Is It Really All Random? Headline Animator

Words

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.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reblog ~ "Extreme Forgiveness"


Some stories nearly tell themselves. We can be lulled into thinking that a teller need only assemble a few words so they can pass a good one along.  

Wrong.

A story that nearly tells itself needs a deft touch, a light hand; a few stitches to knit it together, a flashlight to highlight the required areas, then a speedy getaway so the story teller doesn’t get in the way. She leaves the benefit of the tale to its reader without distraction or interference. 

That isn't easy.

This is an exquisite story about life, what it asks of some of us – almost too much to bear, and then even more. For me, someone naturally inclined to observe and ponder human nature, I easily felt the grip of this narrative.

The author who penned this blog entry says of herself, “I am a convergent media artist, photographer, author, blogger and joyful student of life.” 

Her self-description shows in this lovely piece.

I hope you enjoy it as I did. If so, spend some time with the author, Joyce Wycoff, at http://joycewycoff.blogspot.com and send her a note. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you. 

Below Joyce's artwork is a link to "Extreme Forgiveness," on her blog. 

"Crack in the World"


by Joyce Wycoff


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Baseball Like Life


Those of you who’ve known me for a while know this story. Even if I’ve never told you directly, you know it because it’s in my skin. I wear it. I live it.

I tell it now because for me it explains baseball at its essence. And why when baseball goes away I feel adrift, no land in sight. I have to get my compass and reorient to north, to life. My heart is tied to baseball.

On October 9, 1979 I bore my first child after a difficult pregnancy that I didn’t know was difficult. I thought it was normal. Because I hadn’t traveled the road before. Millions of women had gone before me without whining, and I didn't want to be a baby. I said little. I just waited for my infant girl.

She came. Just at the moment I had a seizure followed by a cardiac event and a weeklong coma. I know these things because others told me when I awakened.

“My baby? Where’s my baby?”

She had died and I didn’t meet her. Never saw her.

It was a long time before I could inhale without doubling in pain. I was too young to know that life would march on and would hold highs in proportion to its lows.

It took a while to recover. Much time before I wanted to rejoin life. Even after Boy was born and I was ecstatic; it was in some ways more difficult to have missed Girl's short stay, I came to realize, as I played with his tiny toes.

I became accustomed to her leaving. It happened slowly. I almost didn’t notice that I didn’t think about her several times a day. But it was a nearly impossible climb into the reality that she never laid nestled in my arms.

Not once.

Will Clark ~ Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
On her tenth birthday, October 9th, 1989, I was at Candlestick Park, a spectator as the San Francisco Giants beat the Chicago Cubs to win the National League pennant for the first time since 1962. 

Sitting in the upper deck with a high blue baseball sky above me while the gods anointed my team as representatives to the World Series. Caps flew into the air as the radio broadcast was routed through the Sony Jumbotron screen and we heard Hank Greenwald shout, “27 years of waiting is over. The Giants have won the pennant.” My husband and I lifted our eight-year-old son onto his seat where he could stand for a better view of the hugging, yelling, jumping players in a dog pile on the pitcher’s mound.

They had done it. We had done it. Different victories, similarly sweet.

We had stood huddled beneath a temporary canopy to shield us from the pouring rain the day we buried Girl. Her small white casket lowered in the ground, a lambs wool bear tucked inside. We did not know what lay ahead for us. I didn’t think I'd again hear the sound of my own raucous laughter. Would breathe freely, tickled by the air.

Yet there I was, ten years later, my little family including a son I didn't know was waiting for me, jumping in unison with the team from our perch in the stands. We sang “Bye-Bye Baby,” wore team colors, and cheered till we were hoarse.

I didn’t need to look back on that day to see its irony, its metaphor. In the moment I stepped away from myself and watched it unfold; I wished Girl a silent happy birthday.

Life moves on, even when we’d give anything if it would only stop.

