Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Biggest Fan


My mother was a huge Yankee fan.  She explained it simply by saying she was born and raised in the Bronx.  How could she not cheer for her hometown team?  Especially during the1940's and 50's when being a Yankee meant winning.  Everyone wanted to be a New York Yankee.

Even though we moved to a northern suburb when I was two, we never lost sight of our team.  My brothers lived and breathe Yankee baseball and I learned at a young age if I wanted to hang with them, I better like what they liked and they loved the Yankees.

By the time I was twelve I could spout fact after Yankee fact.  I inhaled every book I could find about the team's history.  I knew every year they won the World Series and who they beat to do it.  I could recite their managers in chronological order.  I remembered batting averages and earned run averages of all the players.  I poured over yearbooks, memorizing stats and interesting information about these guys.  I day dreamed of being the first ever bat girl.

We loved this team because they had pride in themselves and their history. Putting on pinstripes meant carrying on a tradition rich in glory, grace and perseverance.  Names like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and my personal favorite, Mickey Mantle.  They did their job every day without bullshit and blame, despite injury.  They showed up and came to win.

What does this have to do with breast cancer?  Nothing really, except it has everything to do with my mother.  She loved watching games with us.  She knew all the players.  She got just as excited or annoyed at wins and losses as we did.

As a mother myself now, I wonder if she watched as a way of bonding with us. Sharing something familiar just to be closer to her children.  I think that sounds good in parenthood theory, but I don't buy it.  She was a fan, pure and simple. As her father was, and they passed their passion on to us.

Yankee baseball was universally loved in our house.  It carried across generational lines and through our relatives.  Our cousins were great fans and when we were all older, we'd sometimes meet at Yankee Stadium to catch up with each other while taking in a game.

In the days before texting and email, we'd actually call each other to see if we were all watching an important game, making sure no one would miss a memorable moment.  The big hit, the great catch, the very best win or sometimes, the heartbreaking loss.

Our inner circle changed over the decades.  Our grandfather died leaving his beloved Yankee jacket, dark blue with interlocking NY.  My brother wore it to the final opening day game ever played in Yankee Stadium before it was torn down to make room for a new stadium.  One, my grandfather, mother and aunt would never see.

Breast cancer intrudes taking our aunt and our mother.  We grow up, get married, have children.  Some of us even move across the country and watch the Dodgers!

But, I think we remember where it all came from.  Last Saturday, most of my family gathered to celebrate my uncle's 75th birthday.  My California cousins came east for this milestone, putting an end to the years we hadn't seen each other.

My father stood for a photo with his two brothers-in-law.  My mother's brother and the birthday boy, her sister's husband.  Three men brought together more than 50 years ago by two women no longer here, surrounded by a house full of their legacy.

A few minutes later, all the cousins, including the new grandchildren watch the latest, greatest Yankee make history.  We erupt as Derek Jeter knocks out a home run to capture his 3000th hit.  A feat only 27 other players in the history of baseball have ever accomplished and the first Yankee to do so.  I picture my mother cheering right along with us, like she used to.  So happy this took place on the very day we could all be together.

How proud our mother and aunt would be, seeing how their six children became twenty and still growing.  How we still care about each other.  How we managed to forge ahead in spite of their conspicuous absence.

Perhaps it's due to the roots they tendered, setting us up for success.  Kind of like our Yankees.  We couldn't have this team, our family, without those that came before, cheering us on, teaching us how to hit it out of the park.


12 comments:

  1. I recall one particular October in the mid-1990's, when the Yankees were a few outs away from winning the series after a long drought, after a labor strike that kept the World Series from being played the previous season, at the outset of what would become the greatest post-season winning streak in recent sports history, after not having been in touch with my family all that often, that I could think of nothing more important to do than to call someone I knew was watching, who I knew would be reveling in that moment, who could understand why it suddenly mattered to me after having been for a long time too wrapped up in starting a business and a family to follow baseball, so I picked up the phone and together we watched the final out.

    Me and my Yankee fan sister. Do you remember that call?

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  2. Mom was here with me. We had all just gone out to dinner for our five year anniversary, came back to my house and watched the game.

    You hit a homer Stace!

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  3. I loved this post so much, Stacey! Beautifully written. And...I have video of everyone watching that Jeter blast together. It's kind of choppy but I'll find it and share!

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  4. Oh Stacey this really is the most beautiful post and so lovingly written. I can literally feel the loss of your Mom and your Aunt in reading this. You really have a gift. Keep writing Sherpa Stacey. Xxxxx

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  5. I remember, Dave. I was in my apartment, watching. I believe the strike was '94. In '95 they lost to Seattle in the playoffs ending the Showalter years and bringing in Joe Torre. Now, you watch with your girls.

    Hi Mark. That's a great memory to have.

    Thanks, Wendy. I'm thinking only a Yankee fan would stand a chance of marrying my brother.

    Hi Rachel! Thank you for the lovely comment. I'm very touched. It's true, the women in my life left a great void, but I think we're doing okay.

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  6. So lovely. Brought back fond memories of watching the Minnesota Twins with my mom on TV as a kid in North Dakota. (She died in 2003 and I wish I could have taken her to our new stadium in Omaha for the College World Series.)You're making me want to drop everything and catch a game :)

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  7. I must tell you that you and a couple other bloggers are inspiring me to mend the bridge between my mother and myself. We actually talked for the first time in two years other day, and I'm going to call her today and suggest a visit. Cross your fingers. I think I need to let go of the past and just try to stay focused on the future. I don't have good past memories of my parents, but maybe I can make some future good memories....

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  8. Stacey,
    What a great post, although I must admit the Yankees are pretty much the nemisis of my team, the MN Twins! This post isn't really about the teams though anyway is it? It's about mothers and families and memories. Come to think of it our families are our first real "team" aren't they? Thanks for sharing about your "team," Stacey.

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  9. Stacey,

    Nancy's right about our families being our first teams. Stacey, I loved this posting, not only because of its poignancy, but because I love the Yankees. Growing up in the Bronx, my brother and I hung on every game. So proud of Jeter!!

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  10. It's the Red Sox in our house (sorry!) and the shared love of a team does indeed forge a bond. Watching games and pouring over stats has absolutely helped me become more connected to my son, who is rather quiet and hard to draw out; you expressed this all so beautifully. I love the story of your grandfather's beloved jacket making it to the last game at Yankee Stadium even though he did not. What a lovely tribute to your mom, who must have been a beautiful person (clearly she did a great job raising a kind & compassionate daughter!). Well done.

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  11. Hi Jackie, who would ever believe baseball would mean so much? Thanks for reading. When is the post on growing up in North Dakota coming? I'd love to read that.

    Oh Lisa, I can only speak on what I know and what I wouldn't give for just a few more minutes with my mom. So, many question I wish she could answer. I hope you can find a way to work it out. Thank you for sharing that.

    You're so right, Nancy. It's not about baseball. I always think of you when I write something like this. I know you understand. Thank you.

    Hi Beth, a Bronx sister and fellow Yankee fan! Love Jeter. So classy. As a Yankee should be. Thanks for your comment.

    Hi Pinkunderbelly, thank you for those kind words! So nice. I love that you share a passion for the game with your son. It definitely does build a bond. I've been trying to get my boys excited about baseball, but they're not really there yet. Now, if only I wanted to spend endless hours playing video games, we'd be really tight. Sigh, maybe when they're older. Thank you!

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  12. Stacey, what a great tribute to your mother and aunt. We so treasure our memories when kindness and joy fill up the early years. I'll always be grateful to my mom for creating lifetime memories as we sewed, cooked and canned together. Thanks for the great post!
    Jan

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