“Life begins when somebody’s eyes look into your own…”

There’s this old Jolson song my father taught me called “A Quarter To Nine”. It’s about a guy who can’t wait until evening— when he’ll finally get to see his lady. He sings with anticipation—warm anticipation.

It’s nice looking forward to things but thrilling to anticipate. The difference, I sense, is in that positive tension altering the dynamic: the aura of expectation.  We looked forward to growing up but Lord knows we counted days ‘til the start of Little League, marked time ‘til we could drive, and charted months in kids’ pregnancies.

Stu and I broke into the minors in 1960. Spring training began in May or so. Proudly we’d sport our blue/white Hollywood uniforms on the two school days each week there was practice at night. No once called us “havisham” (the term for kids that wore the same clothes all the time). We were just eager.

FLASHBACK TO 1960: I had Hebrew right after Rowland and Mrs. Gelfand was driving. Park ended at 5:40 mid-week, and so hasty was I to bolt out of her car getting home that I closed the door on my right thumb. So practice was missed…and two weeks… and if you ask nicely, I can still point out remnants of stitches.

How we couldn’t wait to drive once in Brush! Arthur was first, although I didn’t quite recall it. What is clear though is that Snyder had a Mustang convertible long before Wieder or I even had “temporaries”. Indeed, just weeks ago Al and I were reminiscing about the “contest” Bob had to see who could go with him that first Friday night. The first three to call his house at 7 that night could accompany yet-to-be-named “Groovy”.

“Do you remember who won the contest to sit in Bob’s car?” I asked Al over coffee. This, just weeks ago, but it merited talk. “You DO know there was no contest—it was all bullshit!” he shot right back. (I was incredulous; I had no idea. …a half-century later).

FLASHBACK TO 1965: Some inquiries demand answers, such as (let us say) identifying the passengers in Snyder’s car. To the source I went, back in March to learn that Joel, Harold and Arthur had seats that first night. I didn’t ask Bob, though, whether it all was a sham. I believe in neither Santa Claus nor the Easter Bunny, but in Bobby I trust. Always.

Life’s canvas is filled with moments of expectation separated by measures of….pure…life. And how valued is just….life?

Nothing compares though to (even as a man) having a baby. Picture-perfect is my memory of each child’s birth date. Like it was yesterday. So too do I image the arrival of their offspring. Standing in Lakewood holding a MANDEL sign on Election Tuesday Michael called—water’d broken… pacing a Northwestern waiting room as Stacy labored with Lucy…dancing at my reunion when Meredith called (more water).

I’ll be crossing the country again, to see grandkids. Max will beckon me to play and Eli will follow me with eyes and before I leave I’ll tell Michael again just how proud he makes me.

Then the pendulum swings…and in Cleveland once more I’ll make plans for Chicago. Another trip west.

—Lucy’s smile will seduce and I’ll roll on the floor as her “Pappy”.

Things are great these here days. I’m in love, reasonably healthy, and wise enough to know just what things merit counting days ‘til. Like looking into the eyes of my family.

We’ll be heading east soon — and I’m counting the days down.. And until then though, it will feel like 8:30.

       “I know I won’t be late,
       ‘Cause at half past eight
       I’m gonna be there….
       And then the world is gonna be mine,
      This weekend, about a quarter to nine….”

Warren/Dubin (adapted)

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