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I honestly don’t remember a whole lot from elementary school, but I still remember September 11, 2001. 

I remember it was a beautiful, warm day. There was not one cloud in the sky and we were all so excited that we would be able to play outside for recess and gym class. 

At just 8 years old, I was in the fourth grade at East Street Elementary School in Hicksville — just a little over an hour away from one of my favorite places, Manhattan. 

My dad was a truck driver back then, and he was always in the city making deliveries. He’d take me and my brother out there every other weekend and show us his favorite spots. One of them was the World Trade Center. 

“Isn’t it amazing?” I remember him saying, “They look like Legos from far away.”

Back at school that Tuesday morning, I remember simply going about our day. Things eventually got weird, though. My principal came to speak to my teacher out at around 10 a.m. outside of the classroom, and I remember her face when she came back inside. She was white as a ghost. 

Throughout the day, my classmates started to get pulled out one by one. I remember being mad that I couldn’t go home, like everyone else. I remember being jealous but, looking back, they were being taken out because their fathers and uncles were first responders and their families were scared.

When our parents picked us up later in the afternoon, I remember everyone just feeling so sad. The sky wasn’t that pretty blue anymore — it felt like a dark cloud washed over us, which on reflection might have been smoke heading east. Everyone’s energy was low. The news was the only thing we watched for hours.

My dad made it home later that night and he was shell shocked. From his truck route in Queens, he said he saw the smoke. He was on the parkway, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, fleeing with the rest of the people trying to evacuate Manhattan. 

My family was lucky — we didn’t lose anyone that day, and being so young I don’t know if I was able to recognize what happened until much later in life. 

I knew it was a sad day. I knew that something bad happened. I knew that I had to wear red, white and blue on Sept. 12 and that a lot of people were missing and dead. 

But when I became a journalist, I started to talk to more and more people who were impacted on the anniversaries of the attacks. Every year since the age of 8, it began to become more real to me. 

After college, I met my best friend, Nicole, who’s aunt worked in the first tower. She died on impact when the plane crashed through her office. 

Hearing these stories opened my eyes more. I grew up with 9/11 and felt it firsthand. But growing up, I started to learn more about the actual people whose lives were lost that day. I heard their stories and they eventually became real persons to me — not just numbers in this crazy story. 

It’s amazing to think that 20 years have passed since the events which took place that horrible day. It’s amazing to see what has happened since then —wars, recessions, other bombings and a pandemic. And it’s amazing to believe that families, like my friend Nicole’s, have been without their loved ones for two decades.

No matter what age you were when the events happened — or even if you hadn’t been born yet — I think the anniversary of 9/11 should remind all of us to hug our families a little harder. Tell them you love them, and never forget the thousands of people who were impacted that day. 

Julianne Mosher is the editor of the Port Times Record, Village Beacon Record and Times of Middle Country. 

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Welcome to the casino. Just by being alive today, you’ve all punched your ticket to the worldwide slot machine.

Now, the machines operate the way people expect, most of the time. They follow their programming, they make the loud noises as the three wheels inside of them spin and then show images on those three wheels.

The machine doesn’t cost anything to play. You don’t have to put in quarters or tokens or anything else. You just sit down and a machine starts spinning.

In fact, when you sit in one of our relatively unclean chairs, because we’re much more about playing the game than we are about cleanliness or safety, the process begins.

The chairs are close together, so you and your neighbor can compare notes on how you’re doing in this game, can share stories about your lives and can enjoy time out, away from the limitations of quarantine and all the other frustrations that you’ve had to endure for so long.

We do everything we can to discourage masks. We want you to be able to share the freedom that comes from seeing each other’s faces clearly.

And, if you should happen to need to use the bathroom, we don’t have any annoying signs about washing your hands. In fact, we don’t even recommend soap. What is the value of soap, after all? It’s probably some corporate scheme to boost profits somewhere.

We mean, come on, right? The cavemen didn’t have soap and they lived long enough to become fossils. That should be good enough for you, too, right? Before they died, they drew cool things on the wall, sharing stories that survived years after they did.

Now, we want to share a few details about our cool slot machines. You want to know a secret? We didn’t build these machines. We know, it’s hard to believe, but they just appeared one day, as if a stork or another kind of flying creature brought them. Well, not all of them. That’s the incredible thing. A few of them appeared and, after we started playing them, they copied themselves. The more we played them, the more they produced new copies.

Now, you might have heard that these machines can be bad for you. But, hey, so many other things are bad for you, too, and you still do them, right? You have a little too much to eat or drink now and then, and you maybe put a recycling bottle in the wrong trash can, but who pays attention to those things?

Anyway, so, these original machines built themselves the same way, most of the time. Each time a new machine appeared, they worked the same way, with images flying across the screen.

