My columns tend to skew heavily toward sarcasm, obscure pop culture references, and strange analogies. So if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m going to go ahead and let you down easy. This time I’m swapping snarky for sweet.
If you read “Mamas, Don’t let Your Babies Grow up to be Cubbies,” you already know I’ve doomed my own children to be Cubs fans. My daughter is 8 now, but when she was 2 or so, I wrote a children’s book that detailed what I imagined her first Cubs game might be like.
I even got a copyright for it. Of course, subsequent bouts of laziness and fear of failure intertwined with a lack of exposure and disposable income to ensure that this thing never saw the light of day.
I’ve talked with a co-op publisher and reviewed the self-publishing outfits; I’ve even done some exploratory searches for illustrators. After all, as any parent knows, the illustrations are key in a children’s book. But I really wanted to share this with folks because I don’t trust myself to get the project off the ground.
I hope you have at least a fraction of the fun reading it that I did writing it.
The little girl’s daddy came and tucked her into bed and kissed her on the forehead, saying “Good night, Addison Grace. I love you.”
“I love you too, Daddy,”
“Now you get some sleep, because tomorrow is a big day.”
“Okay,” said Addison.
As her daddy left the room Addison snuggled into her sheets with her blankie in her hands, but she couldn’t fall asleep. She and her daddy were taking a trip tomorrow, just the two of them, and Addison was very excited. She had wanted to take this particular trip for a long time, but her mommy had always said that she was too young. Now that she was 5, she was old enough. Tomorrow, she was going to Wrigley Field to see her first Cubs game.
Ever since she could remember, which was not very far back, Addison’s daddy had talked to her about the Chicago Cubs. He had told her about players and games he remembered from when he was a little boy. He even told her about players from when her Grandpops was a little boy, which was a long, long time ago.
During baseball season, Addison would sit in her daddy’s lap and they would watch the Cubbies on TV. She even had a picture from the day after she was born of her daddy holding her in the hospital as they watched a game. Well, her daddy was watching the game anyway. Addison was asleep in the picture, but her daddy told her that she was still cheering anyway.
After what Addison thought must have been a very long time (it was really only a few minutes), she fell asleep. When she woke up, the sun was just beginning to peek into her bedroom window. She smelled her daddy’s coffee brewing and heard him singing quietly as he came up the stairs.
“You ready to go, Addison Grace?” her daddy asked.
“No, Daddy, I just got up!”
“Well, let’s get you changed and get some breakfast in you, alright, kiddo?”
Addison had already laid out her favorite blue jeans, along with her Cubs jersey and her pink Cubs Princess hat. She liked the hat because it had a hole in the back for her to put her ponytail through. It also had pink ribbons that danced and twirled behind her when she ran.
After Addison was in her carseat and all buckled in, they left for the game. It took a while to get to Chicago, but Addison and her dad had plenty to talk about. Almost before she knew it, she saw the road get very busy and then saw big buildings outside the car windows. As they came around a bend, Addison saw a big glass bubble of a building and asked, “What’s that, daddy?”
“That’s Soldier Field, Munchkin. That’s where the Bears play. And look, up ahead is Lake Michigan.”
Addison was sure that she had never seen anything so big in all her life. The lake looked like it went on forever, and it kept going right along with them as they drove. She saw people playing volleyball on the beach, riding bikes and walking dogs. They looked like they were having a good time, but she knew she was going to have an even better time.
“We’re getting close now, kiddo” said her daddy from the front seat.
Addison noticed that the buildings were a little smaller now, and very close together. She saw train tracks above them and also a cemetery as they drove down narrow streets. Soon, they turned down a narrow street and a man waved them into a parking spot. Addison’s daddy gave the man a lot of money and then took her hand and began to walk. She could see now that other people were all heading in the same direction and that all of them were wearing Cubs clothes.
“How many people other people are going to the game, Daddy?” Addison asked.
“Right around forty thousand.”
Forty thousand was a very big number to such a little girl. She didn’t think she could count to it even if she tried. How could so many people all fit into one place? Addison didn’t even realize there were that many other people who liked the Cubs.
After walking for a short time, they came to a street corner and then they could see it.
“Is that it, Daddy? Is that Wrigley?”
“Yes, baby girl, it is. Wrigley Field.”
They crossed the street at the crosswalk and Addison could see the green street sign that read “WAVELAND.”
“This is where they hit the home runs, right?”
“That’s right. And pretty soon, we’re going to see an even better sign.”
Addison and her dad walked to the front of the ballpark, where a giant red sign said: “Welcome to Wrigley Field, Home of Chicago Cubs.” That was not the sign her dad was talking about though; he was talking about the one with her name on it. Addison had heard about it before, she had even seen it in a couple of pictures, but she saw it in person for the first time when her daddy picked her up and said:
“Look up there, just to the right.”
The sign read: ADDISON.
Addison the girl looked up at ADDISON the sign for a few moments and a great big smile brightened her face. When her daddy lowered her back down to the sidewalk, she saw that he was smiling too.
