For The Someday Book

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Tuesday night, ESPN is airing a 30 for 30 episode called Four Days in October, about the 2004 American League Championship Series between my beloved Boston Red Sox and the Evil Empire of the New York Yankees. I lived in Boston at the time, and my memories of those four days are so vivid that they still brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face, simultaneously. This is my personal recollection of that amazing series.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

 

Walter Brueggemann

 

I was debating what to do with my evening. Should I stay home and watch the game, or head out to see one of my favorite biblical scholars, Walter Brueggemann, in person for the first time? The Sox were down by three games, and no team had ever gone on to win the series from a 0-3 deficit. So far in the series, the Yankees had been embarrassing them every night.

I consulted with another baseball and Brueggemann fan, my friend P. We decided to go to the lecture rather than risk staying home for another demoralizing defeat. We took turns going out to the car for updates on the score, and shook our heads with resignation. Overhearing us talking about the game at the end of the evening, Dr. Brueggemann (an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan) approached us to talk baseball. This eminent scholar proceeded to smile and ask, “Did you know the Red Sox are in the Bible?” He then pointed us to Jeremiah 8:20: “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.” P. and I agreed this was funny, but it felt cruel on such a devastating night. We parted from Brueggemann and from each other with the game on our car radios, sadly waving goodbye to each other and to the season. “Maybe next year,” we said.

 

Dave Roberts steals second base in the bottom of the 9th inning, Game 4

 

I got home just in time to see Dave Roberts steal second base.  I honestly didn’t believe it. I saw it happen, I saw them tie it up in the bottom of the 9th to keep the season alive, but I didn’t really believe it. I stayed awake anyway, just waiting for the end to come. Big Papi’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th gave us something to celebrate, and it gave us our dignity back. At least we didn’t let the Yankees sweep us. It did not yet give me hope for a comeback sweep and the breaking of the curse.

Monday, October 18, 2004

 

The Green Briar, Brighton, MA

 

P. and I made plans to meet at the Green Briar, an Irish pub in Brighton Center that held a traditional Seisún every Monday night. We always enjoyed the music, and planned to drink our Red Sox sorrows away at the bar. It was crowded, and people were expecting the game to end so they could watch Monday Night Football. But the game just wouldn’t end. With every batter at the plate past the ninth inning, the tension grew. P and I got up to walk around every inning or so, just to break the tension and calm our beating hearts. Thank goodness for the music. The Seisun was in a separate room, and we would go there to listen for a few minutes just to try to keep from having a panic attack. There was a TV in the Seisun room too, though—and every one of the 20-30 musicians had an eye on the screen, even as they played on and on with one Irish favorite after another. My most vivid memory of that evening was standing the back of the room, watching every eye on the Sox game on TV, hearing them call out tune after tune and playing without ever missing a beat or a pitch.

 

Seisun at the Green Briar. Just imagine the game on the TV.

 

It was tense, and intense, and it felt like that game would never end. When Big Papi came through again in the bottom of the 14th, the bar went mad–and the musicians broke into a wildly gleeful jig. Everyone got up and danced together, like a scene out of a movie. P and I both cried tears of joy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Reality starts to set in. We had forced a Game 6, which had only happened twice before in all of baseball history, but no team had ever emerged a victor to force Game 7. The team had to travel back to Yankee Stadium, and say goodbye to the charm and magic of Fenway. The journey ahead looked arduous, but we still felt faithful and hopeful.

Curt Schilling stepped onto the mound despite his recent surgery to repair (again) a torn tendon in his ankle. We believed this to be an act of great courage and leadership. As fans, we were exhausted from the previous two late nights of tension. We couldn’t imagine the exhaustion felt by the team itself. Game 6 only added to the pressure.  When the sutures began to open and we saw the now-famous bloody sock, we sucked in our breath and stood amazed at his endurance and sacrifice.  On that night, we knew for certain that they wanted to win as badly as we did, and they were willing to give everything they had to do it. And we loved them for it.