Every so often, when the machines made enough copies of themselves, they changed slightly. We’re not exactly sure why or how that happened, but it’s perfectly normal, we think.

The newest versions of these machines spin at a faster rate and also copy themselves more rapidly. One of them, which is now the most common type, has a big D on its side. That’s the dominant machine.

Actually, at this point, we’d kind of prefer people stop playing the game. You see, each time you play the game, not only does that D version copy itself, but our people are telling us that we run the risk of creating other types of the machine that might have worse features.

But, wait, how can you stop playing? What can keep you out of a casino that’s everywhere? Well, there’s a special thing you can get at any local drug store that someone puts in your arm. After you get it, you become almost invisible to the machine. That may be the best way to get away from these monsters.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

A few weeks ago, a Chicago White Sox player named Yermin Mercedes did what he was paid to do, hitting a ball far. His manager Tony La Russa was furious because his player broke an unwritten rule, swinging at a 3-0 pitch from an infielder for the Minnesota Twins when his team was already winning by 11 runs.

The next day, La Russa seemed fine with a Minnesota pitcher throwing a pitch behind the knees of Mercedes as punishment for a violation of that unwritten rule.

So, what are other possible random unwritten rules regarding life sportsmanship and what should the potential punishments be for violating those rules?

For starters, if you’ve lost a lot of weight, you don’t need to ask other people who clearly haven’t lost any weight, or perhaps have put on pandemic pounds, how they’re doing on their diet or if they’ve lost weight. They haven’t lost any weight. We know it, they know and you know it. You don’t need to contrast your success with their failure. The punishment for that kind of infraction should be that you have to eat an entire box of donuts or cookies in under a minute.

If you rescued a dog from the vet or the pound or from a box beneath a bridge in the middle of an urban war zone, you don’t need to ask where I got my overpriced and poorly trained dog. We get it: you did something great rescuing a dog, while those of us with designer dogs are struggling to get them to be quiet while we repeat the few answers we get right to the questions on “Jeopardy!” The punishment for such self-righteous dog ownership should be that you have to pick up the designer dog’s poop for a day. If you’ve been over virtuous, you also might have to compliment him on the excellent quality of his droppings and send other people a TikTok of your poop flattery.

If your kid just won the chess championship, you don’t need to wear a different T-shirt each day of the week that captures the moment of her triumph. The punishment for over bragging is that you have to wear a tee shirt that says, “Your kid is just as amazing as mine and certainly has better parents.”

If you’re in first class on a plane and you board first to sit in your larger, more comfortable seat, you don’t have to look away every time someone might make eye contact or, worse, through your fellow passengers. You aren’t obligated to look at everyone, but you can make periodic eye contact or provide a nod of recognition to the plebeians from group six. The punishment for such above-it-all behavior should be that you have to echo everything the flight attendant says as others board the plane, offering a chipper “good morning” or “welcome aboard.”

Finally, if you’ve taken a spectacular vacation, you don’t need to share every detail of your trip, from the type of alcohol you drank to the sweet smell of the ocean breeze to the sight of a baby bird hatching just outside your window. If you overdo the unsolicited details, you’ll have to listen to every mundane detail of the person’s life who was home doing his or her job while you were relaxing. Afterwards, you’ll have to take a test on his story. If you fail, you have to listen to more details, until you can pass.

Maybe Mr. La Russa has a point: unwritten rules could be a way to enforce life sportsmanship outside the lines.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

After setting the American record for the longest consecutive streak of 340 days away from Earth aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly returned and flopped into a pool.

While we all haven’t been away from Earth for any length of time, we have been living in a modified version of the normal we knew.

Like Kelly, we have spoken with our close friends and family through electronic devices that beam them onto a screen in front of us.

We have watched some of their drained faces, as they isolated themselves for a month or more, battling through the cough, fever and discomfort of COVID-19.

We have also seen our relatives at much greater than arm’s length as we celebrated landmark birthdays, the birth of new family members, and socially-distanced graduations and limited-attendance weddings.

In two weeks, I am anticipating the familiar feeling of diving into a familial swimming pool. That’s when I will see family members I haven’t seen in over a year.

We worked around our busy schedules not only to get vaccinated before we saw each other in real life, but also to do so long enough in advance of that meeting that our immune systems would have time to arm themselves against viral spike proteins.

This is the longest period my wife and I have ever been separated from our parents. We know how fortunate we are that our parents didn’t get sick.

We took nothing for granted, staying away from our parents and extended family. We might as well have been on the International Space Station, which was probably among the safest places people have ever lived, given the limited social contact in a controlled environment 254 miles from the nearest pool, family member or pizza restaurant.

