My brother’s son plays T-ball, and one of the coaches in his local Little League group (group? team? franchise?) is the man I once wanted to marry.
Of course, I was really young then and hadn’t seen much of the world. But I loved that guy in my own fifteen year old way. One time we had a picnic with sparkling grape juice and plastic champagne glasses I bought at Belmont’s (our hometown version of WalMart before WalMart put them out of business.) Another time he was in the middle of asking me to go steady when he steered his truck into an Amish buggy. No one was hurt except our pride. And I had to wait an extra week to get his class ring.
The biggest memory I have of him is that he wanted to play Major League baseball. Some coach once told his mother that he had promise, so their life was spent driving all over Northeastern Indiana to groom the guy into a pro. For the year and a half I dated him I got sucked into the dream, too. I went to countless games, watched countless baseball movies and even read the encyclopedia entry on “Baseball” to make sure I knew what was going on. Twenty years later the only things I’ve retained are the fact that the pitcher’s mound is 60 feet, six inches from home plate and the certain knowledge that I hate that sport with a passion.
Oddly, the universe decided to churn out several top 40 hits about baseball while we were dating, and he loved each and every one of them. [If I never hear “Center Field” by John Fogerty again, I’ll be a happy girl.] Even more oddly, his favourite was Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”. He liked the fact that the old guys were sitting around talking about baseball. I think he missed the part that the characters in the song were lamenting the death of their dreams.
When my brother told me that he ran into Jim at Little League practice, that was the first thought that crossed my mind. I felt so sad for him and at the same time wondered how he could do it. How can he live the ghost of a dream, coaching seven-year-olds in Fort Wayne? Then I thought about it some more and realised that no stirring novels of mine have topped any best-seller lists and I just write for a blog. I think most people have their early dreams die. But I think the stalks of those dead dreams can, if you’re lucky, fertilise the new shoots of young dreams that grow into the fruits of your true adulthood.