It started when we were just joking around like we always do, like we have for 30+ years, old friends ribbing each other via text message about the World Series. And the next thing I knew I was standing in my kitchen with my phone in my hand, sending increasingly defensive, angry messages, while trying not to cry.
I was born and raised in St. Louis Cardinals territory. Grandpa Pete watched every Cardinals game on TV with the sound muted and the radio blaring, because everyone knows radio announcers are better than TV, right? My little brothers played baseball as soon as they could hold a bat. Their dad (my stepdad) coached their little league teams. Sports of all kinds — baseball, football, basketball, wrestling — ruled weekends both on the local field and on TV. And yet, I paid little attention. Sports was something “the boys” did, and shared.
I wasn’t much of a sports fan until I was grown and long gone. The first time I moved out of state, I right-off learned that following local sports was a fast way to meet people and be welcomed into a community. Sports were a way to feel settled, to feel like part of the place. In Phoenix I cheered for the Suns and Charles Barkley; in Cedar Rapids I bought a black and yellow Iowa Hawkeyes sweatshirt; in Seattle I followed the Seahawks; in Minneapolis I rooted for the Vikings and the Timberwolves and the Twins. Here in northern California, where I’ve lived longer than I’ve lived anywhere, it’s all about Giants baseball and getting together with friends and the neighbors to watch the playoffs while we share food and cheer for Buster and The Panda and crazy man Hunter Pence.
But sports is not always about sports, even during the World Series. Weeks have gone by, and it’s only now that I see what brought on the tears. In one text message amidst the lighthearted dozens where I was cheering for the Giants, a good friend wrote, “I can’t imagine a place I could move to and not be a Cardinals fan.” A perfectly innocent statement, right? And yet in that moment, standing alone in my California kitchen, I felt the 2,000 mile blood-rush of loss; the ache of not being back home with old friends; of the baseball playing brothers I have not seen in years; of their once-coaching dad they no longer speak to; of Grandpa’s blaring, staticky radio, You are listening to Cardinals baseball!, gone silent; of how very far away home has become. How, some days, that distance feels an awful lot like loss, irretrievable and permanent. How it feels a lot like grief.
Distance can be grief. Yes.
Also it suddenly occurred to me that I was once at a Twins–Cardinals game in MPLS. Maybe you were there too! (1995ish?) My roommate at the time was from St. Louis and was a Cardinals fan.
I arrived in 1996 — missed you by a year!
Oh, I was there, just not at the Twins game. 🙂
It sounds as if your friend believes her loyalty is stronger. Your choice to “adopt” other teams in order to blend/mingle/connect with your new homes sounds perfectly acceptable. I’m no football fan, but I watch it with my hubby to be a part of something he loves. (Go Vikings! Go Ole Miss! Go NC State!)
Her statement might have resurrected feelings that you’d somehow abandoned your “history,”…or maybe it emphasized the loss of what was, and can never be again. Darn right I’d be a bit sad…I get that way every Christmas when I think about our little family of four on Christmas morning. The excitement my brother and I would have as we peeked around the corner, into the living room to behold all the GLORY. My parents sitting together on the couch, pointing out the things we were missing in our excitement. The never to have again moments like those = teary eyed.
My reaction, I saw later, had very little to do with what my friend wrote than with how I was feeling overall at the time. Missing home, yet knowing I can never go back, and not knowing what to do with it all.
“Missing home, yet knowing I can never go back”
Yes. And I don’t know what to do with it all either.
I never thought I’d feel like an outsider in the place I know best. And yet …
My spouse says her great grandma sat in front of the radio in Northeast Arkansas and cried while listening to a Cardinal’s game — because it made her miss her husband (a staunch Cardinal’s fan) who had been dead 40 years.
Bless you, Pamela, for being such a positive and lovely spirit, here in blog-o-land. Your spouse’s grandmother, a Cardinals fan? The big old world really is so very, incredibly, impossibly small. xoxo
I hear you.
Wow. Teri, I had no clue….laughing all the while. I won’t apologize for being a loyal Cardinals fan, but I am very sorry that I made you feel bad. Love you!
As this says, the day had little to do with the messenger and all to do with the day, the moment. It’s a strange thing, being gone so long from what you consider home.