We feel so much closer to a more familiar life than we have in over a year, as we anticipate seeing our parents and family members who can attend our son’s graduation. The planned visit has become a dominant and daily topic of conversation in our house. We are wondering what food and drink to serve, how to move everyone from nearby hotels to socially-distanced seating at graduation and what games to prepare in our backyard for our grown children to play with their cousins.

These questions and decisions might have seemed like a responsibility prior to the pandemic, as hosting anyone requires attention to detail and consideration for our guests. That responsibility has transformed into the kind of privilege we might have taken for granted in other years, before the pandemic disrupted family gatherings and turned the calendar into a reminder of delayed gratification of family gatherings.

While we will likely engage in the Texas two-step, trying to gauge how close we can get physically to each other, it’s easy to imagine that hugs, kisses and appreciative smiles will bubble up from the excitement of a backyard that has hosted more routine gatherings of birds, squirrels and chipmunks than of the people who stare at flickering screens in our home.

As we prepare to dive into our own family pools of support, affection and love, we are incredibly grateful to everyone who made such a return to normal possible, from those who explored the basic science that led to the vaccine, to those who developed and tested the vaccine, to those who treated family and friends, to those who stocked the shelves with the food and drinks we needed to take us from the uncertainty of the pandemic to the anticipation of a celebration. Absence made our hearts grow fonder for family and increased our appreciation for everyone who allowed us to reunite with the most important pieces of ourselves. In just a few weeks, we look forward to diving into a more familiar world.

Mockingbird. Photo from Unsplash

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is the time of year when our five senses go into overdrive. Let me enumerate. In no particular order of delight, I’ll start with sound.

The birdsong is sometimes loud enough to provide dance music at a wedding. There are all kinds of musical bars put forth: crooning, warbling, shrieking, hooting, gurgling. There is an incredible range of notes, from high soprano and countertenor to tenor and baritone, even bass. Sometimes the birds seem to be singing in a chorus, other times at counterpoint. If your bedroom window is open, they can wake you up at first light. There can be many birds in the trees or there may just be one mockingbird pretending to be an entire flock. 

The sight of the birds is as much a treat as the sounds, if you can spot them among the leaves. They can range from a nondescript small brown chick, who nonetheless utters the most melodious songs, to crimson or orange-breasted or blue-tailed or grandly multi-colored varieties of different sizes and shapes that perch briefly on the porch railing or snack on the front lawn. They can seem the model of purpose as they deliver food to the open beaks of their newly hatched offspring or of patience as they sit quietly atop the eggs and wait for the next generation to appear.

Speaking of sight, we go from the early purple of crocuses and joyful yellow of forsythia and daffodils to the lush pink of dogwood and cherry blossoms to the deep red of tulips and azaleas. All of that artwork is provided against a bright green backdrop of new leaves on the bushes and luxuriant attire for the tree limbs. Branches on either side of the road unite in the air overhead, creating sun-dappled tunnels as we drive the back-way routes.

The waves at the beaches are calm now, climbing the sand with rhythmic whispers, and the seagulls fly low, looking for a fish dinner in the clear blue water. Too soon, there will be motor boats and jet skis on the harbors and lawn mowers and leaf blowers keeping the landscape orderly — but not yet. The magic and peace of early spring are still, however briefly, with us to be treasured.

The smells at the beach of salt in the air and blossom-scent on the breezes are intoxicating harbingers of the season. Lilacs, that always know when it is Mother’s Day, perfume the neighborhood. And among us humans, there are always those early-bird few who fire up the grill and begin to barbeque on a sunny weekend afternoon. If we play our cards right, we might be invited to share in this primitive treat. The taste is so much better than anything cooked indoors.

Taste is tantalized by early fresh fruit, like locally grown strawberries, and by vegetables like baby asparagus and snow peas. Several different kinds of dark green lettuces are also ready for dining early in the spring.

As for touch, there is the sweetness of a gentle breeze, reduced on a rare spring day from a stern wind to a caress against the cheek. It carries with it the promise of a summer day and the seduction of a summer night.

Add to all of that, the temperature in spring can reach a universally perfect range. Now I know some people like it hot, really hot, even up in the 90s when they can happily sweat. And some people like it cold, even freezing, during which time they can feel energized and stimulated to ski and ice skate. But all humans feel comfortable moving about in a temperature of 75 degrees. Knowing that could be found most months in San Diego almost prompted my husband and me to move there some 50 years ago. Of course, there were other things to consider, and we ultimately moved to Long Island.

Not for a moment do I have any regrets. My five senses are glad we live here.

Photo courtesy of SCCC

Education prepares people for the future, helps them achieve their goals and increases their odds of living a life where they not only survive, but thrive.

As blues musician B.B. King is famously quoted as saying, “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”

President Joe Biden (D) gets that concept, and last week he asked Congress to enact legislation that would allow Americans to attend community colleges for free. Under the American Families Plan, $109 billion would be slated to make two years of community college free for all students. There would also be an $85 billion investment for expanding federal Pell Grants, which is awarded to undergraduate students who display financial need and have not earned a degree. This is one important way to help our young people who are unprepared for the workforce after high school.

