Jewish World Review July 3, 2014 / 5 Tammuz, 5774
Summer, the season of a suburban parent's life
By Chris Erskine
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I'm a sucker for summer, when our best memories are made.
On the first day of the season, we drove off west for some sort of baseball solstice in one of those impossibly perfect American suburbs where the kids have too much hair (as if loomed) and all the moms have been enhanced.
Baseball is 1% action and 99% idle thought, and it occurs to me during one of those interminable two-hour gaps between batters that kids play baseball today for all the right reasons not for fun or friendship but as if someone's life hangs in the balance, as if there's some sort of ransom to be paid.
Of course, I support this. My own kid, 47 pounds of grit, freckles and Band-Aid residue, was born to play pro ball. We gave him his first bat when he was still in the womb my idea. Took some convincing on my part, but once I got my stubborn wife to sign off, the toughest part was choosing the right bat. Alloy or composite? Big barrel or standard?
I let her pick the color.
Anyway, that paid off, because now our son is batting 11th in an 11-man lineup, and we're rising at 5 a.m. on summer's first Saturday in support of his big league career, which seems as inevitable as rain on a Portland parade.
Nature or nurture? Well, we believe in both. The little guy was born to greatness, and we'll insist that he reach for the stars. Either that, or the whole thing with the womb bat will prove to have been just a stupid waste of time.
As always, it was a full day on the ball field. We got battered by our first opponent, then smothered by the second, yet there were teachable moments throughout, such as discovering that the tri-tip sandwich at the snack bar was the size of a Mazda.
The same way Bach layered in violins, that's how they layered in the beef, charred strips of perfectly roasted California sirloin. In such a way, the sting of life's little disappointments can quickly be forgotten.
Ah, baseball, the ultimate metaphor bad hops, lousy luck and the occasional miracle. Could anything be worse?
First there's the game itself the foul tips off your ankle, the ground balls crazy off your knee. Then there's the parents, the passive-aggressive agents of any youth league. And don't forget our boys of summer, who have received relentless poundings from bigger boys from bigger cities. After two months of this, they are dusty, they are sad.
Me, I think all parents see their child as a little better than he or she actually is. Parenthood is a tricky prism, and we're all a little nearsighted about our own kids. Children shouldn't be human trophies.
In any case, athletic greatness was probably decided at the moment of conception. But go ahead, push your kid. See how that works out for you. In 25 years of this, I've seen only one of my kids' teammates go on to a pro career, and he washed out after a couple of years after his arm fell clear off his body.
"Summer has filled her veins with light and her heart is washed with noon," wrote British poet Cecil Day-Lewis.
And youth sports can scorch our parental souls.
Sunday was more of the same, baseball balmed by tri-tip, then a beery World Cup soccer match, followed by a sundown concert in the little park near home.
As is usually the case, the free concert in the park begins with the wives and husbands integrated around a table. Then the moms go off to one end and the dads to the other, presumably to talk more freely, or at least in a similar dialect.
The more I deal with women, the less I understand them. Besides, the guys are less likely to talk about just the kids, the way the women do, though inevitably everything has to come back around to the children, this being a suburb's most important cash crop.
"After he pulled his tooth, I went in the bathroom and it was like the Crimea," my buddy Andy says of his son's attempt at self-dentistry.
So there's a summer weekend baseball, picnics, bloodshed. It's the rituals I love, not the outcomes.
After all, how many summers do you get? Seventy? A hundred? Where once there seemed so many, there now seem so few.
They're sweeter when they're properly played.
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