Smartacus Turns 18

It’s was 18 years ago today that Posh gifted me a second baseman: 7 pounds, 11 ounces, 2-3 loose screws.

My son Smartacus, the little critter I’ve taken under my wing over the past two decades, turns 18 today. A man, yet not quite. Sort of like me, I suppose.

Each day, he walks into the room a little bigger, a little bolder, while I fade in daily, incremental ways. He is a bonfire, I am the spark who started him.

Smartacus pointed out the other evening that I grunt when I eat something really good, just as I grunt when I bend to tie my shoes.

I look best in a dark room. He looks good even in the harsh light of noon.

Some days, I want to hang him like a Christmas ornament, to admire him and keep him away from the fridge. He eats everything — three breakfasts, four lunches, then pre-dinners at 3 and 4 p.m.

Each night, ice cream as we watch TV.

Some days I want to kill him.

If I knock on his bedroom door, then enter, he gets bent out of shape, yet will drop in on me any old time he feels like it, in the middle of a phone call, or even this sentence – “Hey Dad, whatcha doin’?” — and plop on the floor like a needy teen-age giraffe.

“Wanna throw the football?” he asks.

“I’m workin’,” I mumble.

“Just for a few minutes?”


He can dent the clouds with his throws, while I’m lucky to toss a decent spiral anymore. I seriously injured my schnitzel this summer. Never quite repaired itself. Be lucky to load the tree this weekend.

When I was young and strong, we had the best holidays. For Easter, I’d dress like Jesus and the kids would dress like little Roman soldiers and chase me around the yard with sticks.

For Christmas, we’d really go all out. Mother Christmas (Posh) would buy them entire shoe lines….department stores…once a mall.

I swear she thought she married a Vanderbilt (I mighta hinted at that when we were first dating. Her bad. I mean, who takes me seriously?).

Point is, there were never Christmas budgets, which caused a certain amount of tension come January.

But December? Sublime.

And 18 years ago today, she gave me the greatest Christmas present of all. On a chill December morning, like Mother Mary herself, she gifted me with a second baseman, 7 pounds, 11 ounces, 2-3 loose screws – my second chance at fatherhood.

He’s a little goofy (see “loose screws” above). I spotted that early, and once tried to return him to the hospital, claiming he fell under most holiday return policies.

Sorry, they said.

“What about my wife?” I asked.

I vividly remember driving them both home two days after Smartacus was born; Him in the car seat, her in the seat next to him, admiring him like jewelry.

“Slower!” she ordered.

“We’re stopped at a light,” I answered.

“I don’t care,” she said.

For the next 16 years, she would always be next to him, teaching, scolding, mothering.

When she was happy, she fondly called him “Boo.” When she was mad, she called him: “DAMN IT, ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME…? a long nickname, but it sorta stuck.

So, please understand this, pal. At 18, you still have a lot of folks looking after you.

Me, for one. As guardian angels go, I’m a little past prime, and there’s the schnitzel thing I might have mentioned. But I’m with you no matter what.

Your sisters as well, the surrogate moms that fate appointed, whose love has no actual measure.

And all of your coaches, your teachers, your uncles, your aunts, your wise-guy pals, plus a giant alpha wolf who would chew through a fence just to kiss the ice cream off your face.

And Mom. Always Mom. Still with you no matter what.

Happy birthday, Boo.

Please don’t forget the Gin-gle Bell holiday bash Dec. 9. Due to demand, a second show has been added for Dec. 10. If you RSVP’d, details will come to you by Tuesday evening. For info, email me For some amazing stocking stuffers, go to Gratefully, Chris

26 thoughts on “Smartacus Turns 18

  1. Crap. You got me to cry again before I have even finished my first cup. Happy Birthday, Smartacus. We remember your birth, thanks to your Dad, and have followed your adventures and his delight in them from kindergarten through Little League and beyond. Despite the trials your family has been through the past few years, I am willing to bet you think you are lucky. You are. You’ve got a Dad and sisters and wolf brother who love you. Rock this adulthood thing. You’re more than equipped. Congrats!

    1. I can’t say it better than Carol! She just knows you longer & my tears came befor my first cup.😪 Happy Birthday, Smartacus & best to you, Chris. You helped make great kids!❤️

  2. Not even in the kitchen yet to make that first cup and already crying! As the mother of a son, I get it. Happy birthday to Smartacus and I know Posh wishes him the same.

