Is It Really All Random? Headline Animator


I try to pinpoint words that when strung together, like beads in a necklace, express something with texture and richness; I hope for the occasional sparkle of a well placed gem. I frequently fail miserably. But on a good day, as with a candid photo, I unexpectedly capture a heartbeat, and it feels as if I've successfully seized fog with my hands.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baby Cakes and James

I have two goddaughters. They’re not real goddaughters, in the religious gist; I just call them that. They came from the sister God gave me because my parents didn’t. It makes sense in my world. Anyway, they’re delightful and funny, gifted and engaging. Brave and sensitive. Lovely, and loving. They have jobs out in the world now, because they’re grown.

In the family they have jobs, too. They keep their mom and me presentable. Well, they haven’t done as good a job with me because I don’t see them as often. But, if, let’s say, we had hairs hanging from our noses, or I had gray roots showing, or we couldn’t see our eyebrows well enough to pluck them properly, they’d inform us. They wouldn’t let us walk around embarrassing ourselves, too much. They let us know if a style has changed and we’re looking like refugees from an old TV show (though that’s not likely with their mom). Right now for instance, they would tell me that the color I have on my toes is very good. It’s some kind of brownish color. It would pass their test. They keep me up to speed. For these kinds of nudges into present, I’m grateful. You can’t tell where I'd be  without them.

The younger is 21. Curly headed gorgeous girl. From age one month inclined to glitter, and glamour, and to forgetting things. She still forgets from time to time, but all the time she sparkles, and dazzles with her smile. Sassy. No small amount of trouble when she was a teen. In a hurry to grow up, to get someplace mysterious. When she tried to be born early we should have known. Growing up was her challenge. What saved her was her heart. Huge. Spreads out and scoops up the world with all its possibilities. She’s okay with her hair all messy in the wind. Or sky high heels for a night downtown. She makes it all work. Like it's supposed to be that way.

The older girl is 24. She told me once that when she went to kindergarten she’d wear a beautiful gown. I believed her. When the world moves this way and that, sometimes it bothers her, till she’s used to it. She’s measured and cautious. Studies things. Has her own clock. She didn’t make the same racket growing up that her sister did. She keeps her mischief, like her beauty, on the down low. She sees everything. Tries to take care of her heart, and all of us in it. Elegant with her Pocahontas hair tied in a knot. Seeing her reminds me of cookies baking. Something inside feels right.

I saw my young self in them both as they grew. Some parts I'd put away. Sometimes loving fierce and not so wise, anxious for things to happen. Other times hesitant and watchful, wondering if I could afford the risk. But they’re more graceful and knowing. Steady and present, alert to themselves. Not like me when I was in their decade, still clumsy and slightly unconscious. I was better with cars though. They've had some issues, shall we say.

These two are something. Special just because and special again because of what happened before they were born. I once had a daughter. But her life was short, scarcely could call it a life at all. She had purpose, completed it fast. So when these two babies came their mother shared them with me, as she’s shared most everything. So I could know the feeling of girls, and all they bring to a home, and to a life. And the girls, now women, were kind enough to continue when they were old enough to stop.

I was blessed. That I should lose my girl and meet my friend, who became my sister, and had two girls she shared with me has always seemed fateful, and fortunate. And wonderful. 

Or, was it really all random?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

In the Beginning

It wasn’t a sentimental beginning. He called because he’d been separated for quite some time, in the middle of a divorce. He knew I was widowed. I didn’t know about him. He told me. Asked me to a baseball game. Was bored with his brother as a main squeeze.

I knew him from my old life. And knew his wife even longer. Are you sure it’s not a date? Can’t date someone’s ex. Wouldn’t be right. Assurances given. It was important. I didn’t date anyway. Widows have a lot to do.

Scalped tickets. Really good ones. Sitting with the player families. Pretty fun. But mostly we talked. Didn’t watch the game. No. Mostly he talked, about what went wrong. I think he was thinking aloud. Sifting through debris. How it went sideways. Boy I was glad it wasn't a date. I would have been disappointed. But it was good to see him. He had more depth than I remembered. A good friend he would become.

Talking and writing. Keeping tabs on our progress. “Have you kissed anyone yet?” “I haven’t taken my clothes off in front of someone new for 20 years.” We had to laugh at each other; we made such good confidants. We walked hand in hand out of delight. So good to have a buddy. We told our secrets.

We dabbled in the world of men and women. We had a better time together, clothes on, then with others – clothes off. Would our friendship survive if we changed its terms? We’d been friends for a long while and it worked so well. No sense fixin’ what ain’t broke.

One dragged the other (not saying who) for a test. C’mon. Hanging and dating are nearly the same. Some lipstick and pantyhose involved. Other than that, it’s mostly all the same. Except when we say, “I love you”, it will mean something different. Will there be kissing involved?

For some time we had it framed in our minds. We were a Plan B couple. Plan A meant my child’s father was alive, and his family remained loving and intact. That was the futile future. We felt lucky to have each other. Lucky to have a successful Plan B. Proud. Adaptable. Happy. Satisfied.

