I search for words that when stitched together, as in an eye-catching tapestry, express something with texture and richness, and I hope, beauty. Fingers are crossed for a glimpse of a sparkling thread, or an unexpected color, that draws a reader in. Sometimes I fail miserably. But on a good day, as with the surprise of a wonderful candid photo, I capture a spirit, and a heartbeat. Then I watch a story come alive.
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
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 rivalsin 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 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
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
ofpossibility 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.
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.
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.