The Boy Wonder in a Paper Bag

TOWER GROVE — The boy wonder, all of 7 now, returned home from his first day of second grade with a paper bag and an assignment.

He had to pour himself into it.

His teacher had asked each member of the class to take home a paper bag, one about the size of a lunch sack. The students could use markers to color their bag however they wanted. Ian covered his in colorful stars. The outside was decoration, not the purpose. What they put inside was the challenge. The boy wonder’s teacher asked each of her students to put five things — and five things only — in the bag. Those five things had to define the student. She wanted the boy wonder and his classmates to introduce themselves to each other and to the teachers with five things that revealed who they are. This wasn’t the five things they would want on a deserted island or their five favorites things in the world, but five things that said who they are.

With help from his mom, here are the five things the boy wonder put in his bag and his explanation on why each one matters to him: Continue reading

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The Last Day of a 5-Year-Old

TOWER GROVE – The day began like any other morning during those months that baseball season overlaps with the school year. I’m up with the boy wonder, flip on the TV, and wait for the inevitable request that comes during the commercials.

“Can we turn on my cartoons?”

“Can we turn on my cartoons?”

“Is Morning Joe over? Can we turn on my cartoons?”

“Baseball highlights, again? When can we turn on my cartoons?”

On this particularly morning, I had a co-conspirator. Rain was falling outside and steadily gaining intensity. While I kept the news on, Ian climbed up – half on the couch, half on my shoulder – to look out the window and provide moment-by-moment weather update. His legs, lanky and lean, draped off the couch, because while he still tries to squeeze into small spaces like a small kid, he is outgrowing them rapidly, like another pair of footie jammies. And that’s when I realized: This was not a normal, standard-issue morning of wrestling for channel superiority.

This was my last morning as the father of a 5-year-old.

“Don’t you want me to get older, Daddy?” Continue reading

A 5-year-old & the Meaning of Jeter

This entry was originally written in July 2011 as New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter approached his 3,000th career hit, a milestone that the boy wonder, Ian, had become transfixed by the number, why it was such a big deal, and how one player could possible have that many base hits all by himself.

***

TOWER GROVE — The difference between 2,999 hits and 3,000 could be the reaction time of one third baseman, the decision of an official scorer, or the deluge that washes out a first-inning single. In the scope of a career, it’s infinitesimal, and yet 3,000 looms so large, so historically significant, so, well, round that the distance between 2,999 and 3,000 is a hundred hits if it’s one.

Ask a 5-year-old.

My son Ian and I were walking to a nearby park this past week with our baseball gloves for a throw. Each glove had a baseball tucked inside because, you know, keeping a pocket formed is something we’re required to pass from generation to generation. From the night I came home from the 2006 World Series reeking of champagne crossfire to a visit to condemned Yankee Stadium to the spring trainings spent away, baseball has always been a presence in my son’s life. Only recently has baseball become an interest. He asks a lot about the players. He offers play-by-play during games. He wants to know what team to root for when Arizona and Minnesota meet in interleague play (don’t we all?). And several times in the past month, he’s stirred in the middle of the night to creep downstairs and watch the late game with me.

One recent night he poked me on the shoulder until I woke up so he could ask, “Daddy, can we go watch the highlights?”

It was 3:15 a.m. Continue reading

Quotable Ian: Is “Mad Men” Good for Me?

Originally done for Tumblr but, in hindsight, a bad fit there, this is a transcription of an actual exchange my young son, Ian, the boy wonder, and I had on the way to lunch one day after we stopped at the post office to drop a Netflix envelope into the mailbox.

SCENE: Ian is seated in the back seat of my sedan, and as I get in the car and turn the key, he begins the conversation like he always does — with a question, or two dozen.Ian: “Is that Mad Men?”

Me: “No. It’s a movie I watched last night.”

Ian: “Did you watch it On Demand?”

Me: “No. It’s Netflix.”

Ian: “Oh, on the Wii …”

Me: “No. It was a disc.”

Ian: “A BluRay?”

Me: “Nope, just DVD.”

Ian: “Should have got the BluRay.”

Me: “It wasn’t that important …”

Ian: “What was it?” Continue reading

The Nine Stages of Spring Training Day 1

JUPITER, Fla. — The first act of spring actually occurs back where it’s winter. It involves rolling up T-shirts, identifying books that are worthy of the trip south, stacking yellow legal pads, making sure there’s a raincoat handy, and otherwise packing for the longest road trip of any baseball season. The goal is to fit all that stuff, snugly, into as few pieces of luggage as possible, while also making sure all of the essentials fit into one of two carry-ons. Can’t have that Skype-ready webcam lost in transit.

The days before arriving at spring training involve feats of geometry.

The first day on the ground at spring training is an experiment in trigonometry.

It’s all about the tangents. Continue reading

Book Fast of Champions (Month 1)

TOWER GROVE — It’s time for a confession: I arrived home yesterday to find a package from Amazon.com lounging on the front porch. Here I was nearly a month into my year without buying a book (see here) and I knew that nestled inside that envelope was the very thing that I swore I wouldn’t buy this season, wouldn’t even think of buying until I’ve made a dent into the pillars of books that surround my office. It was a book.

But it wasn’t a break from my resolution.

Inside the envelope was John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son. Technically, I put the book in queue for purchase in 2011 — yes, near the end of 2011 — so that it wouldn’t spoil my resolution before it truly had a chance to start. It took several weeks to arrive (or find, not sure which), and here it was — a nice, tidy package from the past. The resolution continues.

Within days of starting my book fast, I put it to the best test I could think of: Continue reading

One Movie, One Kid and 295 Questions

TOWER GROVE — Since he grew as weary as his parents of the Little Einstein videos, the boy wonder has been a movie nut. It was “Happy Feet” that sparked his love, “Star Wars” that strengthened it and, recently, a summer loaded with superhero movies that cemented it. Perhaps this fondness for movies was most obvious when on our way home from school one day he outlined his plan to make “Spider-Man 4” and told me that he was readying other movies he planned to make.

“They’re in development,” he said as if he knew what he was talking about.

That said, watching a movie for the first time with Ian, age 5, is a rigorous experience. This is when it’s clear that as much as he loves movies he is still the son of two journalism majors. The questions start before you can press play, and they don’t end until the movie does. He recently woke up while I was watching “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” and decided to watch it with me.

“Is this real, Daddy?” he asked.

“No, it’s just a story.”

“Well, then why are they using real days of the week, like Wednesday? Why did they say Wednesday if this isn’t real?”

And that’s an easy one. Continue reading