200 Duquette Lane

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October 29th, 2011 at 200 Duquette Lane was an interesting date.

My father was sitting in the kitchen dressed in what can be described as his everyday wear – a favorite pair of very old khakis half cinched by a favorite old, slightly fraying black belt, topped off with a mostly intact Fruit-of-the-Loom white t-shirt. It wasn’t exactly company wear, nor was it pajamas. It was everyday wear. The kind where he knew company was coming, but there was no need for his clothes to make a big deal about it.

He was perched in his kitchen chair, pen in hand where he had both finished the Jumble correctly, found all the words in the Word-search, and written my mother’s name a thousand times a thousand times down the margin of the previous day’s newspaper. His half filled cup of coffee and his no-frills AM clock radio were the only other items on the table.

He was waiting. He was in it for the long haul, for the duration. If he was tired, it was unknown to the rest of the world. Looking back on it, I think his goal was to make it look like all normal eighty year old dads would be doing the exact same thing, sitting in the kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee, finishing word puzzles and writing his wife’s name, waiting patiently. Going to bed wasn’t even on his radar.

Nearing Duquette Lane, I reminded my daughter that no matter how excited we might be, it was late and Pop may be asleep. We needed to temper our over the top behavior quickly and appropriately. Our lifetime experience could wait until the morning to share. It was time for us to be polite, think of others and pull out our best manners. After all, there was no need to wake him up. Everything could wait.

Turning onto the street, everything looked as it should with houses buttoned up dark and tight for the evening. The only light shining at the beginning of the lane came from our car’s two headlight beams. Everything else was pitch black. Every house up and down the entire street blended calmly and wisely into the dark evening sky. That is every house except for 200 Duquette Lane which was, of course, our destination.

200 Duquette Lane was glowing. Porch lights on. Living room lights on. Dining room, bed room, garage lights on. And for those who know me and my family, the ever present indoor Christmas lights around the ceiling of the living room, dining room, family room and kitchen all on. My daughter looked at me and I looked at her, and at that moment we knew that the adventure that we had assumed had ended had actually not yet begun.

Forgetting decorum, we stormed into that house and it was easy to do because neither the screen door nor the front door had been locked, another sign that crazy fun was going to ensue.

And there in the kitchen at 200 Duquette Lane at 2:00am on October 29th, 2011 sat my dad in his everyday wear, with his newspaper and pen and coffee and clock radio.

His first words at that moment were few but they still make me smile, “Well, whatdidya think?”

My daughter and I both began babbling. Blah blah blah blah Pujols. Blah Blah Blah David Freese. Blah Blah Blah Yadi. Blah Blah Blah Allen Craig. Clydesdales, Confetti, Fireworks. People. Cardinals, Cardinals, Cardinals! We could not stop talking and he could not stop listening. I can’t remember if he asked any questions at all. I can only remember that we rehashed each and every play for each and every inning without stop. At one point, he asked us if we wanted a beer and though it would have been odd for him to ask me that question on any other day, on this day, it seemed appropriate, and we obliged. By that time, he had turned that radio on and we were now rehashing the game with the experts at KMOX, comparing their version to our version.

We did arrive at 200 Duquette bearing a gift. We had purchased several of the World Series Daily, an immediate newspaper publication available the moment the game ends from makeshift newspaper stands in front of the stadium exits. He read it. We read it. And by 4:00am, the three of us had officially decided that we all agreed with the Daily’s version of the events. And as we finished our beer and my dad clicked off the clock radio, we knew the adventure was soon coming to a close.

In the morning, my dad, my daughter and I went to his breakfast hangout and continued our conversation. When we returned to 200 Duquette Lane, I noticed that though all other lights had been switched off, the indoor ceiling Christmas lights were shining bright.

Looking back, I can see that my daughter and I did have a great adventure by going to Game 7 of the 2011 World Series won by the St. Louis Cardinals. But the greatest adventure of all was created by an 80 year old man who had the sense to click on the indoor Christmas lights, sit at his kitchen table and patiently wait for hours and hours just to have a conversation with his daughter and granddaughter. I’ve said it before – my dad and my mom were masters not at the extraordinary, but at doing the ordinary extraordinarily well.

If someone asks me today the play by play at that ball game, I can’t remember. I don’t know who pitched, who homered, who played or didn’t play. I know the Cardinals won, but the rest is one big blur. But, if they ask me what my father was wearing, where he was sitting, what he was doing, and what lights were on, I can describe that in minute detail.

Somethings are worth remembering.

How To Make Memories With 47,399 People

When I reflect on that moment, I have to admit it was one of the best of my short life.  It was so exhilarating, it is almost indescribable.  And unbelievable as it may sound, though it has almost been a year ago, rarely does a week pass without someone mentioning something about it to me or my daughter.

