  It’s a game that’s doesn’t proffer the pompous grandeur of the Super Bowl or the spectacle so insane it can only be termed March Madness .  It’s a game that, if you allow it to, permeates into the fabric of life.  It’s astounding beauty and it’s background noise.  It’s spectacular moments and it’s 6th inning naps.  And it’s there, every day, offering the possibility of something new couched in the comfort of the familiar.

It’s there, of course, until it isn’t.  Until the cruel autumn winds come to sweep the game into slumber once again.

But the winds today are that of spring, and the game once again offers the promise of a forever stretching in both directions.  I’m eight years old sitting in the tattered wood seats at Shea, eating grapes as my Granda Lou correctly predicts the home run Neil Allen will give up to Dave Winfield to lose yet another game, continuing a winless streak for the Nathanson clan in Flushing that stretched from 1977-1983.  Yet at the same time I’m a grandfather, sitting with my two sons and their kids, explaining how their favorite first baseman is good, but there will never be another one quite like Keith Hernandez.

And it all begins again today.

“Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.” – A Bartlett Giamatti, The Green Fields of the Mind

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