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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Play Ball

Our house in town came equipped with wonderful nextdoor neighbors. Their son and mine were inseparable. They could always be found underneath the big ash tree in the front yard playing with their Hot Wheels. I'm sure there are probably a few still buried under that tree, rusting away.

One warm spring afternoon, when Jared was about five, he ran into the house with red cheeks and damp hair and that sweaty little boy smell. I was standing at the sink washing dishes, and he planted himself purposefully on the other side of the kitchen island, facing me. I was expecting the usual breathless, "Mom, can me and Ryan (...ride bikes...play in the hose...fill our canteens...etc.)" But instead he stood there for a second collecting his thoughts, and then with great import he starts, "Mom, did you know that Ryan was named after Nolan Ryan?"

"Yes, sweetie, I think I did know that."

"Why wasn't I named after anybody?"

"You were."

A fabulous look of delight and disbelief washes over him. Not understanding why such vital information had been withheld from him, he eagerly demands, "Who!?"

"Grandma," I say. "Your middle name is Ashton after Grandma."

With that, everything about him wilted. "Oh," he murmurs, "I didn't mean like Grandma. I meant like Jose Canseco." And he turned and walked away, his shoulders slumped under the weight of disappointment.

It was a defining moment for us both. My banner of motherhood was snapping in the winds of experience, and the first tiny thread was worn loose and began, ever so slightly, to unravel. Up until that moment my baby had believed me to be all-knowing and all-powerful, but in a bright flash he saw that I was flawed. I was not all-knowing or I would have known that, where little boys are concerned, baseball stars trump grandmas in naming rights. And if I was not all-knowing, neither was I all-powerful. The paradigm had shifted.

Granted, with maturity and exposure to JC's bad press, he has forgiven me for not naming him Jose, but I never quite won back the unblemished adoration I had before that warm spring day so many years ago. And so it goes.

Here's to a great MLB season, to all thebaseball fans!

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