For some reason, turning 44 this week feels auspicious.
Maybe it’s because it’s my favorite baseball player’s number.
Whatever the reason, I am ready for the new year and feel like whatever comes my way will change me for the better.
I thought getting older would mean I would relax on a plateau of wisdom. As if each birthday was a step closer to the truth about life.
Quite the opposite actually.
I have more questions than ever before.
Through the uncertainty, a few things remain constant.
The first being is once you have something figured out, guaranteed, it will shift until you no longer recognize it.
The second being the unconditional love I have for my boys. Trust me, this love gets tested more as they grow older (I’m looking at you, Full Speed!), but I am always grateful it is right below the surface.
The third and final constant is how comfortable you are with the unknown is proportional to how content you are with life overall. I certainly do not have this mastered. I prefer patterns and certainty.
Sometimes boring feels like a balm to the soul.
I hope my 44th year brings new friends, new adventures and lots of predictable days ahead.
In every woman’s life there are defining moments. There are milestones such as college graduation, falling in love, having children, etc. Once children are a part of the picture, suddenly their milestones become our treasured markers of the passage of time. For instance, the first time Full Speed reached earnestly to play with a toy hung from the arm of his baby carrier, I was overjoyed. I was convinced by this simple act that I had given birth to a certified genius. We were at the mall and the air was heavy with the scent of salty pretzels and my overblown perceptions of my ‘super baby’. Still, it was an awesome moment and to this day whenever something great befalls my kiddos, it’s like it is happening to me as well.
That’s why when my boys lined up against the backstop at Wrigley Field before the start of the game, I was giddy with anticipation. Mad Dog had arranged for them to be part of the nine lucky kids that got to run on the field and meet a player. We had no idea which player it would be. We hoped for the best and made peace with the worst (you know who you are). I was seated alone and peered anxiously at them to see where they would run. Once given the signal, they were to sprint to the position that would coincide with the player they would meet.
I almost couldn’t take it. Who would they get?!? Who!?!
Finally, they were off and running. It seemed obvious Full Speed was headed towards the outfield. But then, oh my god, T.Puzzle ran to FIRST BASE! He was going to meet ANTHONY RIZZO! I repeat….ANTHONY RIZZO!
Is it obvious he’s my favorite player? Hmmm, what gave it away?
I jumped for joy and screamed so loud the fans in my section thought I had lost my mind. I was able to compose myself enough to articulate that both my kids were out on the field and one was meeting ANTHONY RIZZO. This made sense to them, but I could tell they still thought I was mildly insane.
T.Puzzle had a brief exchange with Anthony (yeah, I’m now on a first name basis with him), and got him to autograph a baseball (proudly on display in our front room). It took all of two minutes but for me, it is a defining moment that still brings me great joy.
Full Speed was sent to right field and had a lengthier exchange with near-giant Jason Heyward (well, giant compared to Full Speed and most of America). J-Hey was so genuine in what he said to Full Speed, he is now Full Speed’s favorite Cubs player. I love that, clearly he is a player that is gracious and I’m so glad he had such a positive impact on Full Speed.
Mad Dog and I looked at each other. The stakes were high. Do we roll the dice? Do we go all in? Do we leave it all on the field?
Yes, yes and yes.
So what if we watched The Professor lose by a painfully tiny margin at game 3? So what if we might see Cleveland take the Series at Wrigley? So what if the price tag for tickets made me silently weep?
THE CUBS WERE IN THE WORLD SERIES!
There had already been so many tears. Tears when we made it to the World Series realizing I couldn’t share that moment with my mom. Tears when we lost game 3. Tears, tears and more tears. You may wonder why I allow myself to be a part of something that makes me cry so much. It’s in my genes. I can’t not bleed Cubbie blue any less than I can’t not breathe. After 42 years of being a Cubs fan, I figured tears were always going to be a part of it. I knew that ultimately if I was heartbroken again, I would rise up and keep on cheering…and crying for my team.
Mad Dog and I went for it and got the tickets. We figured we would rather face our fears than live with regret.
Every pitch we watched was like taking a bullet. I had to keep asking Mad Dog ‘Are you sure about the money? Will you be able to let it go no matter what?’ He reassured me he was fine but I could see the worry in his eyes. He was concerned that his extremely sensitive wife would not recover from witnessing a loss of this magnitude at her beloved Wrigley Field. He was probably right.
Game 5 felt different than game 3. Maybe it was when Anthony Rizzo changed his walk-up song to the Rocky theme that embers of hope began to ignite. Maybe it was Kris Bryant’s solo home run that shifted the tides of momentum in our favor. Maybe it was my lucky socks. Maybe it was finally damn time that the baseball gods realized the Cubs were due.
