It’s been well over 30 years since I experienced a Thanksgiving like that; a Thanksgiving with a large extended family, surrounded by those with whom I share a common ancestry, but really so much more. Whether through blood or marriage, those familial bonds, made often through strife laced with love (and not the other way around), are indelible. They are what put the “crazy,” in Crazy Glue. Yes, we have framily, but even those of us who roll our eyes at going home for the holidays, sometimes wish we had a home to go home to.
At aged six or so, my dreams began as I disappeared through the headboard of my bed. My headboard was made of black, shiny plastic, think patent leather, but cheaper, with a mirror like surface. I thought I could make out my reflection. Like Alice, but before I’d heard of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, I’d somehow slip from my bed into an alternate world in my headboard’s reflection.
Starting on September 15, 2020 and concluding on October 15, 2020, Mr. Alex’s Bookshelf will be holding a month long celebration featuring titles by Hispanic Authors. We’ve culled through hundreds of books; read dozens of titles, and have settled on 21 that we know merit your attention.
The tennis great Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” It is a perfect life lesson to be sure, and I wish I had that quote as motto when I was coaching soccer, both for myself and for my kids. But tennis, better than any other sport I know, reliably rewards that mindset.
In all the team sports (and most of life), kids like me struggle with the sensation of being out of place. Putting a team together, in baseball, softball football and soccer almost always results in participants who at least half the time feel inadequate. A few will revel in stardom, and now and again someone like my Romanian team member, a soccer savant, will appear in a league that offers no challenge at all.
If you’re like me, all discussions of sports begin with trauma. Growing up, I was that cliché, the pudgy kid picked last for every team. My signature sports moment came around fifth grade when the little league team I played on (as the kid in left field who couldn’t catch a fly ball) designated me to be traded to the first-place team. If you’re an athlete, this might strike you as good news. But our league had a practice of making the teams more competitive at midseason by trading the worst player from the last place team (my team) for the best player from the first-place team. Imagine the ignominy of meeting your new teammates: “Hi, I’m here to ruin your chances.”
Are you happy? The question is innocent enough. My four-year-old who is running around the house with his plastic sword in case we get attacked by Princess Robots (year, don’t ask) stops dead in his tracks to ask me.
“But I didn’t know the first dad-gum thing about raising one,” says my dad, who still talks like that, Southernish, with a twinkle. For her part, my mom likes to tell the story of the maternity nurse at Touro Infirmary who—after my folks gathered their things and Mom settled into the wheelchair for the short discharge trip to the car—winked at my mother and grandmother, then turned to my startled dad and offered him the 21 tightly swaddled inches of his firstborn.
You’ve spent most of your young life cooped up with us in our small Brooklyn apartment, first by felicity of generous leave policies and then by necessity amidst a pandemic. The world outside, which we gird up to face with our odd masks and anxious glances at people not observing social distance on our regular walking routes, must seem both fascinating and a little frightening.
When Mr. Alex asked me to contribute to the Bookshelf for Father’s Day, as the old guy looking back on raising three sons, I thought I’d offer some reminiscence about about my kids’ eccentricities. I imagined I’d gently make the point that our kids need to be their own true selves, not our reflections, no matter how attractive we may find the mirror.