Last year on this date, we celebrated our son’s coming of age. He put together an amazing ceremony with readings from many cultures and writings from many people throughout the world. They all reflected to him, what it means to become a man in today’s world, to be part of a bigger community, to have a deeper consciousness and to take to take on greater responsibility in this world. I wrote a piece to him. It is what follows.
As most of you probably know, I am a pretty big baseball fan and a crazy Red Sox fan. I am not, on the other hand a religious person. When my husband and I began our journey as parents we agreed that we would raise our children to be good people, but that we would not raise them to follow any particular religion and that we would leave that choice to them as they got older. So it was much to my surprise (shock) when our son told us he wanted a bar mitzvah. How could this have happened I thought? Where did we go wrong?
Of course, we also have given our children just about everything they have ever wanted and we have certainly supported them in all of their endeavors, so there was no question that if he wanted it, we would make it happen. Meanwhile though, we wanted to ensure that he was mindful and reflective of this experience and was doing it for the right reasons, not because it was what he thought his grandparents expected or because it was what many of his friends did. We wanted to ensure that he was aware of the meaning behind his words, be they English or Hebrew. We had many conversations with J (some rather intense) about what it was he really wanted in doing this ceremony and in acknowledging his journey to adulthood. We encouraged him to explore his feelings and goals and his own belief system–to look at where he sees himself in the world and in his own community. J, with us, came to an understanding that he really wanted a ceremony to mark his coming into adulthood and he wanted to be surrounded by the important people in his world to share this moment in his journey.
Somehow (through divine intervention of the baseball gods) we found ourselves able to have this celebration at this amazing house of worship (Dodger Stadium). It is not, of course, Fenway Park, but the spirituality of the game is definitely here. What a perfect location for us. I’ve always joked that if I had to chose a religion, it would be baseball. The rules of baseball are not unlike the rules in life. They are a guide, a set of clearly defined directives for playing the game fairly (without instant replay) and allowing everyone equal chance at greatness. Even the torah is not meant to be read literally but as a set of metaphors and lessons for how to live a just life.
One day when J was about 8 or 9 he told us he wanted to play baseball. I was so glad when he chose it as his one and only sport. Baseball combines the best of a team sport and an individual sport. Sometimes you stand alone and strike out and other times you hit one out of the park. Every day, people have outstanding moments in a game but rarely can one person be given sole credit for a win and likewise even though we’ve seen people massively blunder a play (think Billy Buckner), one person can truly never take full blame for a loss. Sometimes you sacrifice for the good of the team, sometimes you get beaned on the head, every once in a while, you have a day-a moment when you pitch an elusive perfect game or, you face challenges that seem insurmountable, but you always have your team around you to lift you up. Each day and each game bring new opportunities and possibilities.
So too is life.
Each failure or crushing defeat brings with it the optimistic chant, “there’s always next year” and sometimes, sometimes when you keep the faith long enough (86 years) next year actually comes, you can overcome the demons of your history and just like that, curses can end.
Things can turn on one pitch or when you seem to be down to your last out, one small gesture can turn it all back around-David (Roberts) can look Goliath right in the eye, challenge him head on, steal a base right from under his nose, and know that things have turned around just like that. Empires fall and dynasties end, and the underdog, the little guy can, with the right bunch of idiots around him, do the impossible.
Every spring, I wait with anticipation for opening day. Where I come from, the beginning of baseball season, means spring is here. Here in Los Angeles where temperatures fluctuate by only a few degrees from January to June, the coming of spring may not mean much, but in Connecticut, it means the snow will finally be gone, the crocuses will pop up and the daffodils will soon follow. It means a fresh start after the long dormancy of winter. the start of a new baseball season means a clean slate, a new beginning, a new chance, and eternal hope and optimism. Such is the start of a new life. When J was born (4 weeks before we expected him, but of course, during spring training) , we could see for the first time as parents, a new life, entrusted to us, a life filled with hope and optimism-a perfect start. We saw a new person with a very old soul. This child has not disappointed. Every day he shows us greatness, sometimes he makes an error, but he gets back in the game and continues to play, sometimes he makes an amazing play, a web gem moment. He is loyal to his friends and family–his team, and he is a team player. J has and has always had great empathy and compassion. He loves animals and he has a value system that is deep and unwavering. At the same time, such as in the game of baseball, J knows that he can never take things too seriously. He has a great sense of humor and sees life in all it’s irony and foolishness. Many nights before going to bed, I find myself in J’s room laughing my ass off with him over something foolish but hysterical. He is a powerful good friend, a fierce big brother, protective and challenging at the same time. He is as likely to pick on M (his younger sister) as he is to hang out with her playing a video game, or showing her the latest funny You Tube video. When J was little, if he got sad or hurt, he only wanted his baby sister M to comfort him. J delights in his newer baby sister, and told me shortly after her birth, that he finally understands how much we love him.
Recently, in a game in Baltimore, Manny Ramirez made an amazing catch in left field, ran up the back wall and high-fived a Sox fan, before running back down and throwing the ball to double up the runner on first. I have never seen anything like it before and that is one of the reasons I love baseball so much. You never know what is going to happen and you continually see things you have never seen before. that is the beauty of the game of baseball and that is the beauty of the journey of life.
Mahalo is J’s middle name as most of you know, because we got him when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii. Mahalo means thanks you in Hawaiian. J, as you travel the bases of life, always remember the rules, and always always Keep the faith. Mahalo for being our son.