Communion Of Dreams


“Whatcha gonna to do with the bat, Jamie?”
July 4, 2020, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Humor | Tags: , , , , ,

There’s an apocryphal story told in my family which has amused my friends for years, but which I haven’t bothered to ever write up. Today seems like a good day to correct that, since it happened on a July 4th almost 60 years ago …

It seems that my family was gathered at the home of my maternal grandmother for a 4th of July party, sometime in the early ’60s (I don’t actually remember this particular event, since I think I was just five or six years old, though I trust that it’s true). Now, the 4th of July was a big weekend for such celebrations back then, and we’d regularly get together for barbecue, beer, and fireworks. Watch some baseball. Play games. And have a birthday party for me. See, I was born on the Fourth.

Anyway, we’d been playing baseball out in the yard, some of my cousins and me. Or, more likely, since I was one of the younger kids in the extended family, I was probably watching my cousins play. And the time came for dinner, so everyone hustled inside, to sit around on various chairs in the big living room and watch some pro sports on a little black & white TV while balancing paper plates of seared meat, baked beans, and salad dressing on their laps.

Now, I’ve never really enjoyed watching sports. Just not my thing. And evidently this was the case when I was really young, too. Because I had finished my dinner, and bored with everyone else just sitting around, had wandered back outside.

Where I found one of the baseball bats we’d been playing with earlier. I picked it up, swung it around, then plopped it on my shoulder and went back inside. Because an idea had struck me.

As I said, I don’t actually remember this, because I was so young. But I imagine that I had been watching some slapstick TV earlier — probably the 3 Stooges or something — and I thought that it would be fun to emulate that.

So I walked over to where my dad was sitting, eating his dinner, watching the game. My dad was a tough, burly, Irish cop who was beloved by many but evidently someone not to be messed with. And I stopped and stood there next to his chair, just looking at him. Finally, he noticed me, looked away from the television, leaned forward and asked “Whatcha gonna do with the bat, Jamie?”

I smiled a little smile, and smacked him upside the head with it.

I have NO idea why I thought this was a good idea. Probably, like I said, because of something I saw the 3 Stooges do, or in a cartoon, or something. But evidently I thought it would be funny.

I knocked my dad cold. Boom, right out. Unconscious. Probably a concussion, though we didn’t worry about such things as much back then.

Before he could wake up, the story is that my mom hustled me off to hide me with friends or other family members for a few days, so my dad wouldn’t kill me when he came to.

Well, it blew over and became something of a standing joke in the family, and later among my friends.

But everybody knew not to ask me damned fool questions like that.

 

Jim Downey

(For other “Jim Downey” stories, I refer you to my old archive site.)

 



Thoughts on this day.

I wrote this nine years ago, and posted it to this blog seven years ago. It seemed like a good time to repost it.

And as my birthday gift to everyone, Communion of Dreams is available for free download today. Please, spread the word to anyone who might enjoy it.

Jim Downey

 

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Thoughts on This Day

One birthday, when I was nine or ten, I woke with anticipation of the presents I would receive.  Still in my pajamas I rushed into the kitchen where my parents were having coffee, expecting to get the loot which was rightfully mine.  My father happily handed over a small, wrapped box.  I opened it eagerly, to find a little American flag on a wooden stick.  My father said that since my birthday was July 4th, he thought I would appreciate the gift.

Horror-struck first at not getting anything better, then a moment later at my own greed, I guiltily told my parents that I thought it was a fine gift.

After a moment, of course, my folks brought out my real presents, and there was a fair amount of good-natured teasing and laughing about the little trick they had played on me.

That was almost 40 years ago, and I can no longer tell you what presents I received that day.  But the lesson in expectations and perspective my dad taught me that morning always remained with me.  My dad had been a Marine, fought in Korea, and was a deeply patriotic cop who was killed while on duty a couple of years after that birthday.  I have no idea what happened to that little flag on a stick, but I do still have the flag taken from my father’s coffin, carefully and perfectly folded at the graveside when we buried him.

I’ve never looked at the American flag without remembering what a fine gift it really is and, as so many others have written, what it represents in terms of sacrifice.  I love my country, as any Firecracker Baby is probably destined to do.  You just can’t ignore all that early training of patriotism, fireworks, and presents all tied up together.

But that doesn’t mean that I am blinded by patriotism.  As I’ve matured and gained life experience, I’ve learned many other lessons.  Lessons about tempering expectations, living with occasional disappointment, accepting that things don’t always work out the way you plan no matter how hard you work, how good your intentions, or how deserving you are.  Still, you learn, grow, and do the best you can.  This, it seems, is also the story of America.  I believe we are an exceptional people, holding great potential, with our best years still to come.  But nothing is guaranteed.  We must honestly, and sometimes painfully, confront our failures, learn from them, and move on.  The original founders of our country were brilliant, but flawed as all humans are flawed.  Some of their errors led directly to the Civil War, that great bloody second revolution of the human spirit.  That they made mistakes does not negate their greatness; rather, it shows us our potential even though we are not perfect.  They knew, as we should know, that only we are responsible for our self-determination.  Not a king, not a God, not a ruling political class.  Us.

Today we’ve been gifted with a small box with a flag inside.  A token of our history.  Let us not take it for granted.  Let us not think that the thing itself is more important than what it represents.  Let us look on it and declare our own responsibility, our own self-determination.

Happy Independence Day.



One fourth.

Tomorrow I turn 57. Yeah, on the Fourth of July.

That might seem a little weird to someone who doesn’t have a birthday on the Fourth. Not to me. I’ve grown up with it.

But you know what seems weird to me?

That I’ve been alive for almost one-fourth of the entire time that the United States has existed. Run the numbers, and you’ll see.

It’s very odd to realize just how young our country is in some ways. And how much things have changed just in my lifetime.

I remember the early days of the Space Race. I remember the night Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

And I remember growing up with casual racism of the worst sort. When homophobia was so deeply ingrained and widespread that the word itself didn’t even really exist. I remember using words like n***** and f***** without a trace of embarrassment, because they were so common.

Things have changed somewhat. Not enough. But still, too much for some people. Because change can be scary. Threatening.

The length of my life will take you to the time of Sputnik. The length of another such will take you back before Kitty Hawk. And just one more will land you well before the Civil War.

Change can be hard. And the fight never ends. But have hope: progress can be made. Both for individuals and for countries. Perhaps, even, for the whole world.

 

Jim Downey



Happy Birthday, America!

I bought you a book:

Communion of Dreams [Kindle Edition]

James Downey


Digital List Price: $3.01 What’s this?
Print List Price: $11.95
Kindle Price: $0.00
You Save: $11.95 (100%)

See? It’s free! Today through Sunday! Go get a copy! Tell your friends to go get a copy! Tell your dog to go get a copy! But not your cat. Cats prefer to read the wallpaper. You know how they are.

Seriously, Happy Fourth to one and all.

 

Jim Downey