A Letter To My Six-Year-Old Self
Don't be afraid. I know Mom and Dad said not to talk to strangers, but I'm really not a stranger. I know this may be hard for you to understand, but I'm you. And I'm only writing to you now because I have something very important to tell you.
When Dad tells you you're going to the ballpark to see the Red Sox, please, please don't go.
I know it doesn't seem that important now, and I know the age of twenty-three is all but unimaginable to you, but I will thank you if you just say, politely and respectfully, no, Daddy, I don't want to go, let's go to Benson's Animal Farm or Markey's in Hampton Beach instead. Get him to teach you to play Skee-Ball a little earlier, maybe. Oh, and eat all the steamers and lobster you possibly can now-you'll be allergic to them by the age of 20.
Okay, maybe it's too much to ask for you not to go to the game. You can't stay home by yourself, after all. And there's no denying it will be fun. So maybe all I can ask-and I know it's a long shot-is that you try to resist the experience as much as you can.
Please try not to eat too many of those ballpark peanuts. Don't breathe so deeply when you walk in the gate, smelling hot dogs and popcorn and cigarettes and the pavement in the sunshine. Try as hard as you possibly can not to listen when Dad teaches you how to keep score. Pay no attention whatsoever to a man called Wade Boggs, and when he hits a homer, force yourself to say, ho-hum. Whatever you do, don't ask Dad why it sounds like they're booing Dwight Evans.
Oh, and you might want to nip that pint-sized crush you have on the Rocket in the bud. No, don't blush! Just try for me.
Why. Of course you would ask why. I often forget how precocious you are. How you need a reason for things. How you try adults with your incessant intelligence and nagging questions, always with why?
Just remember--you asked.
Because, little one, in a little over a decade and a half you'll come back to Fenway on a blazing bright Memorial Day. The ballpark that seems so endless now will be shockingly small to you-like a little dollhouse ballpark. It won't look real. This will be terribly disappointing.
Because when you walk in early you will watch Manny Ramirez-the left fielder-take batting practice, and his swing will look like ballet, and it will make you decide against your better judgment to stay just a little longer.
Because you'll walk down through the narrow aisles, exploring and breathing in the smell of beer and wet grass, and sooner or later you'll end up near the dugout and Johnny Damon-the center fielder-will be two feet in front of you, and you won't have a pen. You'll watch him sign autograph after autograph and finally figure out that you should run across the street and buy a pen. But when you get back with the pen, the players will be heading into the clubhouse, and you will have missed them. This will hurt.
Because then you'll go find the seats you paid almost a hundred dollars for-I know, a hundred dollars, can you even imagine it?-and they'll be about as comfortable and roomy as sitting on a mouse trap. And you'll sit and look out at the green, green field and the Prudential Building and your favorite, the Hancock Tower, looming in the distance, and otherwise there'll just be the green walls and the place could be surrounded by water and you wouldn't know it. And you'll feel the world turning around you all of a sudden, and this will make you afraid.
Because by the third inning you'll be giving yourself a migraine sending the pitcher, Derek Lowe, positive thoughts, willing him whenever there are two strikes up on the scoreboard to finish this guy off, come on, D.Lowe, don't give this asshole a base, and almost every time he will utterly fail you.
Because by the fourth inning on this blazing bright Memorial Day the boys in red will be down by two runs already and you'll still be sending those thoughts and biting your fingernails down to stinging nubs that bleed the same bright red as on your new, ludicrously priced jersey, and they will still let you down.
Because you'll clap your hands raw every time Manny Ramirez steps to the plate, and every time, he will strike out, and every time, you'll clap for him anyway.
Because several times there will be Red Sox on base and a man at the plate, whether it's Manny or not, and you will clap and shout for them. And they will let you down, even though you've spent more than a hundred dollars and all your energy out here in the bright sun trying to make them win, they just won't.
Because in the sixth inning Derek Lowe will develop a blister on his right thumb that pops and bleeds and he will end up wiping blood all over his pants and the ball and the Baltimore Orioles will fire up the merry-go-round and score so many runs it's embarrassing, and you'll be stuck there, clapping and cheering anyway, cheering when the Red Sox put just one run up on the board because now at least it's not 9-0 anymore.
I hate to visit all this on you like a macabre Ghost of Christmas Future, but it must be done. I know it doesn't make sense to you now, but you must spare yourself this pain of a beautiful Memorial Day and the Red Sox losing at Fenway Park when you're old enough to feel awful about it.
So right now, while you're still little, find something else to do. Ride your bike. Play pretend. Definitely keep reading and learning how to write—I don't want to give away too much, but that's the one thing that will save you in the years to come. But please, stay away from those Red Sox.
Because the worst part-the worst of all the worst parts, and I hope you're paying attention now, because this is very important-is that after Manny strikes out and D.Lowe stinks, you'll laugh till tears squirt out your eyes when your Kellie turns her cap around with two outs in the ninth inning and says, "Okay! RALLY TIME!" You'll pry yourself out of that little red seat only after the last pitch is thrown. You'll drive home, sunburned, nauseated from a heady combination of ballpark hot dogs and losing, and listening to Yankee fans calling to gloat on talk radio (you won't be able to turn this off).
And because all this began so long ago, you'll make this long drive home knowing in the pit of your stomach that you'll be back watching the very next day.
So take my word for it, honey. Trust what I tell you. I'll be waiting for the relief of knowing you've thought better of all this, and turned away.
Meanwhile, though, it appears Nomar had a good day today in Pawtucket.
Sigh. This is just a goddamn disease...