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Three Generations

By Donald G. Evans

*Note: This is the second installment in Don's Cactus League Trilogy.

Here we are, awash in the light of a strong Tempe sun, on the base of the sloping lawn facing the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen and with the right field stands just behind us. Maybe this picture is the only good thing to come of the day, the only reason, in fact, to be there. My mom, 70 yesterday, with her replacement left knee, struggles to rise from her sitting position; my dad, adult diabetes cramping the circulation in his lower extremities, likewise needs a hand up; four-year-old Dusty, hungry and tired and sunburned, whines; me, down sixty bucks for twenty bucks worth of tickets bought against all principle off Craig’s List, also, in my own way, whines.

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Dusty
Dusty does not approve of ballpark food selection (there is no pizza, much less chicken nuggets, at Tempo Diablo Stadium); I don’t approve of its prices. (Okay, all jokes aside, a glass of lemonade—mostly ice, mind you—is fucking $5.75. This for two cents worth of powdered sugar and free water; you do the math). My mom and dad would prefer to watch the game in the comfort of their own living room.

So here we are, sitting just a few feet behind Kerry Wood, Carmen Pignatello and an unidentified pitcher who took over Jeff S amardzija’s Number 50 when he was sent back to the minors. Wood has signed a baseball that an Angels minor league outfielder tossed to Dusty at the practice facility behind the ballpark just a few hours before. The players are taking the field. All seems well. But, really, the heat and the crowds and the accumulative effects of an hour drive to the park, another hour running around the practice fields, and a third hour waiting in line for good lawn seats, plus the all-day heat, have gotten to us all.

We need a picture.

A Cubs fanatic toting a well-organized photography book she uses to collect player signatures, and whom refers to all the players by first names, volunteers to take our group shot for us. We huddle together. She peers through the tiny viewfinder of my 15-dollar Angels “souvenir” camera. Dusty puts aside his discontent long enough to flash a charming smile. My mom and dad forget their pain long enough to turn enthusiastic faces to the camera. I genuinely, for the moment, forgive the unforgivable prices.

Snap.

donsfamily2.jpgHere it is: all four of us. My dad, a Cubs fan since he migrated with his family from rural Alabama to the North Side in 1952. My mom, born into a Cubs crazy Polish family in a two-flat around the corner from the old Riverview Amusement Park. Dusty, who’s too young yet to really appreciate, much yet love, Our Team, but who wants to come because Daddy wants to come. Me--Daddy, Donny, father, son--with memories of going to Cubs games with my dad when I was a boy not much older than my son is now.

The picture turns out fine—as good as it gets for a disposable camera. This trinket is nothing now, just a minor amusement that passes in the time it takes to look at the developed print. It’s real value lies years in the future. There will be a time, distant from now, when Dusty looks at these pictures with his own son or daughter, and recalls little bits and pieces of his childhood experiences in Arizona, when we were all there.

I’m sitting now, with Dusty in my arms. He’s cradling the Kerry Wood-signed ball like a Teddy Bear. I ask him what was his favorite part of the day, and he says, “When that guy threw me the ball.” Maybe the Cubs have little to do with it. Maybe they’re just an excuse to rise up on an otherwise ordinary day and do something, together, that has some significance beyond the pale.

Did the Cubs win or lose? Who knows? It’s only spring training.

Donald G. Evans, author of Wrigleyville sports gambling novel Good Money After Bad, is the Lovable Losers emcee. His stories have appeared in StoryQuarterly, Pinyon Review, The Journal and Narrative Magazine, among others.

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