Friday, July 22, 2016

When the only words are "How cool is that!"

I don't believe in omens. Seriously, I do not believe in omens. I know I keep saying it, but it's true. I don't believe in omens.

We will forget about all the omens that led me this past April to pick up a book I'd started in 1996 and start writing on it again, a process that resulted in the publication earlier this week of that book, The Looking-Glass Portrait, on Amazon.

I immediately began work on a new book, which I have only the vaguest idea where I'm going with. The opening scene is of the main character, one Iola Fairfield, taking leave of her old life in Indiana and heading out on her own. She gets into her car, starts the engine and . . . . 

"Satisfied that everything looked in order, I put the key in the ignition and turned the car on.  I knew that as soon as I pulled out of the parking lot, I would never look back.  There was nothing here for me at all.  Instead of looking back, I looked at the clock.  Ten minutes after eleven.  I waited another minute before shifting the Suburban into gear.  Eleven had always been a lucky number for me, even though I wasn't particularly superstitious, and it seemed fitting to begin this journey at the auspicious moment of 11:11."

Now, this may seem trivial to you, and in reality it is. There is eventual significance in the novel, but that's not what this post is about.
This post is about baseball.
I am not a fanatic baseball fan, the kind who remembers stats and so on with an encyclopedic memory.  And I'm certainly not a personally athletic person by any means.  But I am a Chicago White Sox fan.
In seventh grade, in Bill Kyger's social studies class at South Junior High School, we studied Illinois and Chicago history.  We had to do "projects," some kind of 3-D construction of something depicting Illinois or Chicago culture.  I'm sure there were the usual models of Fort Dearborn and maybe someone constructed a model of the Water Tower out of sugar cubes.  I made a model of Comiskey Park.

In the spring of that same school year, my buddy Sue S. and I decided we would enter the Chicago Daily News batboy contest.  As I recall, entrants had to write 200 words (or some such) on why they wanted to be the White Sox batboy.  Two boys would be chosen, one for the home team and one for the visitors, but every entrant would receive an official baseball.  And yes, of course, in 1961 this contest was open only to boys.  That didn't matter to me; I was determined to enter anyway, and I thought Sue was, too.  I wrote out my little essay, forged my mother's signature to the entrance form, and sent it off.  Sue chickened out.  But it didn't matter; I was apparently disqualified for being a girl -- or for doing a bad job of forgery? -- and never even got my free baseball.

Girls couldn't play Little League then, and my high school didn't even have girls' softball.  Not that I probably would have made the team anyway, but it would have been nice to know I wasn't automatically excluded.  Oh, well, I could still be a spectator.

Did I have a favorite player?  Oh, of course I did.

One morning in the spring of 1996, the phone rang.  I answered it, and it was my son Kevin calling from Tempe, where he was attending Arizona State University.  

"I'll bet you don't know what day it is," he taunted.

"Of course, I do," I replied without any hesitation whatsoever.  "It's the 29th of April, which means it's Luis Aparicio's birthday."

Aparicio was the star shortstop for the Go-Go White Sox in the late 1950s and 1960s.  Everyone in the family knew he was my favorite player.  His uniform number, as you can see above, was 11.

Then there was the Mother's Day a year or so later when Kevin walked in the house with a gift for me from -- if I remember the name correctly -- The Glass Cage, a sports memorabilia store.  The baseball autographed by Luis Aparicio still sits on top of my piano.

I missed watching the opening game of the 2005 World Series between the White Sox and Houston Astros, when Aparicio threw out the ceremonial first pitch, but I watched the next three games as the Sox swept the Astros to their first championship since 1917.  I remembered the 1959 series and the loss to the Dodgers; 2005 was special.

There's other stuff, tangential stuff, irrelevant stuff, the weird stuff that gets tucked into a writer's head to be pulled out when some bit of weird stuff is needed, whether it's an old house with plastic tulip shade pulls or an auspicious moment for a character to embark on a new life.  So it was that just a couple of days ago, my fictional Iola Fairfield hopped into her car and waited to leave the parking lot until 11:11.

But wait!  There's more!

That same son who teased me about Aparicio's birthday and brought me the autographed baseball is now raising his own son to play baseball.  This week Kevin and Andrew are making a pilgrimage to Cooperstown, New York, to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  This morning, Kevin sent me a picture on Facebook.

How cool!

(And yeah, at this point I was already thinking about that auspicious start to a journey at 11:11 and dismissing it all because I really don't believe in omens.)

Shortly after receiving the Facebook post, I heard the whistle on my cell phone that indicates a text message.  "Ok" he wrote.   "So are you ready for this????"

Followed by


How cool is that???!!!!!!!!!

But I still don't believe in omens.  Really and truly I don't.