It’s been a strange summer
It’s been a strange summer.
A plague raged across America. Hollywood did not deliver any summer blockbuster movies to a theater near us. Disney World was a literally a small world which spun at limited capacity. Masks became fashion statements, political statements, and hung from rear-view mirrors like fuzzy dice once did. Zooming became an everyday verb. Social distancing became socially acceptable. And personally, I stopped, for the most part, wearing socks.
The summer of 2020 didn’t really feel like a summer. It felt more like sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. Flipping the pages but not reading the magazine in our hands. There but not there. The tension of the unknown causes our knees to shake, our stomach to hurt, and our head to pound. The TV is on but you can’t comprehend the images and words you see and hear. It’s hard to focus. It’s hard to make decisions. Hard to do anything except worry.
Finding sweet relief was difficult this summer. The ocean didn’t do it. Neither did Popsicles or fireflies or fireworks or fresh watermelon. This inability to escape, the need for freedom, was why I stopped wearing socks.
It’s an odd August night. Odd because it feels more like September. Soft, easy, and stress-free. No blazing heat. No I-want-to-die humidity. Just a perfect summer evening. The kind of evenings you hope they have in heaven.
Dylan has a baseball game. I set up my $10 mesh chair in the outfield and take off my shoes. The grass is cool and soft and makes me think of something Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what nice is.” I curl my toes and the grass tickles my feet. I noticed the base-path between first and second base was in the shade and the base-path between second to third base was in the sun.
This summer I converted from sneakers to dad-style slip-on shoes. No laces to tie. No tongues to tug. And no socks to hike.
Besides writing for this blog, I’m also working on an important (and secret) writing project. I’m also teaching remote writing courses. I’m also preparing to teach high school English in September. I’m now taking Prilosec for heartburn. And I’m not wearing socks.
But I’m not here to trouble you with my troubles. That’s what Facebook is for. I’m here to tell you Dylan just stepped into the batter’s box. He is wearing a shiny blue batting helmet. He takes a practice swing while his coach loads a ball into the pitching machine. I slip my feet out of my shoes. and curl my toes. I take a deep breath. My head is a lawless freeway. A thousand thoughts, worries, anxieties, and questions rushing in different directions. There but not there.
A ping echoes from the batter’s box. It’s a fast ground ball to the third baseman.
Dylan runs hard down the first base line. Safe!
In this strange summer, Dylan is playing on the same field I once played on when I was his age. I remember being 7 and wearing my dad’s baseball glove to games. I remember toeing the infield dirt, tugging on my hat, lost in the joy of being young and playing baseball, and staring into the bigness and foreverness of dad’s glove.
There is another ping and Dylan is running again. He steps on second and crosses from dark to light and hear a line from John Fogerty song, Centerfield, “a moment in the sun” and I watch Dylan round third and head for home.
Barefooted and thinking, I get the sense that being a good father and a good writer do not mesh well. They have different objectives. A good father is attentive to their children. A good father puts his child’s needs before his own.
A good writer observes but refrains from interacting. A good writer only thinks of themselves. And a good writer squirrels away the details of a real moment so they can set those details in the cement of language.
Dylan crosses home plate and disappears in the dugout.
John Fogerty whispers, “a moment in the sun.”
Summer is fleeting. Youth is fleeting. The moments we have with our children are fleeting. My time to write is fleeting.
Lately, I’ve been a full-blown contradiction.
I consciously want a plague vaccine and health restored. I want the world to return to normalcy. A world of summer-blockbusters, fuzzy dice, packed theme parks, strangers who stand to close in checkout lines, and I want to see other people’s teeth. And the other day when I sternly told Dylan he had to wear socks with his sneakers he responded, “But I want to be like you.”
Yet subconsciously, stirs a deeper contradiction, I realize that our lives pass as furiously as we live them. I realize being semi-quarantined with my children since March–even as we digest the tension of the unknown–I want time to stop. I want them to stay young. I don’t want them to ever trade-in their sneakers for slip-on shoes or have to take Prilosec with breakfast.
I just want to sit in this $10 chair, with my feet in the grass, under a pink August sky, while the plague and it’s politics destroy America, the beautiful, land that I love, and watch my son play baseball forever.
PS– I’m working on a secret writing project. This project is important to me and will consume a lot of my writing time. I have been posting twice a week for almost a year. However, to devote more time to the project, I will scale back my postings to once a week. I hope you understand.
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