The boys are back on the ballfield. Isn’t life getting grand again?
The kids are on kite strings, held by the parents, but tenderly. Pull too hard and the string snaps. Oops.
If you’re careful, you can guide them gently, toward this college or that, take away the car keys when they misbehave, set curfews, smell their breath, try to be a good parent at a time when their childhoods are like chalk dust on the third base line.
One stiff breeze, and whoooooooosh, they’re gone.
Oh, it all goes so fast, we know that. Who cares? Would you rather it have dragged? All good stuff goes too fast, bad stuff goes too slow – that’s how you know one from the other.
They’re finally back on the ballfields is the important thing, on the courts, on the 30-yard-line ready to field a punt.
The players are taller than we remember them, having eclipsed their moms and dads. Their shoulders have filled out, and some of them now have actual butts. If they itch, they scratch; no matter where it is, trust me.
Dear gawd, it’s good to see them back, teasing each other and braying at the moon. Teen boys are combustion engines, they fire internally. You can almost hear the valves chattering.
On a sunny day, with clover heavy in the grass, I could almost cry to see them out on a baseball field again. Even the umps seem happy.
Of all the returning pleasures, or all the baby steps we’re taking toward normalcy, this might be the best of all.
“Play ball!” the umpire barks.
And so they do.
Breathe deep these sturdy March breezes, for they have never tasted so good. Relish even the way the players arrive at the game, all jaunty and reborn
This is the spring we have our kids all over again.
Till classrooms reopen, these teammates are pretty much the only buddies they’ve seen. It is a brotherhood. They mock and tease and complain. Ballplayers are born complainers. There is so much idle time in baseball, it lends itself to contempt.
It also lends itself to humor. At this age – at any age – the most popular player in the dugout is the one who makes everyone laugh the most.
As I always say: Funny thing, laughter.
So crack open a window and say hello to spring, welcome back the flowers, say hello to Evan and Chase and Thomas, who have played together since wee-ball, and in their young lives, have some serious stories to tell.
First, they’ll tell the grandkids about COVID. Then they’ll talk about the first Easter after COVID, when down from the cross the world came.
Some pleasures we are still missing, sure. Bar banter. Dating. Twinkly backyard get-togethers. But those will be back soon too.
Here in the foothills, we have primped and raked and prepped the backyard, so that it is ready for the rebirth. I even cleaned the soot from both grills.
For all my limitations, I am pretty good with landscape lighting. I know how to set up the transformers, run the wires, place floodlights up in the trees so they throw as hallow hanging over the yard.
By the way, if I neglect to include any pious allusions, please speak up.
Meanwhile, I think what we’re seeing overall is the return of the American weekend. For the first time in a year, we have weekend activities to look forward to: a movie maybe…a kid’s ballgame… pasta with friends.
Not that all is perfect – never is.
If you drive by the house at 5:30 am, well before sane people rise, you’d see a little light in the bedroom window. That’s me at the laptop trying to make sense of things. That’s me searching for the joke.
The other morning, while searching for jokes, I heard some growling in the yard, and raced out there with nothing but my fists, hard as hammers and ready to do battle. The coyotes were back to see White Fang.
“Hi, White Fang! We’re here to eat you!”
White Fang had other ideas. Now 7, she is turning into a tough old broad, and though still spellbindingly beautiful — a real knockout — managed to repel the coyotes before I even arrived.
I found her clearly agitated by the encounter and breathing heavily.
While holding her, I explained that we all have our demons, that we all have something that scares us, and for her it evidently is these wild critters, generally so scrawny and inept that they have long been used in cartoons as symbols of frustration and failure.
This soothed her. She is not an anxious dog. She is not even fully a dog, more a wolf, and a wolf is proud and strong and happy to curl up and sleep in deep snow, if necessary. A wolf will always get the better of a coyote.
Then we came inside and she helped me straighten out the Tupperware drawer.
Such is life out here on the Western range. One moment an ambush, the next the excitement of matching plastic lids with their containers. Lord, does this frontier life ever let up?
Over the past year, I have been – as Frost put it – “acquainted with the night … I have looked down the saddest city lane.”
Recently, I also have had troubling dreams about missing the SATs, of all things.
In the male of the species, it’s quite common to dream about academic failure, even well after college. As I was telling the leggy dentist the other day, men worry. It’s not so manly to show it, so it’s a secret world of worry in which we reside.
Because of this, women worry that we don’t worry enough. I think women wish men were more neurotic, that we worried more about what people think, or whether our neighbors like us, of it the kids have enough self-esteem, or playmates, or moxie.
But late at night, in the deepest basements of the mind, dads worry plenty.
We worry over whether the new boss likes us, or if the roof will hold out, or that we won’t have the wad of cash required to send a kid off to college.
In my case, I saw an entire profession collapse before my eyes in the final years of my career. That’s always fun.
Then, one gloomy March morning, the worst thing ever happened to me – the sudden death of a son. Eight months later, the second worst thing happened to me – the agonizing death of a wife.
Gut punches like that will give you some perspective real quick. You learn what to worry about, and what not to worry about.
Oddly, most of my dreams are better now. I wake up before the sun, sober and refreshed, ready to save White Fang from the fury spooks that attack her in the dark.
Here’s the thing about growing older: You’ve already met the enemy a few times. You realize that, along the way, life will pluck off friends and family – first the grandparents, then your mom and dad, one at a time, like snipers.
COVID has added to that sad, ugly toll.
We owe it to them to remember the way their eyes danced when they laughed. We owe it to them to continue to live. We owe our remaining friends and family the best version of whatever we’ve got left in the tank.
In my case, that’s not so much. I got home the other day from my morning run, looked in the mirror and thought: “Wow, you look pretty good for a man with a face full of donuts. You look pretty good for a man made mostly out of beer.”
And right now, on the cusp of our shared recovery, what I am is a man who really prizes backyard parties. The kind that bug the neighbors. The kind that make them lie in their beds thinking: “Geez, those people are loud. Geez, they laugh at every stupid thing.”
Boomer U. tee-shirts are now available, starting at 20 bucks. Can’t wait to run across someone wearing one – we’ll go for a beer! Info: https://chriserskine.orderpromos.com/. Thank you for your support. Also, we had some recent troubles with e-mail alerts to recent posts. My IT team (the lovely and pregnant older daughter) believes we have fixed the glitch. You can find any missed columns at https://chriserskinela.com/. Cheers!