13 September 2009

Passing on Tradition

I'm sure everyone has this sort of story, but I'll share mine.

There is something visceral when sharing certain experiences with your offspring. Usually the ones that hit you right in the gut are those that you probably shared with your parents or grandparents and involve deep emotional feelings.

On Saturday, we brought Aidan to his first Cubs game and although this is at an age MUCH younger than I attended MY first game (he's 21 mos, I was 6) the emotions I felt at times had me on the edge of tears. I'm sure that when we take him to more games as he gets older some of these feeling will resurface as he'll be talking more, understanding more, asking more and enjoying more.

We have the typical shot of us in front of the big Wrigley sign and something that no one could have shared back in the day, a picture of him on his official Wrigley brick!

Although many things have changed at Wrigley, the basics still remain. You don't walk through turnstiles anymore and your ticket doesn't get ripped, but with him in my arms walking through the main entrance at Clark and Addison, I did flash back to walking through that same gate with my Grandfather throughout the early 70's.

Getting there early enough to watch some part of batting practice never gets old. Once we settled in and found our seats (we weren't in our normal season tickets as we only have two seats and we needed more), I grabbed him and walked down, as close as we could get, to behind the Cubs dugout. The Reds were taking batting practice.

As we weaved our way down we did come upon a very elderly lady who was an usher (they were Andy Frain's back in the day) who saw Aidan and pulled a Cubs sticker out of her kit and gave it to us. Totally nice effort and since he loves stickers, well, made him all excited, and kudos to Mary Kay for getting the pictures of this from a distance!

We couldn't get all the way down to the wall, but we stood there for about 10 minutes and watched. I pointed out the ball coming off the bat and could see Aidan following it after he sort of figured out what was going on. One of the Fanfoto people came by and asked to take our picture. These people didn't exist back in the day and frankly, after looking at their prices, I'm amazed that they exist now. Talk about highway robbery, jeesh.

Holding him, I did flash back to about 1972 when I have a picture of me standing down on the wall, with Ernie Banks behind me. With the autograph hounds of today, those pictures are pretty difficult to arrange, plus, now that most all games are sellouts, well, you just fight a bigger number of people to get there. 1972 wasn't a bad year for the Cubs (finished 2nd in the East but 11 games back!!), however, after the disaster of '69, the average attendances were down overall and you could move pretty freely around the park.

It'll be fun at some point watching Aidan stand against the wall (or fight his way in) to get a look at whomever is in the Cubbie blue at that time.

Well, Aidan's experience had to be relatively typical so he had a little bit of hot dog, some cotton candy and some ice cream in a helmet-bowl. It was the first time he ever had cotton candy and the expressions on his face and his reactions were once in a lifetime types of things. He squealed with excitement as it liquefied on his tongue and he found out that everything sort of turns blue when eating it, from hands to mouth to drool.

We took a trip down to the gift shop where he got his first mini-bat and official ball. He really wanted to play with them however we knew it wouldn't be long before he threw the ball or hit someone with the bat, so we had to stifle that until later.

He did hit a wall though by about the 6th inning. He was very tired and as the Cubs mounted their comeback from five runs down, as the crowd yelled, he got a little scared. I just looked at him and told him that it was "happy happy" and he seemed to process that pretty well although he was scared a little bit.

We stood and sang the 7th inning stretch, which was performed that day by The Fray. It didn't matter who was singing, just holding Aidan and singing it while he sort of swayed back and forth in my arms was worth a million on its own. The singing must have worked a little bit as the Cubs got two more runs to tie it up in the bottom of the 7th.

Unfortunately, Aidan faded as fast as any of the arms in the bullpen and we were outta there in flash during the 8th inning. Thankfully too, as Carlos Marmol blew it with 2 outs in the top of the 9th letting in the deciding two runs from the Reds. Aidan probably would have heard bad words from Daddy at that point.  But isn't that sort of the true Cubs experience?  Of course only followed by the phrase "We'll get 'em tomorrow".

The whole day went by so fast and as he crashed in his carseat and fell fast asleep on the way home, my insides felt all warm and gooey. It was fun, but admittedly this first time was more for Mommy and Daddy to bring him.

Until he's a bit older and can truly understand it, it probably will continue to be for "us", but I firmly believe that you are shaped by the experiences you have in your life. For this not-yet two-year old, well, he's had a hell of a year of experiences and this just rounded out that list for now.

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