How is he talking to me and he looks like himself and his hands move like himself and I’ve sat in this chair across from him a million times while he sat in that chair across from me a million times? Now all his words in their order make no sense like cut up, strung up and mismatched pieces of fabric. I’m trying to smile on the outside and I’m praying he can’t tell that I’m screaming and crying on the inside.
I’m in awe, and it’s not in the fireworks way, or being at Disney way, or a nurse handing one of my babies in my arms for the first time sort of way. That’s all awe filled with joy.
Tonight he couldn’t tell me very importantly what he very importantly wanted to tell me. That’s awe filled with sad.
Falling asleep, broken heart. Scrunch tears and think of years ago, walking on a beach where he pulled me out of the water, laughed loud, called me “twinkle toes”, skipped a rock and bent down to hold my hand.
The Chicago cubs organization just ripped the heart out of the Cubbies.
I grew up sitting in the 11th row behind the visitor’s dugout. Seats 5, 6, 7 and 8. It used to be the 10th row, but they added another row and we moved with it. My dad first got the tickets in 1971. Near the end, I could hardly get to a game because of kids and life. The last few years, my dad’s health prevented him from being able to maneuver through the crowds to get to the seats.
I remember entering the park as a girl, running behind him, looking up at the back of his head, reaching out to grab his shirt, while he masterfully serpentined between the crowds of people. He would turn back and smile his golden smile to me to make sure I was keeping up. We’d stop just for a quick second to get a scorecard and he’d get a beer (Later on, one for me too). We loved our seats. We had all the chances to move aisles closer to the field, but we loved being able to just jump over and fall into ours. Easy in, easy out. Perfect for raising a hand to buy a Home Run Hot Dogs and Budweisers.
In my early 20’s, while I was attending my fourth and last college, I rented an apartment on Broadway one block south of Addison. It was kind of a dump and it was next to The Jewel and that SUCKED during Christmas season because those damn Salvation Army bells would ring all the freaking time. But I was so close to Wrigley. My dad was a commodities trader at the Board of Trade and he was off work at 1:30pm. On game days, he would sneak out a bit early and hop in a cab. I would ride my bike, walk or rollerblade over to the park and meet him at The Cubby Bear. We bought the peanuts outside because they tasted better. He’d hand me my ticket and we’d start the mad dash. Even going to the games as an adult, I still felt the rush…I still always wanted to reach out and grab his shirt. Sitting there watching the game was our catch-up time, it was relaxing and it just felt like home.
Sometimes I would take the train in with my mom and we would go Cubbie nuts. My mom is still a die-heart fan, too. She was raised a Sox fan, but we don’t hold that against her. (So was my husband and his family is not happy.) We really had the best of times through the years. Our favorite thing to do after the game was to go to the Wild Hare and get our reggae on…so many laughs. Those were the party party days. We were always meeting new people and chatting up our “seat neighbors.” Some we knew for over 30 years. They saw us grow up. They saw us bring all of our babies there for the first time. They saw the last days of dad being there.
My kids were raised in the red, white and blue. They didn’t know anything else. They all went to the the park as babies and they all had their personal Cubbie adventures. Being a Cubs fan has been a big part of who they are today.
Every opening day, my brother and I would trade off going with Dad. Some days were filled with freezing rain, some were sunny and beautiful, but they were always perfect. The timeline of the day, the routine, the songs, the stretch, it was all so comforting like a bug warm hug. I will cherish those days forever.
Of course, I fell in love all the time. My first boyfriend was Billy Buckner. He was a dashing hero to me. My dad is the kinda guy who knew everyone and somehow he finagled us having an official “Donaldson Day” at Wrigley. We were able to go on the field, lay against the Ivy, see the locker rooms. I sat in the dugout on Ivan Dejesus’ lap. Hell yes, I did. Oh, and this happened.
My dad did this Randy Huntley fantasy baseball camp and it was pretty darn cool. He was able to play alongside Ryno, Durham, Jody Davis, Fergie, Lee Smith…It was a total dream come true for him and it was cool to watch. Years later, my brother did the same….
Years later, my brother did a cool thing for my dad. Let’s the face it. THE.COOLEST. THING. Jim Donaldson day.
As we got older and started our families, it was harder to see my brother and his family. He and his wife lived a block away from the park on Sheffield and could hear the crack of the bats through his open windows. Wow. He was able to still go to the games all the time and I know that was another dream for him fulfilled. It was always fun to go to the games with him and catch up….always a beautiful bonding experience with him at the park.
I did marry a sox fan, as I mentioned before, but I would like to formally thank the Cubs for helping me woo him. Wrigley with my family was a great way to get him to marry me. We have flirted there many times at the park over the years.
And oh my word, THE FOOD. If you go old school, there is nothing like a Home Run hot dog from a park vendor…mustard only. Second place for me is a dog from inside with grilled onions. Great link HERE for the park food. We loved going to the Club before the games, during a rain storm or when it was just too damn HOT.
