28 December 2010

Butter Fingers

The new year is coming upon us like "dry leaves before the hurricane fly" or like an Olympic speed skater gingerly crisscrossing his long legs through the last curve and tucking gracefully into a glide at the finish. As he crosses the finish line he straightens up, raises his arms over his head in victory, and shouts "Happy New Year" while everyone cheers and the old year fades into memory. Before the old year vanishes completely it always seems apropos to spend some time in reflection to see what one may have learned, if anything, ignoring the advice of Sachel Page, the famous baseball pitcher, who said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

What have I learned over the past year? Not much to write about I'm afraid. I learned that sometimes you're hot and sometimes you're not. I learned that much of what people admire as "success" is none other than the luck of the draw. I learned that gratitude is the least deeply held of human emotions. I learned that democracy is more or less on
e big cat fight. I learned that greed is not enough to maintain a stable economy. I learned that conspicuous consumption is a path to disaster. What I have especially learned by living in Mexico, however, is to live for the moment, neither fretting about the past nor worrying too much about the future. I accept life as an adventurous journey that eventually ends in a death which I will embrace wholeheartedly when the time comes. I look at death as yet another adventure that will be more interesting and more rewarding than this present state of being that we call "life" and I trust that there is a just and merciful God on Heaven to whom I commend my spirit.

When I was a kid life was much simpler. There didn't seem to be as many rules as there are today...rules that are often confusing and conflicting and that no one has the time to study, much less understand. In Chicago where I was born and raised we played sixteen inch softball as they still do there and also in St. Louis. It is a great game because all you need is a bat and a ball and you can play it on small lots and it is "slow pitch" so everybody can play together, boys and girls, young and old. When we would choose up sides for a game we would call out the rules. If there weren't enough players we would call "right field is out" so we wouldn't need a right fielder
(Sorry lefties. Deal with it.) If we were still short a player we would call out "pitchers hands are out" meaning that the runner had to reach first base before the ball got back to the pitcher. Then we made the rules for home runs, automatic doubles, etc. Most of the time the rules were pretty much the same and only needed some minor tweaking. The person who owned the bat and the ball had the final say. We were all umpires collectively and there was no cheating lest the player who owned the ball or the bat would retrieve his or her equipment and go home, thus ending the game. We even had a game called "piggy move up" when there really weren't enough players to field two full teams. Ahhh, life was good.

I remember that we had a term that we used when someone dropped the ball. We would all shout "butterfingers" to the chagrin of the person who dropped it and everybody would smile and laugh. Everyone dropped the ball at some time or other so it was all in good fun. I haven't heard the term "butterfingers" in a long, long time and I wonder why. I
have a book of poetry titled "Be the Best of Whatever You Are" that was written in 1926 by a wonderful man named Douglas Malloch. The book was passed down to me through relatives and the original belonged to the granddaughter of my great aunt Harriet Turalski. The young girl died of cancer at age twelve but everyone who knew her said that she had a wonderful disposition and they all loved her. Her name was Dolores French and this was her favorite book. It just so happened that one of the poems is called "Butter Fingers".

Butter Fingers
by Douglas Malloch

When we played at one old cat,
Or chose up sides, and things like that,
There were days we dropped the ball,
Couldn't make an out at all.
Don't know why, we couldn't tell,
But oh how all the kids would yell,
"Butter fingers."

Other days we captured flies,
Tagged out runners twice our size,
Caught the pitcher's outs and drops,
Made those great one-handed stops,
Didn't seem to miss a thing,
Never heard a critic sing,
"Butter fingers."

But, I might as well confess,
We didn't know and couldn't guess,
Never really understood,
Why our game was bad or good--
Why we played our best today,
Yet tomorrow heard them say,
"Butter fingers."

That's the reason, in the game
Men call life, I'm slow to blame
Those who fumble this or that,
Be it life or one old cat.
Just remember, when they fall,
Days that you yourself were all
"Butter fingers."

(Bob's note: "One Old Cat" was one of the forerunners to modern baseball)

If you have followed me this far I want to wish you health and happiness in the new year and even though there maybe times when you are all "butter fingers" just remember to take it in stride and keep peace in your heart.

1 comment:

ccinha said...

I love your blog. You are such a good writer, and your ideas are so interesting.

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About Me

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.