 

The Bloody Sock

 

The Yankees tried to make a comeback in the last innings. We foresaw our defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory, but they did not prevail. We lived another day, bleeding, exhausted, teary-eyed, bleary-eyed, and hopeful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The game started late that night, which gave us all a long time to think about everything. Too much time to think. Tried and true Red Sox fans remained hopeful, but reserved. It had been 86 years since the last World Series victory. My grandfather was born in 1918, and died in 2003. He lived 85 years as a Red Sox fan, without ever seeing his team win the championship. To be a Red Sox fan is to know heartbreak, to get your hopes high only to have them dashed at the last minute. Bret Boone in 2003, Bill Buckner in 1986, Bucky Dent in 1978—and those are just the ones in my lifetime.  This is our history. “It would be just like the Sox,” I said to P., “to make this miraculous run only to break our hearts in spectacular fashion tonight.”

But in the end, the game was uneventful. Other than the unusual relief pitching of Pedro Martinez, there was nothing remarkable about the game, just great hitting by Ortiz, Damon and Bellhorn. When the Yankees scored two runs in the 7th, we thought that might be the beginning of the end, but the Sox came right back. The Sox blew out the Yankees 10-3, and it only took them nine innings to do it. It was nothing extraordinary, except that it propelled Boston to its first World Series since 1986, and eventually on to victory.

 

Celebrating the Victory after Game 7

 

Unlike the previous three games, although the tension was still there, it was diminished. While the celebration on the field and in the bar was still ecstatic, there was also stunned disbelief. We kept looking around at each other, silently asking, “Did this really happen? Did we really just come back from three games back to beat the Yankees? Are we really in the World Series? Do you think this might be the year? Can we break the curse?” I suspect many fans did what I did—awoke the next morning to check the paper, turn on the TV or radio, to make sure the whole thing wasn’t just a dream.

But it wasn’t just a dream. It was a dream come true. Those 2004 Red Sox went on to win the World Series in a four-game sweep of Dr. Brueggemann’s St. Louis Cardinals. At long last, the curse was broken and we were saved. The World Series was great, the games enjoyable, the celebrations abundant—but I don’t remember much about the details. It’s those four days in October that I’ll remember most—the stolen base, the walk-off home run, the 14 innings of tension and Irish music, the bloody sock. If I live 86 more years, I doubt I’ll live to see another sporting event like it. I still can’t help smiling and crying tears of joy every time I think about it.

One of my favorite photos of B sleeping, taken over a year ago.

B begins his day curled up in bed with us. Some days, he creeps in before dawn and we snooze awhile together. Other days, he comes in ready to wake up and we cajole him into bed for a few minutes while we peel our eyes open. Almost always, the first words he utters in the morning come in the form of a question. Not the same question. Not just an ordinary question. Not, “can we get up now?”, “what are we having for breakfast today?”, or “what are we doing today?” B begins the day with some of the most random and most specific questions he asks all day. (And he averages several hundred questions a day.)

Here are the questions from this week. Remember, these are the first words he utters in the morning. All begin with the prefix, “Mommy?”

  • Have astronauts ever met an alien in space?
  • Do some rock stars like Corvettes?
  • Do you know what “fascinating” means?
  • What do you call this bone I can feel in my hand? I can see it in my skin–do you call it a skin bone?
  • Do elephants live in the jungle? What about alligators?
  • Does our watermelon have seeds? (The CSA one awaiting us on the kitchen table.)
  • If something is alive, does that mean it has eyes?

I love his inquisitiveness, even if I find it overwhelmingly intense at 0-dark-thirty. These are always the first in a long line of questions that pour out of him in the pre-dawn hours. I wish I had thought to remember more of them, but I confess that my first thought as they pummel my sleeping brain like a shot of BBs is to just make it stop.

My second thought, however, is always: where is this question coming from? At that hour of the morning, I can only assume that each morning’s line of questioning emerges from somewhere in his dreams. And this, to use the newest word in his lexicon, fascinates me. I don’t know about you, but I am totally infatuated with the idea of peering into his dreams, his subconscious, to learn how his mind works and what worries him and what excites him and what puzzles him. These questions are a small window into his young mind.

Apparently, it is a very random and inquisitive place. I’m going to try to suppress my desire to outfit him with a snooze button and pay better attention to the questions themselves.

In the car on the way home from church today, B asked me, “Where is Jesus?”

Hoping to get off easy, I replied: Jesus is with God.

B: “No. Where is he?”

No such luck this time.

Me: “Well, some people think that Jesus and God are in heaven, which is a place that is far away where they live. But I think Jesus and God are around us all the time, so they can help us when we need it.”

