This morning I checked the date and thought, “It’s Maggie’s birthday!”
I laughed at myself then, because Maggie isn’t real. Well, that’s not true. She’s real to me.
She’s a character in a novel I’m writing. She was born in Shea Stadium on the day the Montreal Expos played their first game—fifty years ago today, April 8, 1969. The place and time of her birth determine her destiny: She is the female entrepreneur who brings back the Montreal Expos.
Some people say baseball is life, and I would agree. That’s why so many of our day-to-day expressions (clichés) come from the game: step up to the plate, go down swinging, cover all the bases, throw a curve ball, swing for the fences, or better yet, knock it out of the park. I’m just spitballing here, and maybe you think it’s a screwball idea coming out of left field and that I’m way off base—you can touch base with me about that later—but if you’re a heavy hitter who plays hardball, even if you occasionally strike out, soon it’s a whole new ball game.
I could go on.
Life Lessons from Dead Women (working title) is about baseball and life. Some of Maggie’s life lessons include:
Hot dog buns make excellent pillows.
Damage helps us get a grip.
Wrong is right and right is wrong, but it’s all right.
Curious . . .? I hope so.
I was alive at the time the Expos played that first game against the New York Mets, but I don’t remember it. I know that my father would have had his nose up to the TV. He was a baseball fan in general and an Expos fan in particular. He taught all of us the game, and led us on trips to Jarry Park to watch them play. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the bleachers and watching the great Rusty Staub warm up.
I don’t remember the game, but I’ll have a chance to listen to it. TSN 690 Radio in Montreal is replaying the original broadcast at 7:00 p.m. EDT, April 8.
This bunny hopped into my backyard early Saturday morning.
Cute bunny, right? But my reaction to the furry friend was not charitable, because last year this bunny, or one just like her, ate the tops off all my tulips. My Canada 150 tulips, no less. I was not impressed.
And my front garden has become her favourite place to poop. Yuck.
As my tulips come into bloom this year I will be keeping a close eye on bunnies. My red and white blooms will be guarded, and I posted a comment to that effect on my Facebook feed. One of my friends commented: “Okay, Mr(s). McGregor.”
I laughed out loud, because I did sound like Mr. McGregor chasing Peter Rabbit about the garden.
But, I love my tulips.
Bunny, I’ve got eyes on you. And I’m not afraid of being called Mrs. McGregor.
I don’t. The frugal former farmgirl part of me is uncomfortable with impractical spending. Why spend money on a luxury that will die in a few days?
Praises be, I raised a city daughter who thinks differently. She willingly spends money on touches of beauty: plants with character, fresh flowers and unique throw pillows. (Frugal former farmgirl says, Throw pillows? Useless!)
Last week my daughter brought home pussy willows.
Boom! She transported me back to my childhood farm near a wooded area where pussy willows grew wild. In my barn-chore gum rubber boots, I’d walk through the soggy marshland in the spring and run my fingers over the soft pussy willow buds.
I wondered how many people in our oh-so-urban society are lucky enough to have such a beautiful memory. I felt privileged and full of gratitude.
My daughter, spending her money so willingly, bought more than fresh flowers. She bought a long-forgotten cherished memory, an appreciation for my carefree childhood, and gratitude for how her different approach to life makes mine richer.
Those aren’t luxuries, and they won’t die in a few days.
Sometimes when words won’t flow, I use a writing prompt. One of those prompts involves finding a certain page, in a certain book, on a certain shelf.
“Top shelf, third book from the right, page 56.”
I went to my office and looked at the top shelf. Among other books were some that contain short stories of mine. “Huh, what are the odds that the third book to the right is one of those?” I asked myself.
I counted and the Blood Is Thickeranthology, which contains one of my short stories, was third from the right. “That’s pretty amazing,” I thought, “but what are the odds that my story is on page 56?”
I opened the book and flipped to the right page. Yep. My story was there.
The line that stood out: “NOTE TO SELF: Those are pretty good odds.”
The title of my story?
Beating the Odds
I guess I’m supposed to write that even if something seems unlikely, if you set yourself in motion, you might beat the odds—and have a laugh while you’re at it.
There are days when I wish more people could say, “It’s not about me.”There are days when I wonder why people think life should only be about what they like.
I am guilty of it too. But I try to think: “It’s not about me, but there’s something for me here.”
I use it at the grocery store when I’m in a hurry and the person ahead of me is paying cash, counting out every nickel. Patience.
I use it in tense meetings. Conflict resolution lessons.
I use it at church every week.
I’m a member of a progressive, affirming congregation. The foundation of our group is that love and grace are available to all people, but beyond that we don’t dictate what anyone should believe. On any given week an atheist could be sitting down the row from a person who believes in the virgin birth. It’s fantastic!
Our conversations are authentic, and deep, and heartwarming,
And challenging. How to balance the content of a church service for people on such different places on a journey?
A service about an Old Testament story:
“Why do we even use the bible (small b) anymore? It’s thousands of years old, written by men in a patriarchal time. What does it have to do with me? “
“Thank goodness we’re finally talking about the Bible (capital B). It has timeless lessons, and it’s the foundation of our faith.”
“It’s a sacred ritual for me. A reminder that I’m not alone and that I have purpose.”
“It’s meaningless to me. A little creepy if you want to know the truth.”
“It’s barbaric. I would never wear one because it brands me as something I don’t want to be associated with.”
“It’s a symbol of connection with something greater than myself, the reaching and the grounding.”
“The music resonating through the pipes moves me to the depths of my soul.”
“How can people endure that horrible screeching?”
A short sermon:
“It’s about time. No need to go on and on about things. Just get to the point. “
“The minister needs to delve more deeply into the topic.”
Children in church:
“Oh, the noise, noise noise!”
“It’s good to see so many children. They bring the place to life.”
“We need to sing more of the old, familiar hymns.”
“Enough of the blood and the sin songs. Let’s sing something new.”
“Oh my God, the prayers are long. My mind drifts off.”
I need prayers. They are my time of centering. It’s when I connect with God, and when we connect with each other and the world.”
Every Sunday something happens that I would not choose to include if I were a member of a church of one. (And what fun would that be?) Every Sunday I have to remind myself that the thing I dislike is exactly the thing that someone there—maybe right beside me—is needing. Every Sunday I say to myself: “It’s not about me, but there’s something for me here.”
There always is. Something authentic, deep and heartwarming.