Bay Bridge Collapse ~ George Nikitin, Associated Pres
Baseball, like life, holds many surprises. Some of them leveling while others shoot us to the moon. A few days later an earthquake rocked the 1989 World Series; while there were deaths outside, Candlestick Park held baseball fans safely in her arms. 62,000 of us were defended by the old concrete lady. As she shook she grumbled, “I don’t care if you think I’m ugly, I’ll protect you anyway.” That she did. She didn’t tell us the City was on fire or a bridge to our north had collapsed. She didn't give a hint.

Baseball sent scores home from work early, avoiding peak commute at 5:04PM when the earth moved and there would no doubt have been more casualties. Fans had already taken their places on the sofa by the television while they awaited the game’s first pitch. Folks watched baseball, and baseball watched out for them.

Baseball. Life. One a microcosm of the other. 

Tomorrow a parade in San Francisco to celebrate the 2012 World Series win of the San Francisco Giants. An orange and black barrage of wildly enthusiastic Bay Area residents ready for pandemonium after a season of blows that spurred a tornado of wins and ended in a sweep of the opponent. Our baseball team had blown right back.

Then, the temperature will drop and days will grow short; baseball will fade into dormancy. From chaotic celebration to rest, reorganization, and preparation. From a hurricane to a quiet day with no news to report. Other pursuits and events will fill the void. Don’t know what those will be, what the future holds.

Inning to inning, day-to-day, life and baseball play out in flukes, serendipitous twists. We hold on through the bad breaks, savor a ball that sails out of the yard, hang in when a star player goes down, and when our spirits are as wreckage on the rocks.

Life keeps us in wonder even on its hardest days.

Baseball Annie Savoy
"I believe in the Church of Baseball."* Even when it seems my team doesn’t have a chance, or I don't, I know there's hope.  An unexpected turnaround. A rally. A win. A cheer. 

An alleluia.

Life's like that. That’s why you shouldn't leave the game early. Not till the last out. You just don’t know what lies ahead.




* Quote from Baseball Annie Savoy, "Bull Durham". With thanks to bleacherreport.com for the photo.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Epilogue - The Final Out

Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence hug Marco Scutaro on his first trip to the World Series
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 

The downpour could not dampen the moment for the San Francisco Giants or their fans. 

Congratulations, National League champs. 

To the St. Louis Cardinals, well done! A relentless opponent who made an improbable drive to the NLCS with a field riddled with injuries. Mighty Cardinals, see you in the 2013 post-season, as we do nearly every year.

And no matter what's written by the so-called pros (I've read it already this morning), it wasn't a "run up" score aimed to embarrass. There are never enough insurance runs against the Cards. 

Sergio Romo records last out
ASSOCIATED PRESS

If you don't believe me, just ask the Washington Nationals.


Marco Scutaro, Most Valuable Player
2012 NLCS
REUTERS/Robert Galbraith


Monday, October 22, 2012

Dog Fight


Dog fight at 5:07PM PDT.

Two historic, storied franchises, Musial versus Mays, set to duke it out old school in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. A rubber match of sorts. 1987 to the Cards, 2002 to the Giants. 2012?

Who will it be tonight?

I’m a Giants fan granted the thrill of a World Series win just two years ago. Still on a high from the first San Francisco win. But I’m a baseball fan, too, and those are different things.

The Giants fan wants black and orange to prevail. The baseball fan wants a clean game, no questionable calls, no errors, a fair fight and a solid feeling that the best team won.

My Giants fan wants Marco Scutaro to tear the cover off the ball so Matt Holliday knows never to try a late slide take-out hit at second base when he plays my boys; Pam the baseball fan knows it’s part of the game and the baseball gods generally even the score without human intervention.

I want to see outstanding play and know I’m watching the best that the best can deliver out of both dugouts; I also want my team to be just a little bit better.

My baseball fan and Giants fan watch together in stunned admiration of the team that won three championship road games in a row to rally from the brink of elimination in the division play-off.

And here we are tonight. Two teams that evenly split wins during their regular season meet-ups. The St. Louis Cardinals, a team built to clobber every other with outstanding hitting and a filthy bullpen loaded with 100mph flame-throwers.