Heather, my daughter, is my youngest child and only girl.  At 28, she is slight of build, tall in stature and is as even-tempered as her father.  I am lucky as she and I pal around quite a bit together.  And oddly enough, the reason for being together on October 28th, 2011 was due to a very chance circumstance.  But it happened and we were.

The men in our lives were all left behind.  My son hadn’t been feeling well, and my spouse graciously agreed to stay home as caretaker.  He offered his spot to my daughter, and she smartly took it.  So we were off – together – on another adventure of a lifetime.

As happens in most families, she and I have actually shared many mother / daughter lifetime adventures – in all kinds of shapes and sizes from international travel to half marathons, from home building projects to weekends away.   But this event was different.

As we headed out – with all the amenities two people might need including food, clothes, cash, and cameras – my mind could hear a phrase often spoken by a dear aunt of mine who has just enough of a southern drawl to bring out the wisdom of such simple words:  “Nothing more important than making memories.”

Two hours later, we arrived at our destination.  We found a makeshift parking space, abandoned our car, and entered the thick of things.  Downtown traffic was at a standstill.   Banners were strung from every skyscraper and pump-me-up music was blaring on every corner.  Two gentlemen – sans shirts – with their chests painted bright red – strolled by us, singing a rather poor rendition of the national anthem.

Yet, because of the atmosphere, they were nothing shy of adorable – and for this occasion – very typical.  For at that moment, a total of 47,399 individuals were headed towards the gates of a previously empty stadium – each person intent on making their own memories.

Our seats were high-in-the-sky, in what folks might fondly call the nose-bleed section.   And looking out on the crowd, all we could see was a sea of red – as literally everyone had dressed in the team color for the occasion – (or as witnessed earlier, had painted their bodies accordingly).

The two women in front of us were wearing red wigs made of flashing LED lights.  A couple of rows in front of them sat a family who had brought along an assortment of hand-made posters and were waving them madly.

Before the first pitch was thrown, we had both been asked to take family photos for folks around us and had asked the folks around us to take our photo.  Fans were texting, tweeting, facebooking, and calling everyone who didn’t make it into the stadium.   It could only be described as orderly pandemonium.

Of course, not to be missed was the calm and subdued gentleman at the end of our row.

He happened to be visiting a friend who had an extra ticket.  He came along not knowing what to expect, and found all the frantic madness a little quizzical.  He was seemingly disengaged from the surrounding activity, and spent most of his time checking and re-checking his trusty blackberry . . .so we called him Blackberry Man . . .  really the only odd-duck on the pond.

But, as the game began and time began ticking forward, the excitement within the crowd escalated  – and it escalated exponentially. We stood – shoulder to shoulder – from the first crack of the bat to the last, sitting only during the momentary wee breaks between innings.  We shouted  – loud and long – creating an unrecoilable energy that was all-pervasive.  And we bonded – with the 47,399 people who came to the stadium with the same hopes and desires as the hometown athletes.

My daughter and I were  – in athletic speak – in the zone.  We were on our tiptoes, cheering, shouting, clapping, hugging, laughing. And everyone around us, except for Blackberry Man, was doing the same.  For all of us, it was a time of sheer fun and exhilaration. I was quite sure that the game’s outcome wouldn’t solve any great human mystery.  And I knew that days later, I would still be putting on my shoes one at a time. But, for that one moment, the world around us was in sync.

And I learned that anytime the world around us is in sync, it is truly unbelievable.

For today, I can still hear the collective screaming and I can still feel the collective dancing when the hometown team won. Fireworks blasted.  Confetti fell.  Lights flashed, and the music of champions played.  Strangers hugged each other, with even Blackberry Man faintly smiling.

And I can still  see my daughter’s eyes looking at me with such pure joy.

As we walked out the stadium, still shoulder to shoulder with those 47,399 people who were all still more than just a little exuberant, I knew that my daughter and I had made a great memory, a permanent one.

What I didn’t know is  how that particular memory would change my thinking.

I was once again – and in a big way –  reminded that it is possible for the entire world to be in sync.  Somehow, it is possible for all of us to be happy, for all of us to experience joy.  It might be difficult, but what is worthwhile isn’t usually easy.  All we have to do is wake up our collective sleeping giant and make a memory.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Confetti With Friends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What Do You Wear When You Work Out?