“Hey, kiddo, what do you say we take a look at some of the shops and grab a few t-shirts? You know your mom’s going to want one.”
“Okay, then I want to eat ‘cause I’m getting hungry.”
“Sure thing, munchkin.”
They sat down in their seats along the third base line just in time to catch the end of batting practice. Addison got to see a couple Cubs players hit and she loved the sound it made when the bat hit the ball just the right way. She also loved the grass; it was so green and bright, just like the ivy on the outfield wall.
“I like it here, Daddy.”
“So do I, Addison, so do I.”
The game went by pretty slowly, but the Cubs got a couple of hits and scored a run in the second inning. Addison got to eat peanuts, cotton candy, and even a chocolate malt cup (her dad warned her not to tell her mother that she had eaten so much sugar). They walked around the park and visited the gift shops and Addison used some of her own money to buy a small pink Cubs bat. Her daddy talked about buying himself a jersey but then said that her mom would probably not appreciate that very much.
As the game went along, Addison began to get tired and she laid her head on her dad’s shoulder to take a nap in the fifth inning. When Addison woke up, she saw that the Cubs were losing 5-1 in the sixth inning. She was sad because she wanted the Cubs to win and because the other team had scored while she was asleep. She told herself that she would stay awake for the rest of the game, since the Cubs had been ahead when she was awake. Her plan almost worked in the seventh, when the Cubs put two men on base with only one out. After a strikeout and a pop fly though, they ended the inning still behind.
The Cubs did not give up any hits in the top of the eighth and then came up in the bottom of the inning with all of their best hitters coming up to bat. The first batter stepped to the plate and hit a single into right field and then the next man walked. The third hitter of the inning stepped into the batter’s box, took a swing, and he hit a ball up so high that the centerfielder couldn’t see it. The sun was in his eyes and he dropped the ball. Then the Cubs’ fourth hitter was up with the bases loaded; he hit the ball very hard, but the third baseman dove and made a great catch. With the bases still loaded, the next hitter struck out. Two outs.
Now Addison was worried. She remembered seeing her daddy sitting on the couch and rocking back and forth when he saw things like this happen to the Cubs on TV. Addison had her hands on her knees and she was rocking back and forth herself, saying:
“Come on, Cubs. Come on, Cubs. Get a hit here, just a little hit.”
She looked over at her daddy and he was doing the same thing. He was just staring out at the field and rocking in his seat.
Walking up to take his swings was the sixth batter in the inning. Addison liked the way he held the bat. She looked from the batter to her dad and then turned back to the game and that’s when it happened: the batter swung and Addison heard that same “crrrack!” that she had heard during batting practice.
The ball sailed out, out, out and smashed against the wall in left-center field, sending leaves of ivy floating to the ground. She thought the ball was lost, but then she saw it fall from the vines. The centerfielder picked it up, but the Cubs players were already rounding the bases. All around the park, the crowd was standing and starting to cheer and yell. Addison had to struggle to see between the people in front of her, but she somehow managed to get a good view of the field.
“Yessssss! Go, go, go!” Addison screamed.
By the time the fielder threw the ball back in, the batter was on second base and three runs had scored! Addison turned to her daddy and saw that he was looking over at her with little tears in the corners of his eyes.
“What’s wrong, Daddy?”
“Nothing at all, kiddo. I don’t think it could get much more right.”
The big hit had made the score closer but the Cubs were still down 5-4 with a man on second base. Another base hit would have tied the game, but the next batter struck out swinging and the Cubs had to take the field again. Sadly, they were not able to score in the ninth inning. Addison cried when the game ended.
“What’s wrong, Addison?”
“The Cubs lost, Daddy,” Addison managed to say between sniffles.
“Welcome to the club, kiddo,” said her daddy with a little smile.
After the game had ended, Addison and her dad left the ballpark and headed back to the car. Addison had to be carried most of the way back and she was asleep almost before she was buckled into her seat. She only woke up when they stopped for gas and again when they got home. When her mom asked her how her day went, all she could say was:
“The Cubs lost and we got you a shirt.”
“Oh, it’s too bad they lost,” said Addison’s mom.
“It’s okay, mommy, there’s always next year.”
And then Addison Grace got into bed and she fell asleep and dreamed about the next time she could visit the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Far be it for me to tell you what to take away from this, but in the years since I’ve written it, this story still strikes me anew when I read it. And coming from someone who absolutely HATES to read his own work, I think that’s saying something. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I do get a little misty each time I re-read it.
When I initially wrote the story, the Cubs won at the end. But my first editory, who happens to be my aunt and happens to be the wife and mother of Cubs fans, suggested that it might be more fitting to have them lose. Bingo! I love the element that added to the story.
I know I wrote earlier that illustrations make a children’s book, but I wanted this to be for parents as much as kids. I wanted something that distilled all the inexplicable reasons that we love the Cubs, and then pass that love to our kids, into something that that families could share. Sorry to get a little sappy on you, I’ll stop now.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, the real thing was pretty close to the story. Well, you can see from the picture that we were on the first-base line instead of third. But certainly an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.