By the end of the game I felt faint. The standing, the cheering, the adrenaline all were taking their toll. Chapman’s heroic 8 out save to send us back to Cleveland was the most stressful stretch of a baseball game I have ever seen. Game five was epic. Only to be outdone by game 6 which gave way to the greatest single game 7 in the history of baseball.
When the final out of game seven was called, I think you know where this is going…
Tears, tears and more tears.
Finally tears of joy.
Thanks to the Chicago Cubs, I will now always believe in miracles.
We were on our way. We had travelled many miles and planned months in advance for this day. This was THE day.
Full Speed and T.Puzzle were going to their first Cubs game.
In the weeks leading up to this momentous event, I tried to convey to them how special this was to me. So much of my childhood and memories of my mom were wrapped up in Cubs’ fandom. I had met Mad Dog because of the Cubs. Our first date was in the left field bleachers. I fell in love with Mad Dog at Wrigley.
Wrigley Field is my mecca.
Obviously, I was feeling a bit emotional but mostly excited. We decided to walk part of the way from our rented, summer apartment and grab a cab closer to the field.
Then, I felt the first raindrop. Then, another. Soon, I wasn’t sure if I was feeling rain wet my face or anxious tears.
How could it threaten to rain on this of all days? The most holiest day of my young children’s lives?
Inwardly (ok, outwardly, too) I started to freak out. Full Speed could tell I was losing it and quickly grabbed my hand.
“It’s okay, Mom. It’s only raining a little. It’s going to be okay.”
And, then, almost instantly it was okay.
Here’s why: I stopped focusing on all the things that could go wrong (possible rain, thunder, game cancellation) and started to look at all that was wonderful.
First of all, I had this incredibly handsome and caring young man holding my hand. Wow, Full Speed is going to make one heck of a husband when he grows up. Which brought me to my own husband. He worked so hard and planned so carefully for our little family to have this awesome Cubs experience for two reasons. First, he is a Cubs fan, but secondly, because he does all he can to make me happy. Seeing him up ahead leading our little family and watching him stay positive that no rain would slow us down, made my heart full.
I decided in that moment that I wasn’t going to let the threat of bad weather ruin this awesome day. However it unfolded was going to be perfect. I was with my favorite guys and all I felt was gratitude.
Sure enough, soon after we arrived in the park it rained and rained and rained.
What did we do? We got some ponchos and soldiered on.
With much anticipation and thankfully no thunder, the game started on time. Within moments, the Diamondbacks had a runner on and their clean-up hitter launched a line drive home run to right-center. It was the kind of homer you instantly knew it was gone. The way it cracked off the bat was soul-crushing.
And, it still rained on us. A lot.
Somehow the Cubs made a comeback, honestly if you’ve been watching their season at all, this is hardly surprising. Offensively they are a juggernaut. They managed to get the lead back by the fourth inning and maintain it until the end. This only got sweeter when my favorite player, Anthony Rizzo, clocked a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. I screamed so loud I nearly lost my voice. You can actually see us on the MLB recap as we were behind home plate as Rizzo completes his trek around the bases. We are easy to spot because I am jumping for joy. To this day, Full Speed does a dead-on impersonation of me jumping around like a crazy person for Anthony’s home run.
T.Puzzle has been quite sick with a bad cold. He is finally much better. Full Speed and I gauge his health status by how much he annoys Full Speed. We knew he was really sick when he had zero energy to needle his older brother. Those were worrisome days. He’s now back to full-on annoyance mode so we are pretty sure he’s in fine health.
Over the course of T.Puzzle’s illness we have watched a lot of sports. I’m still beyond excited that the Chicago Cubs are so awesome again this season. It is something my boys and I actually want to watch together.
Sometimes, when my favorite player is up or on a commercial, I’ll pause the television and pretend he’s talking to me (forgive me, I’ve been homebound with a sick kid for days and days, my judgment is questionable at best). T.Puzzle finds this a curious thing.
“Mom, if you weren’t married to Dad, would you marry Anthony Rizzo?”
“Well, T.Puzzle, he’s a little bit too young for me.”
Full Speed, never one to be left out declares, “I’ll say!”
T.Puzzle asks, “How much older are you than him, Mom?”
Full Speed responds without missing a beat, “Sixty-four years!”
Full Speed: “I meant Sixty-FIVE!”
While I hold some truths to be self evident, is it really necessary to declare them all out loud?