  3. Happy Birthday Smartacus!! I remember when your dad let us all know there was going to be a new member of the Erskine clan. I’ve watched you grow up and gone to many of your games through your dad. Like the others I’ve shed some tears this morning, but they were mainly from happiness! Have a wonderful day!!🎂🎉

  4. Ah, Chris – this column melted my heart & brought tears to my eyes.
    You may not be able to toss a spiral as easily now, but you can still turn a phrase like few others (“… while I fade in daily, incremental ways”).
    That picture of little Smartacus in his red vest is priceless.
    Looking forward to the Gingle Bell Ball!

  5. Smartacus (and all the Erskine siblings for that matter) wormed his way into a little corner of my heart long ago when you and Posh first told us he was on the way. That little corner just keeps getting bigger with every passing year. Wishing him the happiest of birthdays and thank you for the gift you give us with every column by letting us share the special moments of your lives (and they are are all special).

  6. Sending good wishes and much love to Smartacus and his dad, for without the latter the first would not exist. May this love affair continue until the end of time.

  7. Happy Birthday to your second baseman. (through my tears). Watch out, Chris – it all goes by so fast now from the parent’s perspective.

  8. Happy birthday Jack!! Glad we got to spend a little time together a few years ago. You have a lot of fans out here who know you’re gonna make us proud. No pressure!

  9. Ah, birthdays. Second time this week that I’ve been reminded of them. The first was when I noticed that Rafer Johnson was four days older than me; and the second was when I noticed that Smartacus’ birthday was the same as my only sibling. I’m so happy that the birthdays of me and my brother match those of famous people!
    David Lyon

  10. Happy Birthday Smarta us and Happy “I survived 18 years of this” to you Chris. Sending you both, and the wolf, lots of love and happy wishes. I think it’s safe to say that you both are lucky.

  11. Happy Birthday Spartacus!
    Chris, you need to remember that wisdom and intelligence are like matter – they are never lost. What you lose goes straight into Smarticus, so fret not about dimming a bit.

  12. My, how time sprints ever faster when you get older. It seems like just last week that your son came alive, for me in your columns. Has it been 18 years? Poof. Thanks for sharing him with me and with all of Southern California and beyond.

  13. Bloody hell. No one else is writing like this,where form and substance exalt each other to lift the ordinary to the sublime. The young man has a dad whose lyric propensity for song transcends the lyric. How cool is that ? Add the appreciative bark of a wolf, a supporting chorus of sibs and loving ad libs, the palpable presence of a beauty that will always be in the light and air, and you have the sound and feel of a momentous birthday. Oh! To be 18 again. Who could ever forget how it felt to be so roughly yet beautifully loved by everything ?….

  14. Happy, Happy Birthday ‘Smartacus’ Erskine! 18;the world is your oyster!!! You have a great launch pad;good and loving parents, smothering sisters, supportive extended family. Then all of us unseen voyeurs, our faces pressed against the window, getting insights into your lives from your father who can,’turn a phrase’ ! We are the lucky ones to be let into that world, the millions of us that say, Happy Birthday!!!

  15. Happy Birthday, Smartacus! You and I share a birthday, although I am of the dinosaurial generation, even older than your dad, if that’s possible.
    I lost my mom at about the same as you did. You are so lucky to have a dad that loves you so. That is the best possible birthday gift.

  16. Happy Birthday, Smartacus! As others have already stated, I too remember when your Dad told his readers of your impending birth. It is hard for me to think that it has been 18 years! Hold on tight, Chris, because time goes even faster after 18! Your family is so very lucky to have each other.

  17. Lump in my throat. Happy Birthday to your Smartacus! How did “the little guy” turn 18 already? I’ve also enjoyed watching him grow up over the years through your column carried in the Chicago Tribune. Such a dedicated, devoted dad you are to him. This kid knows he’s loved. Now there’s a gift.

  18. Wow, I cannot believe your son is 18, Chris! Happy Birthday, Smartacus! 🎂👏🏻 I remember when you wrote about Posh being pregnant with him and then he was here. My second son also weighed 7 lb 11 oz, but many more years ago 😜 I hope Smartacus appreciates the kind of Dad he has . . . One who loves him, writes about him, shares him with others who wish him only the best.

  19. Happy Birthday..
    Left a comment already,but now don’t see sum it up,it just said bla bla bla Happy birthday ,we all love you and you Dad ! ( do I have a way with words or what ??)

  20. I am late reading this but Happy Belated to Smartacus! It seems like you were just welcoming him to your happy family. As others have written…the years go much faster now so just follow his draft. I love that you still write a column. Much happiness at this COVID-19 Christmas. May you all stay safe and happy. 💕💋

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