I am a workout nut. It’s hard to admit it, but it’s true.  My friends have kindly mentioned it, and even though I try my best to deny their characterizations of me as such, they are right.  It is true.  Each morning, I leave for work at 7:00am and spend the fifteen minute commute thinking about my post-work exercise plan.  During the spring, summer, and fall, I plot out my running route both in distance and time, and during the winter, I gear up for treadmill work or indoor activity at a local University’s field house.  I may tell folks that I believe working out is a chore, but in reality, I spend a great deal of time planning and participating in it. I like it.

Like any other workout nut, I have a variety of routines that I follow.  My family considers the routines to be a little quirky – and they probably are – but my workout nut pals all have their own quirky routines; thus, giving normalcy to what I do.  I dash home at 5:00pm, say hello to the folks in my house, change, and within no more than fifteen minutes dash out again. I rev up the IPOD, check my shoe strings, and hit the road . . . each day . . . every single day that I can.

I have come to terms with the realization that I may be a workout nut.  It was difficult to comprehend and internalize, but I’m okay with it.  But today, I was hit with another revelation – a new one – one that is much more difficult to accept than the workout nut moniker.

I am a workout nut . . . with a pathetic workout wardrobe.  Really, I am a pathetically clad workout nut.  My workout nut fashion sense is so pathetic that my loved ones have given up mentioning it to me.

My workout wardrobe isn’t swanky.  It isn’t groovy, with-it, or mod.  And it certainly isn’t hip, trendy, or fashion forward.  It isn’t flashy, flirty, or fun.  It isn’t pretty.  It isn’t any of those terms or any other term that would equate to workout stylish.

Rather, it is . . . more like . . . hmmm . . . let’s just say – utilitarian.

My workout fashion regime is simple: Shorts, shirt, shoes, socks – all in neutral, sweat-hiding colors: check.  Hair in a mandatory pony tail, workout glasses from the dollar store for treadmill reading: check.  Nearly broken, barely working ear buds threaded through the shoulder of my workout shirt to prevent me from losing them: check. A plain gray IPOD with a plain black case, and a green headband someone left at my house  to keep my eyes sweat-free: check.  With all this apparel, I think I am good to go out the door. Exciting activity, pathetic attire.

Well, yesterday, it was raining and my workout was moved to an inside venue.  There was a waiting line for the treadmill which meant that I had a moment to take a look around me. So I did.  And boy did I see a lot.

I saw fancy matching Under Armour everywhere and lots of Nike Dry Fit shirts that included tiny riveted holes made especially for threading ear buds.  I saw headbands with impressive logos and shorts with phone pockets.   I saw one person with what I would call a $9.99 two for one ShamWOW chamois; however, I learned that the proper name for it was the Trekkings Ultra Fast Dry towel.  The user had it hung around the neck to keep perspiration to a minimum.  No doubt it cost a pretty penny. And it looked impressive.

Bikers in St. Louis. No pathetic workout clothes here.

In the shoe line-up, there were pairs with toes, pairs that kept track of miles logged, pairs that were incredibly light, and pairs that were specifically for running indoors on treadmills.  Absolutely everyone had on designer socks with several of those folks explaining their sock choices to me. One person was wearing a workout hat and a couple folks were sporting workout gloves. My favorite was an individual who had perfectly matched everything head to toe.

Still there was me:  A peach colored shirt, black workout pants that had shrunk and were just a tad too short, the same all purpose tennis shoes that I had last year, the green headband, dollar store glasses, and the broken ear buds threaded through the sleeve.  I had been in a little rush at home and accidently was wearing a pair of mismatched socks, both I might add were in the Nike category, which is a little better in some way.  All in all, it was the same pathetic workout wardrobe that I have been wearing for years.  Workout nut / pathetic clothes.

Moments later, there was an available treadmill for me.  I hopped on, cranked up my IPOD, started my workout, and concentrated on forgetting about physical fitness fashion faux pas and the implications.  Perhaps I was making much ado about nothing.  After all, the purpose of working out is to workout.  There are no red carpets or runways to navigate. In some ways it makes more sense to sweat in ridiculous haphazard clothes than it does to do so in designer duds.  And I have never seen fitness paparazzi in my neck of the woods. Still I had to face my workout wardrobe and acknowledge that I was deep into the pathetic category.

I have two choices.  I can go on a quest to find and purchase better workout apparel.  It definitely isn’t hard: I can order clothing from the comfort of my living room.  There are a zillion of online venues at my fingertips, and a lot of them have very impressive selections!   Or, I can continue to be the same workout nut with the same pathetic workout wardrobe that I have grown to be over the last couple of decades.  There is something to be said for ignoring common social conventions and throwing all caution to the wind in this area.  It does feel a little exhilarating to be in the zone where something just doesn’t matter.

Either way, by the end of this year, I have made it one of my resolutions to make a decision in this area.  A December 2012 update – with photo – will follow.