My Giants? Can’t categorize them and have it hold from one night to the next. They’re up, they’re down, as soon as one pitcher finds his mojo, another goes MIA. They’ve defied description in the best and worst ways leading the league with errors in the early season, turning it around with a shortstop holding the best defensive record in baseball. They’ve thrilled fans with MVP play, then sucker-punched them with a crowd favorite suspended for PED use.

My baseball fan knows the San Francisco Giants aren’t supposed to be here tonight. Their closer placed on the DL early in the season went without replacement. The league leader in hits was bounced from the team. Their All-Star catcher, recovering from a near career-ending injury, took off with a slow start. Their award-winning pitcher had an ERA above 5 till the last week of the season, and another All-Star position player spent half the season disabled in two separate stints on the DL.

For the sixth game this post-season, the Giants are on the cusp of elimination. Or maybe, this time, a trip to the World Series. Only 50 times in the history of baseball has a championship series needed all seven games. 50.

For a baseball fan, it doesn’t get better than this. A game of games where both teams are literally playing for their seasonal lives. 162 games, plus five divisional play-off games and six league championship games have been reduced to tonight. A slow, plodding progression over six months ends and begins with a one game frenzy to see who lives and who dies.

We are an hour from the first pitch of the last game that determines who moves on to baseball’s last rung. Two evenly matched pitchers will meet on the field of play. My Giants fan’s throat aches from life on the edge, endless cheering, and shoving my heart back down into place. My baseball fan knows it’s a privilege to see such a match, even greater because my hometown team is a participant.

Tomorrow morning one team will have been victorious, will be shaking off a champagne shower, wearing a World Series cap, and doing a light work-out in prep for game one of the World Series. Their fans will be arranging schedules to attend or watch televised games wearing bright new championship t-shirts; one team will empty lockers as their fans count days till pitchers and catchers report to spring training. 

Cardinals Red? Giants black and orange? In which group of fans will I be? Either way, what a ride, what a ride.

It’s baseball. And I’m reminded of a Rogers Hornsby quote. Win or lose, my baseball fan completely understands. 

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”





Photo credits to Huffington Post, Sports Illustrated, Getty Images



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

All In For Bay Area October


Halloween this month. Should I begin, “It was a dark and stormy night…”?

I’d be lyin’ if I did. It’s 94 degrees outside. I checked on my electronic digital meat thermometer.

That’s the truth. About the 94, and the thermometer. It's the only one I have. 

Thanks, Joce!
Those familiar with the Bay Area know fog fades this time of year, beat back to sea by a high pressure ridge that allows La Cité, Peninsula and North Bay temps to soar. Not in mid summer as in other places.

In July and August our inland valleys heat up and draw fog to the coastal cities of northern California. There the wispy fluff hugs and hovers; Mark Twain is often erroneously credited for the thing he never said about the coldest winter he ever spent...

That’s why you bring your sweatshirt when you visit San Francisco in summer, right? Oh, you didn’t? Then you bought yours at Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco awaits the tourist exit. It saves its best for locals who then stroll sleeveless late into evening, every moment of warmth absorbed and stored as a morsel in memory, like squirrels and the acorns they hide to make it through the winter. Fall is our time with windows wide open. Coffee and a pastry at a sidewalk cafe. This is a day at the beach. For real.       

Heat is our sign of autumn. Our version of northeastern leaves showing color. Heat is the last glorious gasp before rain and chill set in, and Halloween comes a knockin'.

As a kid hot weather met us as we returned to school in September. I sat at my desk wriggling in the seat as I attempted to listen attentively in Mrs. Goggins’ science class. Afternoons with temps close to the century mark, the back of my legs itching and sweating in a wool, plaid, pleated Catholic school skirt. It was difficult to be still, checking the clock and waiting to escape the hot and airless classroom. In a rush to shed the stiff school uniform and get to the five & dime to find a Halloween costume.

By October 31st the weather shifts. Predictable cold and drizzle threaten to dampen festivities. Parents argue with kids over how to keep warm and dry. Nothing like a jacket or raincoat to ruin a costume's fun.

In this heat it’s hard to imagine that conversation lies less than 30 days ahead. But it never fails.

