Today the Prince returns – victorious from his infamous weeklong battle against the baseball diamond. But for a mild muscle pull here and an inexplicable ache there, he emerges unscathed with the loving attention of the locker room trainers still warming his skin. His feats will soon become the stuff of legend – his remarkable batting and fielding stats, his control of the lands around second base. There is no need for a moat when the Prince is there to protect the kingdom of baseball.
With a visit to see his parents before camp started, it’s been ten days since I’ve seen the Prince – and it’s time for him to come home. I need no proof that I enjoy my own company, no test to see whether or not I can manage. Been there, done that – and it was fine thank you very much. But in order for this house to feel at peace, it needs the Prince. This is where he belongs – whether he’s zoning out playing some game on his iPad or napping on the couch. He needs to be here so I can make him laugh so hard he snorts. So he can dance with me in the kitchen. So he can reach the top of the garage door, because it’s stuck. Because I miss hearing, “Hi doll girl” in the way that only the Prince can say it. I will not go so far to say that I miss hearing his a cappella “King Of The Road” (but thinking about it makes me smile).
And I want him to go back next year if that’s what he wants to do. This annual flight of fantasy gives him feelings of delighted anticipation, and the reality has yet to be less than all he imagined. So go ahead Andy, sign up for 2014 – you are well on your way to being a legend in your own time.
It may be winter here in the US, but it’s already baseball season in my husband’s heart. Truth be told, it’s never not baseball season in Andy’s heart. He has been a Yankee fan since he was in utero (his mother is an avid fan and I have no doubt he was listening to Yankee games long before he ever greeted the world). This is no fickle affection – you can say whatever you want about the team many people love to hate – there is no logic to this love, there is no reason to this rhyme. He is besotted. Retrospectively, I clearly was a contender for his marital intentions because I’m from New York and as such an unlikely enemy to the team. I am no longer jealous; I am amused. I have met my competition and our understanding is mutually acceptable.
The Yankees can have him.
Honestly, they can – and they will – starting next Sunday when Andy heads to Yankee Fantasy Camp. This will be his third trip to sleep-away camp, and the excitement in our house is getting a little out of control. He’s been hitting the gym with brio, practicing his swing at the batting cages, and yesterday he got a new glove (he will be prepping it appropriately over the next few days). The Yankee swag is re-appearing as the anticipation of packing begins. Later this week, I will also make sure he has ice packs, the newest in knee braces and an appropriate complement of ace bandages and Tylenol.
I visited Fantasy Camp last year, met some aging icons of the team – most of whom are bloated, arthritic, charming and well past their prime. That said, on the last day when the ‘pros’ play the ‘campers’ at Steinbrenner Field, they can still impress. True, each amateur team only plays two innings against the pros, but that’s still about ten innings for the pros. David Wells was one of the coaches for Andy’s team – funny guy with a belly that prevents him from seeing his toes anymore – who can still throw heat and intimidate by his sheer size. He quickly surmised that I was the ‘wiseguy’ in the family, and spoke of my husband as if he was a cute little boy who was giving it his all. Andy was beaming – and for one moment I thought I was attending a parent/teacher conference. He also wasn’t alone – all these boys/men gazed upon their idols with a sense of proprietary adoration, each hoped to hear an ‘atta boy’. By the end of the week they were all thisclose.
There’s lots of bonding that goes on – from comparing pulled muscles and experiences with the trainers to shouting support and butt-patting. Spitting in the dirt. It gets a little infectious. I yelled out “Go Two!” (Andy had chosen the number 2 for his jersey) and as all these men looked over in my direction, my father-in-law gently pointed out that such encouragement could be directed to half the team, since a lot of them were also thinking of Derek Jeter when they selected their number of choice. Ok, my bad. I just thought that shouting “Go honey” was a little lame.
By the end of the week, all of these middle-aged men have lived their most replayed childhood fantasy. They’re playing with the pros. In Yankee uniforms, on Yankee turf. Their names announced over the loudspeaker – not by someone’s dad – but by a legitimate-sounding announcer. It all gets pretty heady I think. I wonder whether there are emotional group hugs as the buses prepare to head for the airport, with promises to write every day and strains of “See You In September” playing overhead. I do know that the only pictures on Andy’s Facebook page are of his athletic prowess as a pseudo-Yankee.
At the end of the day, there’s little I enjoy more than seeing my husband and/or kids happy. That kind of happy that makes you smile from the inside out, prompted by a sensation that is impossible to describe but feels a little like bubbles. And there is little if anything that makes Andy happier than getting to play ball with icons from his youth. To hang out with guys who totally ‘get it’ and still have the capacity to delight the kid within. I hope we’ve all been there and continue to go there whenever possible – I have and I do. When I screamed “I LOVE YOU JAMES” at the Garden a few years back when James Taylor and Carole King were on their ‘Live At The Troubadour’ tour (I say with all humility that I’m sure he heard me and was looking directly at me while he performed. My row and seat number? Is that really relevant??). Or when I pretend I’m Ray Lewis entering a football stadium (it is f-i-e-r-c-e let me tell you) or ‘Vogue’ in the kitchen a la Madonna. It just kind of bubbles up inside and you have to just play.