I love the Spring; the return of warm breezes, blue skies, green grass. The soil smells fresh, the garden beckons, and the birds fill the skies with song. It is a time of renewal, of relief, and of faith. It is a time for believing again; the darkness of the winter is gone, life begins to stir all around you, and yes for some strange reason you feel young again. Memories of endless games played as a child, played until the sun went down each summer night, the sounds of laughter, echoing across a cool black lake, and a longing to return to something……well…..better.
It is a time to dust off the grill, clean the lawn chairs, open the windows, and take that extra bit of time to sit outside and breathe the air, before retiring for the day
It’s also the time for Baseball.
When, in the still dark days of winter in the Northeast, I hear that Opening Day for Spring Training is coming up soon, I know everything will be alright. If Baseball is back, it’s all ok.
It doesn’t matter if we get hit with more snow after that; once I know the Boys of Summer are back on the field somewhere down South or out West, getting ready for the season, I am good; all is good.
I love the game; love its symmetry, strategy, pace, and grace.
My brother and I played endless games of baseball every Summer, and when we weren’t playing it, we were watching it. But every once in a while we would play catch with Dad out in front of the bungalow in Hopatcong. He wasn’t really into sports that much; liked to watch the Mets along with us but wasn’t a natural athlete or anything; probably would have preferred to be doing something else with his time. But he knew playing catch was a way to spend time with “his boys”; to enjoy some few moments casually tossing a baseball back and forth on a warm summer night, not knowing at all that he was making memories that would last a lifetime for “his boys”.
So…. Field of Dreams indeed.
Yup, that’s another ritual each Spring for me –watching Field of Dreams, perhaps the only movie I have seen that captured the love of the game so completely, and more importantly the love of a boy for his father. I cry every time I watch it.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
It’s a story of coming home to what matters; of understanding what you are missing.
“ for it is money they have and peace they lack.”
And It’s about second chances.
“ You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that that was the only day. “
I watch it because ultimately it is the story of dreams coming true, of believing in magic, in the past coming to life, in life transcending sorrow and pain. It’s a story about a second chance to reconnect with love. It is a story of beating death itself. It is all of those things.
But let’s be real; it is a story of a boy and his father.
“Is this heaven?”
“ It’s — it’s Iowa.”
“ I could have sworn it was heaven.”
“ Is there a heaven?”
“ Oh, yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.”
“ Maybe this is heaven.”
“Well, good night Ray.”
“ Good night, John.”
“Hey… Dad?…..You wanna have a catch?”
“I’d like that. Very much”.
And I cry.
Just like that line in the movie, I didn’t realize those moments playing catch with Dad were finite; didn’t know that they, like him, would not be around forever. It is a lesson worth remembering.
I like to think about my own little version of that story, one where one night in the cooling darkness after a day spent alone at the house, I would hear the familiar smack of baseball against glove, and out of that darkness I would hear similar words:
“Hey Rob, You wanna have a catch?”
And there he would be; neatly pressed light colored slacks, collared short sleeve shirt, those familiar gum soled casual shoes and that smile that seemed to say “Hey I know I am not any good at this, but I just want to be with my boy again”.
And it wouldn’t be dark anymore. The sky would fill with sunshine, the air would return its warmth, and time will have been beaten if only for a few moments; a few moments of joy experienced again. Just a little boy and his Dad playing catch on the road in front of the house on Brooklyn Mountain Road.
But like the movie, mine is a fantasy as well. The house is gone. Dad is gone. I haven’t played catch in thirty years.
I like to think….somehow …..when I die, if I am lucky, that will be the version of Heaven I get.
Hey…I can dream, can’t I?