Yesterday, when it was 97 degrees, I contemplated foregoing Halloween hubbub. Admittedly it’s early to begin the annual search for orange squash with jack-o-lantern potential but a hectic schedule threatened to squeeze the fun out of October till late in the month, maybe even too late. Not worth the trouble for only a few days, a week at the most. That’s what I said to myself. Yesterday.

Perhaps 2012 was designated somewhere as the year to skip Halloween hijinks.

I live on a winding street that climbs a hill overlooking a canyon. Street lamps are few. Sidewalks none. The paved road is narrow and though the speed limit is 20mph to safely accommodate pedestrians sharing it, not everyone abides. Night brings critters. It's poor trick or treat territory.

But we justify a candy purchase by telling ourselves someone may knock and we don't want to be the house that spoils the fun. Just in case, that’s what the hubs and I say while buying a sack of our favorite treats.


Then five years ago a baby was born next door. He easily became our neighborhood’s child. Drew us all in and each October I would see his mother push his stroller to two houses displaying a few decorations. One across the street with a blow up witch sitting on the red brick steps, toes curled upward, striped witch's socks. Then they’d roll to our house with my pile of pumpkins and glowing lights.

A whole new haunting Halloween spin on things with the arrival of that boy. As he grew he began to walk with his mother, hand in hand after his nap, to visit the witch and sit next to it on the steps. I added to our collection enthusiastically. More ghoulish fun. A skull with light up eyes. An animated Grim Reaper.

No mystery why the houses next to his have the most decorations. We're tickled by his delight.

Now he runs here on his own, within Mom’s watching range, to check that we’re appropriately festooned for fall. Monitoring our progress.

A month ago he became a big brother. Last evening with windows open to the hot, still night I could hear the infant's cry. In the season when life prepares for the dormancy of winter, to pull back and hunker down, I'm reminded that in some places life is new. I'm renewed as well.


The sound of life. I couldn’t help myself. I rethought my original plan. For our neighborhood's child, Halloween will visit my house. For his baby brother, too, who will pass fast asleep in a buggy. 

In big brother’s smile I'm reminded that rituals and novelty are cookies and milk, should never be separated or ever skipped. 

I climb a ladder to string peeking, peeping, blinking, spooky eyes around a tree, no longer remembering that yesterday I thought to do otherwise.

The sun shines brightly without a hint of dark and stormy night though one will doubtless visit soon. If you’re fortunate enough to be here today you can shed that fleece for a while.

This is autumn in the Bay Area. As it is every year dating back to my childhood and long before me.

Nearby is one little boy and his new baby brother soaking up October. While they go about the work of being children I'm reminded to play. 

Some things are too good to take a pass on. Like warm and sunny fall.

Hello, October. We meet again. And I'm all in.



Monday, September 24, 2012

Of Kitchens and Cars


I like my stories to be complete and I usually don’t write sequels. But in the interest of context, this one grabs a thread from the previous blog entry and pulls it forward.

Yesterday my parents’ car was sold. You remember that from last time we met?

Brother
My brother came from Arizona for a week. Another of his life-saving visits (that refers both to my life and my parents’ because otherwise I might have to shoot someone). He and I went together to have the car cleaned and polished. He’s a pal who understands my sorrow and what the car has meant to Mom and Dad.

I’m sure Brother had many of the same thoughts and emotions I had but he sorted them privately. In the open he helped me manage me and was wonderful support. Inside we probably both cried over our mounting, mutual losses. Death by a thousand cuts. 

I made a post on Facebook and said I was glad and sad the deed was done. My friends either silently or publicly nodded. My friend BB answered with something so true. “That is very tough. I don't know why doing what's right can feel so wrong.” 

She nailed it. Every step I take to do the proper and safe feels disrespectful. Unloving. Without compassion. My emotions and thoughts constantly dissonant.  

After the sale was completed I needed to be somewhere I could feel whole, accomplished, warm, nurtured, absorbed, in flow, and in control. There are few places where I can be so swaddled, cocooned and complete. My kitchen is one.

