I'm a Cubs fan though you wouldn't know it. I've never been to a game - despite the fact that when I first moved to Chicago, I lived not far from Wrigley Field. Every spring I vow I'm going to make it to a game this year. I've heard about the fabled Wrigleyville rooftops, the hooky-playing; my husband, his sister, friends, sneaking in on the train for opening day, the craziness in the bleachers, the mystique of a classic ballpark.
Today, of all days, I'm infected with optimism. Maybe this will be the year I finally get there. (See? I do have the makings of a true Cubbie fan.)
As I said, I used to live not far from Wrigley. But I wasn't aware. It took my soon-to-be brother-in-law to show me how close it was.
My sister was getting married and as it turns out, her then-fiancé John is a huge baseball fan. I offered to pick him up when he flew in to O'Hare late one night before the wedding. On our way back to my place in Old Irving Park, we did the normal slightly awkward small talk. Then quietly, and with a touch of curious excitement he said, "We must be near Wrigley Field."
I paused, puzzled. "Yeah, I guess … maybe 3 miles that way," I said, gesturing to the east. "But how'd you know?"
And he said, "From from listening to the games when I was a kid. The announcer would say, "And it's out over Wave. Land. Avenue!" You have to imagine the way he softly mimicked the announcer's voice yelling it - drawing out each amazed word. Relishing the excitement.
I'd crossed Waveland Avenue hundreds of times and until then it had never made me think about baseball or Wrigley Field. But to my brother-in-law that was what that street meant. So, I did the only thing I could do at a moment like that. I cranked the wheel to the left and we drove over to make what I can't really call a victory lap but that's what we did, driving all the way around Wrigley Field so he could see it in the quiet darkness.
At Christmas time in my family we used to draw names amongst my eight siblings and our spouses to simplify gift-giving. One year I drew John's name and at the top of his list was a book - the official compendium of baseball statistics. Since I had no idea, I went ahead and ordered it for him. I was truly astonished at the brick that showed up on my porch.
And even more so when, at my parents house a couple of days before Christmas, I was chatting with my dad. "You should see the book I got for John," I said. Dad's eyes widened a little. "Have you wrapped it yet?" Hours later, there is my 80-or-so year-old dad on the living room floor next to the Christmas tree, carefully turning the onion-skin pages, telling my mom and me stories about the games - all from those little numbers. The columns of minute figures and letters bringing long-ago moments to vivid life.
Happy season opener cubbies and cubs fans. I hope no one freezes in the bleachers today. But if they do, at least it'll be one for the record books.
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