The Friendly Confines have changed. First it was cool things like the statues…Captain Morgan expansion was interesting…they fancied up the bleachers…Gallagher Park was a cool addition. Then they started to replace the premiere seating. Finally, they were ready to upgrade our box. And they changed the ticket prices to obviously separate the wheat from the chaff. They tripled them. Insert middle finger here.
So now, where I grew up, there are a bunch of corporate people who are in town to drink $20 IPAs and don’t give a shit about the Cubbies. Stay classy, Rickett’s.
And…because they Yankees could afford it and the Rickett’s clearly need more money, we just lost our Golden Child. I’m grateful for the years we had him. He was a bright shiny light with a giving soul. He was not only a phenomenal player, but a funny, charming, philanthropic Chicago lover. Rizzo is cancer survivor, a hero to so many of us, a complete inspiration. He helped make IT happen. I am so grateful we had him for so long. I wish him and Emily the best.
I just heard Javy traded to the Mets and Kimbrel to the freaking Sox.
Yesterday I did what I’m sure looked like an obligatory Facebook brag post. Especially to people who probably don’t have school-age children, or …any children. But the ones who had to hands-on watch their children navigate their education through a pandemic every day for the last year, I bet they got it.
I didn’t post that for myself. I already know how neat my kids are; I get to live with them every day. When I posted that, I posted that for her. Whether it helps her read it today or it helps her when she reads in 20 years, she needs a reminder that her mom loved her and what she overcame. She will see what I wrote, remember the lovely comments shared from people who are dear to us and see a picture of what she looked like at that moment.
Just because she did well and got straight A’s, doesn’t mean that she didn’t work. her. ass. off.
It’s not a scenario where things come easy to her, look at how perfect she is, blah, blah, blech. The real truth is that I watched her study and worry and plan and make goals and work really hard to finish them. That’s all on her.
And she did all of this basically sitting on a mattress, on her bedroom floor, surrounded by Cheetos’s, our loyal dog and a teenager amount of dirty laundry.
Please make no mistake, as a mother trying to help my children learn through a pandemic, I’m an idiot and can’t teach them anything, but I can online shop. I transformed the loft and I set up quite the beautiful school area. It had wonderful lighting and it was comfortable, with productive desks and chairs. I tried to give both her and her brother, who was enrolled in some CLC college courses, an environment where they could concentrate when they needed it, and then walk away when they were done.
I’m pretty sure they used it for about a week and a half. And I didn’t push them because this wasn’t about me doing all that work and me getting upset because they didn’t use it. (Truth: It gave me something else to do during the pandemic besides putting booze in my coffee and overeating. ) Nay, nay: It was about them being comfortable when everything around them made no sense.
Her freshman year in high school should’ve been filled with nervous giggles, experimenting with outfits every morning, walking to classes with new friends, sneaking out to get ice cream on her lunch break, walking in the halls and blushing when she passed somebody she had a crush on, laughing with her friends in the locker room about how much swimming class sucks with their period, going to a pep rally…going to a football game….going to Homecoming, going anywhere…with anyone…
Our walls are thin in our cookie cutter home. Her bedroom is next to mine. I know the sound of fear, frustration, angst, anxiety and sadness. Her teachers voices came out of her laptop sounding legit Charlie Brown. I heard late-night heated and passionate conversations, but couldn’t make out the words. Those emotion-filled moments made my tears run all the way down to my pillow.
But, there where lovely noises. She taught herself some pretty bitchin’ guitar playing. Her lovely voice, soft and lilting, wafted into the hallway. The strumming was comforting, the sounds of her trying to figure out the Bohemian Rhapsody solo, endless Fleetwood Mac. She had the lonely time to do that. l will cherish those sanguine sounds that seeped through my bedroom wall.
Another sound that didn’t make me feel sad to accidentally overhear: the laughter with her friends. They found a way to make the “pandemic sleepover” work; messy but still with laughter and love.
What one wouldn’t also post on social media is that she battled two significant and private medical issues that most don’t know about, and one very significant dental issue that meant literally 30 doctor and specialized dentist appointments in a year. In one year. In a pandemic.
Could she cry to her friends at the table in the lunch room, where she could get hugs and whispers of support? No. But she could talk to their faces on her small phone screen and at least feel some love, however she could get it. Funny…it’s the one time as a mother I have been grateful for my children’s social media.
Life has gotten slowly back to “normal”. She eventually went back to school, picked out cute outfits, walked the halls, snuck off to The Jewel with friends on her lunch break, met her teachers face-to-face for the first time, played an actual high school lacrosse game, even laughed on a bus with her teammates…normal things started happening again. I think the kid is finally able to realize that she is going to be okay.
My life purpose is to love and protect my family; keep them alive for a life that is worth living. I have two other great kids who are creating their own life journey tapestries, but I celebrate this moment for the little one who won an epic battle this year in her bedroom. Shine on, little diamond.