Riced potato spread on cookie sheet to cool
So yesterday’s Sunday dinner gnocchi-fest was born. Italian soul food comin’ right up.

Gnocchi is the simplest and most humble of Italian dishes but require a light touch. A small potato dumpling served with a sauce and/or cheese, they are the ultimate comfort food.

And they’re a mess to make. They take over. Leave room for nothing else. I don’t care what Lidia says or how she whips them up a half hour before dinner on her television show – my kitchen becomes a starchy mess of sticky countertops, every surface covered by a step of the process.

Potato dough awaiting cutting
I use a Lidia Bastianich recipe and I bake the potatoes rather than boil them. Less moisture in the potato means less flour needed to make the dough. Less flour equals lighter and fluffier, and if the gnocchi gods smile upon ye, pillowy little delights practically float upward from your pasta bowl.

Finished gnocchi awaiting boiling
And even though I haven’t figured out how to make gnocchi without the concomitant potat-apocalyspe, it was the perfect undertaking, allowing me to immerse myself in a wonder of creative cooking. No space for melancholy. 

Rolling a dumpling across the board
After baking my potatoes I peeled and riced them, then incorporated cheese, flour, egg, salt and white pepper. Ingredients such as thinking about tomorrow’s challenges or last week’s pain were omitted, kneaded away into a smooth, soft, yielding, slightly sticky dough. I rolled each dumpling across the gnocchi board. Perfectly imprinted ridges for holding sauce. No tears allowed.

When the gnocchi were made, covered, and awaiting later boiling, I began dessert. Every pass of the rolling pin across puff pastry pressed sadness from my body. I spread a creamy combination of almond paste, egg and sugar on the dough, then covered it with sliced peaches and fresh blueberries. As I watched the pastry rise and become golden on an oven heated stone, a galette was born and I too came to life. Began to shine with my egg-washed pastry. I inhaled deeply of the baking fruit, wafts of almond and cinnamon billowed through my kitchen.

From brilliantly red tomatoes I sliced away longing for a life different than the moment, and tasted the creamy richness of buffalo mozzarella. I arranged both on a plate, mistress of my kitchen art, with no room remaining but for the dazzling green freshness of a basil scattered across the top. No place for wishing or wanting anything more than the platter offered.  

In my kitchen pain cooks away, reduces, and acid becomes sweet. I lose myself in the color, texture, quality and flavors of ingredients acquired from the Bulgarian family’s produce stand, the Italian specialty store, the local farmers market, the baker's 5AM Sunday delivery of warm sourdough bread, and tomatoes, oranges, and lemons from my garden.

The gods definitely gave a big, wide grin last night. Half the gnocchi were served with fresh basil pesto, the other half with our family’s traditional sauce. Spaghetti sauce is a bit like macaroni and cheese, potato salad, slaw, or fried chicken. Each family has their own special version, passed along generation to generation, evolving with each iteration. A secret ingredient lending a twist on tradition.

My husband picked up my parents and brought them to our home. We ate in the warmth of the kitchen where the best of meals seem somehow even better. My kitchen. The table was set with my mother’s favorite old, red and white tablecloth and napkins. We told them the car was gone; they nodded at the news. We opened a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino. We clinked our glasses. Chin-Chin. The depth of the wine's beautiful jewel tone equaled that of the dinner, and the diners.

I watched my mother, who now finds it difficult to eat, have three small helpings of gnocchi, the most she’d eaten in months. She smiled after every bite. “These are the best I’ve ever had, including my own.” What a compliment.

She chased them with a square of peach and blueberry galette and a side of vanilla ice cream. Washed it down with a strong cup of Italian roast coffee.

Last weekend I did what needed to be done. I continued the difficult task of sorting, dismantling and reconfiguring the lives of my elders. Then I went about the work of reassembling my spirit in a place I find solace and safety. We feasted on food that came from my kitchen, was created by my hands, and was born of my heart. We feasted on life.

Sorrow turns to joy. Despair becomes hope. Loneliness finds a friend. My kitchen. My world. My art. My work. My play. My gift. My peace. My salvation. I find life again, in my kitchen.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Dad's Car


My dad’s car is sitting in front of my house.

