There is this great big world out there. There are places that I have seen in my dreams and places that I keep in my memory. I have these mental pictures which I keep like tiny artifacts that make up my history. I have dreams sometimes. I have old connections that reappear like a visit from the spirits of my past. And I call this love. I call this something. Maybe I call this a visit. Or maybe this is my mind connecting to an old need. Maybe this is me connecting to an old recollection that links me back to a sentiment, which I miss wholeheartedly.
Let me ask you, what do you remember from your childhood?
I think of a day in a field on the first day of spring. I think about the blue sky and the final thaw of winter’s grip. It seemed like the world resurfaced again. Our hibernation was finished. There was a sweet smell in the air. The flowers showed signs of rebirth and my little town celebrated the reawakening of the upcoming baseball season.
I was small then. I was too small to play on one of the baseball teams but I was big enough to start learning how to throw a ball and play catch. And I can see him too. I can see The Old Man, young as ever.
I can see the springtime sun gleaming down on the empty field, which we took to, away from the others. The field itself had yet to regain color but the warm winds were on the way. soon enough, the empty branches would be filled again.
My entire town was out to see the earlier parade that began from town’s pool over on Prospect. All the players from each of the little league teams from all ages and up, marched in their uniforms. They marched from Prospect across East Meadow Avenue, down Front Street, across Merrick Avenue and all the way up to the baseball fields to celebrate opening day.
I remember the sweet wholesomeness. I remember the purity of the moment. perhaps even then, I knew this was something to value. We were at the end of a decade. And the 70’s were coming to a close. The idea of a new millennium or the year 2000 was like a space-age mindset. No, we were different then .
People lined the streets to take interest in the youth of our town and the parade which marched through. We were so different then. The days were more glorious it seemed and people were more interested in interacting or speaking with one another. Politics had yet to become the new religion and the idea “One Nation under God,” was very real to us.
There was a different level of innocence. And I can see them all; the neighbors, the families, lining the sidewalks to watch the parade in a sense of patriotism. The entire town was together in celebration.
I can see the elderly grandparents on old lawn chairs with woven multi-colored vinyl straps to line the back and the seat.
I can envision this as it was. American flags waving. Bands playing. People caring. There was this thing which we called civic responsibility. There was something called unity. We were a neighborhood and I was one of the kids from the town. I was lucky and blessed to see this.
I see this in my mind and I envision the landscapes which are forever embedded as images in my heart. This is where my soul comes from. This is where my young life began. This is where I both found and lost my innocence.
I can smell the air. I can see The Old Man as he placed a baseball in his hand to teach me how to grip the ball and follow through with my arm to throw.
I can see him in slow motion; his hair is swept by the wind. He wore sunglasses to block out the glare of the bright sunlight.
I swear, the world seemed like a multi, Technicolor world to me back then.
I can see The Old Man as he pulled his arm back slowly to toss the ball forward. I stood not too far away from him with my little baseball glove in hand.
I can see him and his one handed approach to catch the ball in his glove as I tossed it back to him. I can feel the warmth of this moment and detail the bluish gray sweatshirt he wore. I can see the blue jeans and his white sneakers. I can see the look of intensity in The Old Man’s face as he taught me how to catch and throw a baseball.
I can feel the pride in his heart; a father and son playing catch in an empty field just outside the baseball fields during opening day of baseball season. It was glorious.
I wanted to please him. I wanted to have him proud of me. I wanted to be the next Babe Ruth. No wait, I wanted to be better than Babe Ruth. I wanted to be anyone or anything so long as whatever I could be was enough to put pride in his heart.
I see this vision and feel the wealth of its memory. I feel the connectedness of my town. I see the world as it was back then, which is far different from the world we live in now. Technology and all, this meant nothing. To be outside, to be free, to ride a bicycle, to build a clubhouse somewhere or a tree fort; these were a kid’s top priorities.
I think about the days of when I was young and small. Everything was so brand new. Little things like the view of a kite in the air were wondrous to me. I didn’t need much. There was no such thing as status. There was no need to be proven right or wrong. It was good enough to be, to live and to feel the first new breeze of the season.
I see this vision I have, which I keep and hold closely. I hold this as dearly as the breath of life itself. I see this and think about the amazing wonder of the full moon and how it was safe back then to believe it was made of green cheese. The man on the moon was real to me and The Old Man could fix or build anything . . .
He was my hero.
There was a ride I took after the month of February was behind us. I was somewhere else in life. I was no longer living at home and no longer the burden I was before finding myself at a safe place where someone like me can find help. My life had changed drastically while living in the absence of my usual self.
The Old Man passed away. I was on the verge of facing young adulthood. Mom had lost her soulmate and never moved beyond a constant state of bereavement. I suppose we were all going through changes.
I suppose it is suffice to say we were all grieving in different ways. We were grieving different things. I was in the grief of my loss. I lost my Father, The Old Man.
I suppose I lost myself as well; only, I was never too sure how to look for me back then. I was never too sure how to find me in a sea of lost dreams and wasted outcomes. I lost part of my freedom and much of my decisions due to a legal fiasco, which had brought me to where I was. My innocence was gone and the scars that remained were marks of a losing battle.
I was young still but I was old enough to serve time. Therefore, I was in crux of a decision. Either I could take my chances in the concrete cages and hope to avoid the challenges of jailhouse rapes and beatings. Or, I could surrender myself to a treatment option, which was better than jail. Yet, I wanted nothing to do with either of the two. All I wanted was to climb high in the cocoon of mine, safely away (so-to-speak) in a powdery, self-induced coma that flowed through my bloodstream.
Mom came up for a visit one day. She had a new car. It was a little Mercedes. It was white with a blue convertible top. I remember the drive we took to a nearby diner. I swear the food was never as good as it was on that day. I ate all that my stomach would allow me to swallow.
I remember driving along on an empty upstate road. The green had reappeared after the winter’s grip decided to let go.
I can still see in my mind’s eye, the vision of a hawk, just floating, hovering in circles and then somehow hanging motionlessly above the world. So regal. So amazing. So symbolic.
I can see Mom as she was, content to be with her son. Happy to not be alone. Proud that I was not sick anymore. Proud to see that I had put on some weight. I can see what the emotion had done to her. I can smell her perfume. And I can hear the song in my head that was playing on the radio at the time.
“I’ve been around the world, and I, I, I . . . .I can’t find my baby.”
I was not looking for my baby or anything matching the sentiment. To me, it seemed as if I had been around the world. I had seen terrible things. I had seen violence, up close and personal. I had seen loss. I saw my freedom vanish in the wake of a poor decision. I saw myself vanish from my true self. I wasn’t that little boy anymore, tossing a ball in an empty suburban field. I lost myself. I lost my innocence. I had been around the world alright. And I couldn’t find me.
It was not until dying that I awoke. It was not until I let my past die; it was not until I let go of my old sense of hatred; it was not until I surrendered my guilt or gave away my secrets, which kept in tiny doses of chemical solutions; it was not until I abandoned my old self like an old ghost town with no one left to inhabit the broken down theories, like old crack-house brownstones, abandoned and condemned, where death lived on a daily basis; it was not until I looked at the wide-opened wings of a hovering hawk on a day with a blue sky, way up in the mountains and far from the dope spots in East New York Brooklyn, Rockaway, or 134th Street and Willis in the Bronx; it wasn’t until then that I thought, “Hey, maybe there is hope for me.”
Maybe . . .
I miss them both.
I miss Mom and The Old Man.
But hey, at least I know there’s hope out there for me