B: “Oh. So they help us?”

Me: Yep.

B: Like the guy who mows our lawn?

Me: What do you mean, like the guy who mows our lawn?

B: He helps us. Jesus helps us like the guy who mows our lawn helps us.

Me: Sure. That sounds good to me. Jesus helps us like the guy who mows our lawn.

What an image of Christ—the lanky, awkward teenager who shows up once a week and tames our wild lawn with the mower. He works quickly and silently, knocking at the door at the end for his meager $20 and barely saying a word. But his presence has put our minds at ease all summer long. We used to worry and fret and procrastinate and agonize over who would mow the lawn and when. Now, even when it starts to look overgrown, we don’t give it a second thought, because we know that our faithful teenage helper will take care of it, whenever he gets around to it. His lanky shoulders have taken a huge burden from us, and know that trusting him with our yard is one of the best things we ‘ve ever done.

Sure, Jesus is like that. Imago Dei, right?

I was a local gas station waiting to fill up my cup at the soda fountain. A woman and her young daughter were ahead of me, and the mother was apologizing for her daughter’s slowness. I assured her I was in no hurry, and she responded by saying, “Well, she’s just as slow as Moses all the time.”

I am pretty sure this was a malapropism, and she intended to refer to the common saying, “slow as molasses.” Moses and molasses do sound alike, even though they don’t look much alike.

Molasses

Moses (or Charleton Heston, anyway)

My first thought was “what’s so slow about Moses?” But then I realized—everything is slow about Moses. Remember the 40 years in the wilderness? The time it takes to pour molasses from a jar has nothing on that.

Molasses is slow because of its viscosity. Such a thick, sticky liquid just can’t move any faster. Moses was a leader of a viscous people. They were clingy, sticky, complaining, resistant to change, and reluctant to move anywhere. It took them 40 years to pour out of Egypt and into the promised land, as they learned in that wilderness time in between how to trust God, live as a community, make decisions and take responsibility, mature in their leadership and actions, and found a new society together. They just could not move any faster.

The work of change in human communities is painfully slow, and it takes lifetimes, generations. My passion is to work on this kind of communal change and reorientation in the church, but I imagine that, like Moses, it will take my entire career, which I hope will span more than 40 years. Because the work of leading change is as slow as Moses.

I wrote a few weeks ago about an extrovert’s vacation, and my struggles as an introvert taking extroverted vacations. This week, at long last, I had the opportunity for an introverted vacation. It was wonderful.

I drove a mere hour away from home, leaving behind my church, my husband and child, and all obligations to talk to other people. I wandered around a fascinating little town, and took a bunch of photographs for future blog posts. I checked into a hotel for two nights, watched two movies and a bunch of bad shows, finished one book and read a 530+ page novel cover-to-cover. I ate lunch at a restaurant each day, where I was polite but refused to engage in small talk with the servers, even though I was eating alone. I also took a local architectural tour, which happened to include several retired clergy. I did not “out” myself as fellow clergy, because I did not want to engage in conversation that went deeper than, “isn’t that building interesting?”  I would slip quietly into my hotel room each evening about 5:00, armed with snacks and reading material, and not reappear again until breakfast.

I have returned to life feeling centered and rested. This is what I needed. This has freed me to write again. I could have stayed all week. It was a true introvert’s vacation, a vacation from people, to spend time with myself and with God.

Wow! This morning I noticed a huge jump in hits here on the blog, and a short while later I received an e-mail from the Editor at wordpress.com. The post I wrote about symbiogenesis made Freshly Pressed!!!!

Every day, the editors at WordPress select eleven (11!!) blogs from the hundreds of thousands of WordPress posts to feature on Freshly Pressed. Some bloggers work hard for years to try to get selected. I just got lucky. You can see it here: http://wordpress.com.

I even took a photo, just for the record.

There it is! Right in the center of the page!

Welcome, to all who find your way here via Freshly Pressed! I hope you’ll stick around and keep reading after today, and add your comments to the discussion.

And a big thank you to the folks at WordPress for choosing my little blog “For the Someday Book” for today’s Freshly Pressed. I am honored and excited.


About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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  • revjmk: Tammy, I'm not sure the "he" you are referring to here (Willimon, Hauerwas or me--who goes by the pronoun "she"). I'm also not sure why you think th
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