One day it changed. There was no Plan B. Only more Plan A. Winding, unfolding, revealing, revealed. We were together for the joy it brought. We were not consolation prizes. Purely Gold Medal.

Plan A the whole time. And we became just that much happier when we understood. It wasn’t random. Not one bit.

Happy Valentines Day, my love. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

T Minus Ten Days and Counting

I don't think the months have diminished the high of the World Series win. Tomorrow, when part of the world is eating wings and nachos, dialed into the the Super Bowl, I will know pitchers and catchers report in nine days. And that's all that really counts. 

It was fun to read what I had written the day after the Giants took the series. Back when they only claimed the division because the Pads choked. And Atlanta went down because they were injured. And the NL buzz-saw called the Phillies failed to expose the pretenders. The baseball gods had spoken and the magic lasted right on passed the Rangers. Was it really all random?  So from November 2, 2010:

Today is the morning after, and I awakened to find it’s true. My Giants have won the World Series.

Of course, I'm happy — happy as one can be that hasn’t completely absorbed a situation — I’m also in my head. I can fully enjoy small bits of the season, one morsel at a time, the stories that emerged from this team now known as “misfits and cast-offs”, but the banquet that is last night is overwhelming. Still, something feels complete. 

Tomorrow is the parade down Market Street to City Hall. My husband and I will be going. With a few hundred thousand of my closest friends, I’m sure I will know it’s finally true.

I can't remember a time that the Giants haven’t been a part of my life. When I was in grammar school, before wild card teams and division play-offs, the Series took place the first week of October. It was then that I would come home from school to find my mom teetering on a ladder, washing the kitchen ceiling to the blare of the series on the radio. They were day games then.

I remember Juan Marichal hitting Johnny Roseboro on the head with a bat, Don Drysdale dusting Willie Mays off the plate with an inside fastball, and the Alou brothers. Jose Pagan, Orlando Cepeda. I remember Willie McCovey’s ever-present smile. Bobby Bonds. The sad day Mays went to the Mets. And when he came home. For once he was one of us it was hard to acknowledge he'd ever had another.

For a while in college in Georgia, I was too cool for baseball.  Once back in the Bay Area it was Giants time and every goofy, damnable trade Tom Haller ever made.  Then came the news that Horace Stoneham was selling the team and it would likely be relocated to Toronto. I’d never been part of a letter writing campaign, but I learned fast. To every newspaper, every team owner and all MLB executives went my plea to save the Giants for the city by the bay. 

An owner wrote back personally that as long as there was breath in his body, the Giants would stay here. A rivalry for all time, said Walter O'Malley, owner of the Dodgers. Brooklyn and New York, LA and San Francisco. He wouldn’t let the Giants leave. He was good as his word and Bob Lurie emerged to save the team and keep them here. Lurie also lost money every year he had them. During his watch the Giants hired the first black manager in baseball, as Frank Robinson took the helm.

By the late 80s, the Giants fielded an almost team, “Humm, baby”. I watched every circle Jeffrey Leonard made around the base paths in St. Louis, ‘one flap down’ during the ‘87 NLCS, as well as Candy Maldonado’s boggled almost catch in right field. There was Dave Dravecky’s amazing comeback in 1989, and his broken arm mid-pitch the following start. He crumpled to the ground.

The Giants won the National League pennant on what would have been my daughter’s tenth birthday.  I stood cheering, then screaming, part of the din at Candlestick, as they beat the Cubs for the title, in the moment, separate from the moment. 10/09/79 she had been born, and died, and I thought I’d never smile again. Ten years later I shared the pennant winning moment with my husband and eight-year old son thinking one never knows what life will provide if you hang on and keep grinding it out, and nothing illustrates that better than baseball.

That year we witnessed the shutout, earthquake Series, followed by a few years never as good or as bad as those I remembered—until the heartbreak in 2002, which was both.  During the time in the middle the Giants were sold to a group of investors in Florida. This time letters couldn’t save my guys from a new destination in more hospitable climes.

I’d been at Candlestick Park, wind blowing, bundled against the elements, when they broke their low attendance record for three consecutive days. I sat on the right field side, a little off first base, with my own personal vendor in a 58,000 seat park that had 1,600 fans in attendance. Who could blame Bob Lurie for finally baling?  But the Magowan group stepped in and we were spared the loss of a team with a history and pride to match no other. A franchise whose number of wins exceeds the New York Yankees.

This game is no one-night stand. I'm reeled in for life.  “...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.” Bart Giamatti’s, “Green Fields of the Mind”.

So. Here we are with different names and faces, generations later but with the same dream, realized.  Yup, it will take a while to absorb this. I can’t help but think of my late husband, and the hundreds of games we saw together while raising our boy to appreciate a sport that many have loved, few have fully understood, and only a scarce and elite group have played.  There is a kinship between this game and me, and with those who play it, pitch by pitch, breath by breath, for 162 games and six months of each year. 

102 days till pitchers and catchers report to camp.