The groundhog just doesn’t do it as a harbinger of spring to me. With all the soul-stirring clues Mother Nature sends our way, why we look to a rodent is beyond me. I am an early riser and these days before Daylight Savings Time begins are my favorite. I awake to birdsong just before pink light starts to streak the eastern sky.
Remember the daffodils in Dr. Zhivago? I’ve read there were 4,000 of them. (They planted them for the movie, in case anyone ever asks you.) In my own garden a few clumps of miniature trumpeters–Tete-a-tetes–won the first responder race this year despite their shady location.
But it is baseball and the beginning of spring training which really puts it out there, no matter what the groundhog says. Pitchers and catchers are already packing their bags, according to Dearly Beloved. He knows I love baseball, yet when he shares this tidbit of information, the first thing that pops into my mind is an incident that he probably does not even remember.
We had just moved to the Chicago’s north shore area–Lake Forest, to be exact–a beautiful suburb isolated from city life except for the trains and freeways joining the two. (Mike Royko wrote of it that the only proof he had that people actually lived behind those high walls was that once a tennis ball had bounced over in front of his car as he drove through, but he couldn’t be sure because no one came out to retrieve it. ) It was not easy to meet people there even though we definitely weren’t in the high wall section.
When someone gave Dearly Beloved five tickets to see a Chicago Cubs game, we were thrilled for the chance to experience big city life. The seats turned out to be FRONT ROW just over the Cubs’ dugout. Oh, the joy! We put Dearly Beloved in the middle so that he could answer questions from the rest of us and have a shot at protecting our teeth from foul balls since there were no screens–just that short brick wall, not much more than knee-high. I sat between him and Daughter Boo, who was home from college and frankly did not share our enthusiasm for being in Illinois in general and at a baseball game in particular.
Daughter Pogo–a photographer even at age ten–aimed her camera at a player tossing warmup pitches in the bullpen. He noticed, jogged over, presented her with a baseball. Could it get any better?! He asked where we were from and although we had just spent eight years in Wisconsin, in unison we said “Charlotte.” By sheer coincidence it happened that he was from Charlotte also and he stood chatting with us for some time.
Boo, in her purple and pink peasant mini-skirt with orange ric-rack, slouched in her chair, her feet on the white cap of the Wrigley Field brick wall, right where the pitcher was standing. DB leaned over me and touched her arm, telling her to put her feet down. She kept them there. He repeated his order–and it had been an order. She ignored him.
“Get your feet out of the guy’s face.” he told her.
“They’re not IN his face,” she answered, continuing to look straight ahead.
I should point out that DB says of all our children, Boo is the most like him. Neither is apt to back down from a situation. . . and Lord! have we had situations. She was still chaffing from years of midnight curfews and eating vegetables and sitting up straight, and was exercising her newlyfelt independence. He wanted her feet down.
“Get your feet out of the man’s face.”
“They’re not IN his face,” she repeated.
Now here is where the situation turns utterly ridiculous. DB said, “Boo, he can see right up your dress.”
Keep in mind that the guy was standing right there observing this exchange, his head going back and forth, watching the conversation bounce between them like a tennis ball. I was the net between them.
“No he can’t,” she snapped back. Her feet remained on the wall.
The two jackasses butted heads on the front row of a stadium with 30,000 people while television cameras sent the game to a national audience. The fact that a pitcher had come over to talk to some fans attracted some attention and people were trying to come down and take pictures of him talking to us. You’d think that one of the two would have given in. You’d think wrong.
It was not a shouting match. Both kept their voices calm and steady. The pitcher continued to watch in fascination. They were so engrossed in the war of wills they locked out everything around them. I, however, listened miserably and to my everlasting embarrassment, clumsily tried to intervene. I donned my well- worn mother-caught-in-the-middle hair shirt, then I STOOD UP, LEANED OVER, and LOOKED BETWEEN HER LEGS, and reported back to DB: No, he can’t see anything.
Can you IMAGINE what the guy must have been thinking? What was I thinking??? Was it captured on camera? Did Harry Caray ask Arnie to rerun that footage to figure out what was going on over the dugout? I pray now that something more important was happening out on the field. . . a grand slam, maybe. Suddenly I no longer minded that we lived in a town where no one knew us.
As far as I know, neither of them ever gave it a second thought, but it was an epiphanic moment for me.
I resolved never to let myself get in the middle again.
I moved to another seat.
Spring is Nature’s Way of Saying, “Let’s party!” – Robin Williams