He’s 84 and he’s sick, and he’s decided not to drive anymore. And to sell his car.

I think of it as my dad’s car even though it belongs to both my parents. My mom drove it only once, the day they bought it. Her test drive. After that she ceded driving to him. Given their ages, retired and all, they were always together anyway. She stopped driving anywhere alone and then she stopped driving at all.

So it’s my dad’s car. Really.

He shouldn’t have been driving the last three years and it was a bit dicey before that but we didn’t know. That he had a growing brain tumor.

The last while he kept driving to a minimum. I think. He was sneaky.

I nagged often as did my brother. We tried to be firm, caring, and logical. To a firm, caring and previously logical engineer.

But there was nothing about this that was regular logical. This was emotional logical. We knew it was one of the few pleasures left for Dad and that it's close to the hardest transition he will make. To set his car keys down and say enough. We know him well enough to know this is a broader statement to him, about him, and the state of his life. 

The car had been parked in a spot he and Mom could see from the window of their suite at the assisted living place. Because they've had it there it made living in a facility more like a choice as though they could drive away if they wanted.  

There’s a reserved sign at his spot with their name on it. Only about 5 residents have a reserved parking space and can still drive (or pretend to) and I think he was kinda proud of that.

But the car’s not been moved for months and over the spring and summer has collected a dusty coat of tree pollen made solid by evening dew and sunny days, each day over again right into August. And I noticed he seemed to lack the will to make his furtive trips to the drug store to get her hard candy.

I figured this time was coming.

When last my brother visited from Arizona he told me Dad asked him to pass the message to me that he would need my husband's and my help to sell his car. Which was funny because I live a mile from my parents and they see me several days a week.

Maybe Dad knew in my own way I would take it hard, too. So he had my brother tell me.

I waited a couple of weeks till Dad asked me about a plan and then I said we’d research the value and clean it up for him. He tried to give me his key which he’d taken off the only key ring I remember my whole life. That has his dad’s St. Christopher medal on it.

I nodded. Said I’d get it later. When I have the car ready.

I finally have what I wanted. I now know we are all safe from his driving. Every school child walking and mom driving to the grocery, and other seniors lacking the ability to turn heads fully or act quickly. Most of all, he’s safe from him.

My mom hasn't wanted him to drive either but then she finds the need to go somewhere, just them, two, as they have been since age 12, to grab a bite or visit the store, and she would ask him to take her. Inside there's a push and pull for her. The yearning for independence, the wanting of something of their old, younger lives.

Now the car sits in front of my house. In the driveway. Yesterday I emptied it. It took me nearly a month to open the door and breathe in the smell of them. Two people married 63 years since age 21, together since grammar school.

I removed their bits. His Tums. Her lipstick. Their Kleenex. And more Kleenex. And three different car accessories for either the dispensing or collecting of Kleenex in its various states. 

His WWII U.S. Navy blanket, in case of emergency. Quarters for the bridge because my dad probably thinks that’s all it would be were he to cross one. Instead of the $6 it is. And an umbrella should it rain so that her little hair-sprayed helmet of hair will not be disturbed by a drizzle.

I put it all in a dishpan and set it on the floor of my garage.

Soon I’ll have it cleaned inside, and washed. The way my dad always liked it when he parked it in his garage with the automatic garage door opener. But I don’t know when I’ll have the courage to set a "For Sale" sign on the window, or list it in a want ad, or put it on Craigs list.

Because along with the car I watch my dad say good-bye to his capacity, and pride, and freedom. And life. All while I say good-bye to him. And to my mom. And the way they used to drive around together visiting their friends and favorite food places including the Italian deli for hand made grissini, and the market where she couldn’t pass up a sale especially if it included a little lemon cake with buttercream frosting. Even though she had four others in the freezer. He never could say no to her.

And now there are so many Nos.

Until they are no more. 


Friday, June 29, 2012

I Cry Foul


The foul ball ricocheted off the seats behind and bounced slightly over our heads before being swallowed up by fans diving into the row in front of us.

