The Day We Were Americans

Six days before one of the most infamous elections in US history, in a time when there had never been a wider trench between Democrats and Republicans, when an unspoken cold war breathed its icy breath down each of our red, white, and blue spines…the curse of the billy-goat was broken.  And without our realizing it, a nation came together, if only for a fleeting moment that tasted like cracker jacks, and smelled like cotton candy.

Let’s roll back the clock to 1945.  Come with me…Sinatra on the radio, Pin-ups on the walls, and Wrigley Stadium pregnant with the roars of the fans.  William Sianis rolls into the stadium on the north side of Chicago with his smelly pet goat.  After many complaints about the odorous beast, he is asked to leave.  At which time he declares, “Them cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”  And they didn’t.  Not a World Series.

Flash forward 71 years.  Rihanna on the radio and the walls, Wrigley Stadium still pregnant with the roars of the fans…it’s 2016.  A new war, one that has nothing to do with Nazis or surprise attacks, fills our lives.  Bitter diatribes are at every turn.  Our smart phones in hand, we peruse Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….any platform we can, to find a supporting argument for our passion or our venom.  We all worry about the future of our nation with different moral compasses, different lifestyles, and different core beliefs.  How will any of us ever feel patriotic again in these unsettling times where we all, regardless of our affiliations, seem to know this year will define a new future?  We all sit under the curse of the elephant and the donkey.

However, Wrigley Field is unchanged.  Criticized for not updating, that emblematic red marquee still ushers the fans inside.  The ivy-covered walls stand proudly as elders of the National League.  The hand-turned score board reminds us of a time when technology wasn’t king, though few of us have enough candles on the birthday cake to remember such a time. I certainly don’t.  I’ve experienced it only as folklore.  However, the outdated field reminds us of the great AMERICAN pastime.  It is one of the last remaining simple things we have…and man, don’t we need a little simplicity?

On November 2, 2016 all men and women, of all races, religions, and political parties held their breaths collectively.  Could the Cubs, still under the billy-goat’s spell, get that last out in the 10th inning?  Could they win the game, so long and painstaking, that it had now carried over into November 3rd?  Could the billy-goat be wrestled to the ground in the wee hours of that Fall night?

Indeed he could, and with one swift throw, and a man out at first, it happened.  The players stormed the field, pairing laughter with tears.  They were boys again, jumping up and down, for the love of the game.  The crowd thundered with praise and all men stood together, singing the song of the full-grown bear.

I don’t know the outcome of the election yet.  I don’t know what our country will look like just months from now.  However, I have the tiniest hope that we are all still Americans.  I hope that when we take off our baseball caps and put on our suits, or uniforms, or badges, that we remember who we were.  It took the Cubs 71 years to tackle that goat, but they broke the curse.  I now have but a shard of faith that as a nation we can wrangle a donkey and an elephant.  I’ve seen it now, in my own lifetime, with my own weary eyes.  There was a night at Wrigley field, where we were all Americans…and it was sweet.

wewere

Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

 

 

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Writer in Waiting

I don’t want to say that the waiting is the hardest part.  I think that would be awfully naive of me.  However, it isn’t one of the easy parts.  I’m anxious all the time, with some combination of dread and excitement churning beneath my feet like rudders on the boats I watch everyday in the Charleston harbor.  It makes me move in all kinds of directions, none I feel like I have any say over.  I check my email every half hour, and patrol my social media platforms like a peace-keeping soldier.  I look everywhere I can for updates hoping for that whisper I’ve dreamt about.  I hope for some sign of success, just of a hint of it from somewhere.  Silence.

I went to a writer’s conference in Alabama about a month ago.  It was one where Chuck Sambuchino (editor of Writer’s Digest) stands up and tells you all the reasons you can do it, but also how hard it will be, then gives you all kinds of ideas for self-promotion.  The Alabama Writer’s Workshop was a good conference.  I took a lot away from it, but the two most important things were only about 3 X 2 inches in size.

I got to pitch two amazing literary agents at the very end of the day.  I was scared to death.  I knew nothing of one of them except that she was the most sought after at the conference, and that I’d have a lot of competition.  The other referred to herself as a “dream crusher” during one part of the conference, at which point I narrowly escaped wetting my pants.  However, despite my fear…God, guts, and a “go get ’em” from my husband gave me the gumption to walk in there and pitch as hard as I could.  I walked away with full manuscript requests from both.  I smiled when I took the cards from their hands, adoring the thin slip of paper like Gollum does his precious.  What they didn’t witness was when I walked into the hallway, burst into tears, called my husband, and told him I’d hit a homer.  It wasn’t as though I was signed on the spot, or my novel is being published tomorrow, but for me… after a 6 hour drive, and the blood, sweat, and tears…that baby soared out of the park.

Now I’ve sent everything to them.  It’s been a month, which I know is normal.  And it’s killing me.  I stand in the stadium alone, the cheers fading, watching my ball sail over the fence.  It’s out of sight.  That run is over.  Now it is time to wait for my next at bat, and God-willing , hit one more.  Every night I dream of the second my phone rings, or my inbox has that message I’ve longed for.  I channel that moment, meditate on it, and pray for it.  I write.  I pace.  I wait.  I walk into to Barnes & Noble and sniff the insides of the pages of the ones I can tell are fresh.  I am married to this dream, and I cannot breathe an easy breath until one of the gatekeepers of the world I’m in love with comes knocking at my door.

I know this isn’t the hardest part, but it’s my hardest part today.  I know I’m going to see my baby covered in red editor’s ink, and be told to make a million changes.  I know I will swallow my pride 973 more times, and kiss the pinky rings of more elders than I can count.  I know I will cry.  I know I will worry.  But bring it on.  Bring that to my doorstep, because today I wait.  I’m cold in the large shadow of the body I want to join.  I’m a gladiator unafraid to take the arena, but scared to death of being on deck forever.

I don’t know how to put this to bed, to have my cheerful happy ending where I realize it’s ok to wait, and that it will never be more exciting than it is now.  I have those days, but not today.  Today I’m awake, and I’m warmed up.  I’m wearing the home team whites, and I am ready.  I am at the plate waiting for someone to hurl that curve ball and let me swing like hell one more time.  This time, maybe, just maybe if the wind catches the ball just right, I’ll land on the shelf, where I know there is an empty spot drawing me like a moth to light.

But for tonight, no matter the heat in my bat…tonight, I wait.  Tonight I will fall asleep on home plate.  I am a writer in waiting.

 

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