Play Ball!

Play Ball!


Dear Jonah,

During Hanukkah 2015, when you were fifteen years old, I did something unforgivable. I gave you a deck of Jewish baseball cards. What in the world was I thinking!? Dreskins don’t care about sports. And Jewish ones, to boot?! What kind of father treats his son this way?

But there they were. Maybe a hundred cards highlighting the careers of Jewish major league players from the 1870s forward. At best, a modest trivial pursuit. And at worst, a rabbi-dad imposing his stilted view of the universe on his growing, resentful, teenaged son.

And what did you do? Well, you didn’t laugh at me. You didn’t make fun of the gift. And you didn’t make it disappear forever. Instead, you asked me if I would get you card protectors. Card protectors?! Perhaps you were making fun of me.

But it turns out you had a plan. After placing each card in its transparent, protective casing, you mounted them – all of them – across the top of your bedroom wall where it meets the ceiling, bordering and framing your room and most certainly drawing the casual visitor’s upward gaze which would usually be followed by, “What are those?”

And there the Jewish baseball cards remained.

See ’em?

I can’t remember if I ever asked you why you put them on your wall. I suspect it was simply Jonah once again choosing a gently outrageous way to meet the universe. Whatever your reason, you made a slightly embarrassed father feel like a million bucks. Whenever I would walk into your room and see them up there, I would feel a mixture of sensations: amused, vaguely confused, and just a little bit more loved.

Your Jewish baseball card collection finally came down this year. Mom moved her office into your room (to be closer to you, I’m quite certain) and has been making careful choices as to what stays and what goes (the Beatles poster is still there, as is an homage to Monty Python, but the scantily-clad biker women gracing each blade of your ceiling fan, they’re gone).

Note: It only took us nine years to touch your room.

With those ridiculous cards, I don’t know how you did it, but somehow you managed to give me back every bit as much a gift as I once gave you. And while lots of sons and daughters do that, they get to still be around while you don’t. So memories like this one, memories that help me love you all over again, are pretty important.

Thanks for that, kiddo.

Love you forever,

“Gifts Given and Received” is our December 2018 Campaign. Please help us help kids build whole, healthy lives. Send your contribution to today. Thank you!

BillyPlay Ball!


Join the conversation
  • DonJones - December 17, 2018 reply

    Hi Billy—and Ellen,

    Billy, this piece especially moves me. Resonating most for me is the passage of nine years before Jonah’s room can be touched. And then the simultaneous continuing to preserve and the renewing.

    It brings to mind (and heart) Mr. Taylor’s song The Secret o’ Life. The verb used in the song is not applicable here—your situation isn’t about enjoying the passage of time, but instead about accepting and appreciating it—and, oh yeah, I guess, there is some quiet, ironic joy in there.

    Cherish and relish the office, Ellen. Continue writing, Billy.

    Love, Don

  • Julie Newman - December 16, 2018 reply

    Thinking of you and Ellen – so carefully, so intentionally making these changes to Jonah’s room – and noticing how the mysterious, miraculous nature of our hearts creates room for every little thing that they need to hold (including a collection of Jewish baseball cards forever charmed by being given and received.)

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