One of those fans was my son. After 30 years of attending Giants games, he came up with a ball, perfectly scuffed and dinged, rubbed a pale yellow brown from requisite Mississippi mud. A surprised and happy smile was on his face.

Then he generously handed it to his mama.

Hubs & Me
Sitting to my right was a pleasant and friendly British couple visiting San Francisco while celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. The man explained that toward the end of the day he decided he wanted to attend an American baseball game while they had the chance. He didn't know the Giants were about to meet their century-plus dreaded rivals in the first home-turf match up of the year. He had unknowingly chosen the biggest game of the still young season as their introduction to baseball.

The gentleman asked several questions about rules, tradition, players and positions, passing each answer along to his wife. They caught on quickly and did spot on impersonations of long-time Giants fans cheering and booing in all the right places.

I thought my husband and son, both to my left, were privy to the ongoing chit-chat. Mistake #1.

Son handed the ball to Mama as unwritten protocol suggests (hand-off hierarchy is generally an offer of the ball to the nearest small child, followed by girlfriend/wife, and last, mom, especially if a rabid fan). The Englishman looked as though his heart might stop from the thrill of being so near the major league ball. He asked if he could hold it.

It was obvious to me that though he’d been born in the land of cricket and tea he nonetheless had the baseball gene. He excitedly fondled, turned and examined the gem with a seemingly innate understanding of the sacred, spheroid symbol of the game.

He handed it back with slight hesitation.

“Do you think another will land this way?” he asked.

It occurred to me that I might have many more chances to win foul ball roulette and my son even more than I. In a fit of enthusiasm I gave the man the ball, catching only a glimpse of my son’s horrified face. Mistake #2.

I had assumed my son knew the situation next to me, understood my thinking, and given his tendency toward regular decluttering of random objects in his urban-slick flat, was completely in agreement. Mistake #3.

Wonderful British wife had apparently been peering over my shoulder as I faced her husband and saw the scene play out. She watched my son stare in disbelief when I offered the ball to her husband. She saw his aghast look when her husband lovingly clutched it. It was only when I observed her face that I had an inkling that something, probably not good, was occurring behind me. I turned to witness the face.

Could a mom feel worse?

I tried to explain. I tried to fix. I apologized profusely. I didn’t realize, I said. I didn't remember there hadn’t been a ball before this one. I assumed he would be happy the ball was going with a tourist, that he would want it to go home with someone who'd never again have a chance to catch one. That the thrill of possibility we experience each time we queue for the squeeze through the gates of our stadium was enough to sustain us, along with the knowledge we'd provided joy to someone visiting our city and our team. Mistake #4.

I thought our conversation was on the down low and sufficiently quiet and no one would be the wiser. Mistake #5.

As the sidebar continued between my son and me, and he struggled to be graceful and game with my gaffe, apparently another chat was held behind me between husband and wife.

The gentleman said, “Please, we can't accept this ball.” I think I noted a small gulp.

“In short order it will be gathering dust in a cupboard whereas with you it will be cherished. It’s a delightful gesture but we think the ball is more meaningful to you.”

Painful, I say, painful.

“No, please, sir, it’s yours. Your souvenir from tonight.”

He placed the ball in my hand.

“We insist.”

So polite. So lovely. So British.

I took the ball, turned and handed it with embarrassment to my son. He stealthily snatched it away dismayed by the entire affair.

I was still trying to explain that I’m really not an ingrate by nature, I was simply caught up in the moment and thinking he would want to do what I had done.

“I’m keeping my ball,” he said with eyebrow arched. “And in case you haven’t thought about it, TV cameras follow the foul balls. Everyone saw you. You re-gifted my ball! The commentators were probably saying, 'Look at that! That mom gave away her ball!'”

He had the gleam of payback in his eye. Mischief afoot.

The official scorekeeper says the error goes to the mom. In fact, multiple errors. A new record in baseball history books. (You know how they love stats in baseball.)

When things go foul, they fly there fast. Where was the umpire when I needed him? Game won. Face lost.