For many, a community college has given them an advantage that they may not have had otherwise. From those whose grades were less than ideal in high school to those whose can’t afford to attend a four-year university or are undecided on what they want to do with their lives, a community college provides a stepping stone that is local and affordable for most. 

Here at TBR all three of our current editors attended Suffolk County Community College, which in turn paved the way to making obtaining bachelor’s degrees at other institutions more manageable.

According to the website joebiden.com, approximately six out of 10 jobs require education beyond a high school diploma. To succeed in a world where the economy is globalized and technology driven, people are going to need more than 12 years of education.

The website also goes on to say that one can do a lot with an associate degree. 

“Today in the United States there are an estimated 30 million quality jobs, with an average salary of $55,000, that don’t require a bachelor’s degree,” according to the site.

Free college tuition for community colleges would mean even more young people being able to achieve the American Dream. It can also keep college-aged students in the area, frequenting local stores, which stimulates the local economy. And in the long term, with less student debt to pay, it may increase the odds of people staying on Long Island and settling down.

Two years can make a difference and transform a life. Our sincere hope is that Congress will take this proposal from the president seriously.

At the same time, we hope a better look is taken at our current public school system in America. Even before the pandemic, American children were not receiving an equal education from state to state as many schools are funded through local taxes. The more affluent an area a person lives in, the better the education tends to be. Also, there is a need for more pre-K classes across the country to provide children a head start in learning, both academically and socially. Most of all, everybody should be required to complete 12th grade and not be able to drop out of school at 16.

The education system in the U.S. needs a lot of fine-tuning. Let’s start by providing high school graduates a chance to get the skills they need in today’s competitive world.

Photo from Pixabay

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Strange as it may seem, I always wanted to be a mother. Even before I was in elementary school, I remember hoping someday to be a mother. Thinking back on my early years, I was really more of a tomboy, playing stoop ball and stick ball on the block with the other kids. I did have one doll that I loved. It was quite a progressive doll for its time. I could give it a bottle, and it would subsequently pee. My mother would make sure the baby bottle that had come with the doll was filled with water and not milk. But other than that, I wasn’t particularly given to imaginative girly games like playing house or cooking. I just knew that when I grew up, I wanted to be, among other pursuits, a mother. The idea, of loving a child, teaching a child, nurturing a child, made me happy.

Then I grew up, married a man who also loved the prospect of having a child, and in a short time, we had three. That is, we had three boys within four years and two days. Ever hear the old adage, be careful what you wish for? On the one hand, I adored my boys. I fed them, bathed them, dressed them, played with them and hugged them a lot. On the other hand, I well remember a moment when I sat at the kitchen table, my head down on the crook of my arm, and cried. The three of them were screaming “Mommy!” and chasing each other around my legs with two of them needing diapers changed at the same time. There were dishes in the sink, the next batch of dirty laundry was behind me in a pile, waiting to be put into the overworked washing machine, I had not had a chance yet to change out of my nightgown, and I was seriously doubting I would ever get out of the kitchen alive. This from someone who was never much for crying except in sad movies.

They were exceptionally good communicators. I was convinced that they caucused every night before bedtime and arranged for each to wake me up during the night with a loud scream at a different time. One of my neighbors, catching sight of me putting out the garbage one morning, commented to another neighbor that he had never seen anyone look so tired. Yup, that was me.

But then there was the other side of the experience. They got a little older, made friends who, it seemed, always lived at the farthest reaches of the district, and of course I drove them frequently to play dates. It gave me a chance to meet lots of other mothers. I drove them to weekly music lessons, which enabled them to join the school bands and orchestras. We proudly attended their initially cacophonous concerts that over the years turned into remarkably good classical music and jazz performances. They played baseball, joined the swim team and the tennis team, and we thoroughly enjoyed cheering each at bat, each match, each meet, even if we sometimes melted in the heat or froze in the cold.

Their academic efforts gave us great satisfaction. They studied diligently and sometimes won contests and awards, which gave us vicarious joy. Of less satisfaction would be a trip to meet with the teacher for discussion of any less than perfect behavior.

Then it was prom time. And suddenly, for it seemed sudden, they stood before us in tuxedos, with young women on their arms who they were squiring to the dance. They were all grown up. It was the signal that they would shortly be leaving, eagerly leaving the nest and their parents behind. Yes, they came back regularly from college to have their laundry done and for some good meals. And I like to think for some great hugs. But they were off now, busy with their exciting lives, developing their careers, finding the women they would marry. And the best prize: grandchildren.

How lucky I am that my wish came true.

Photo by Pixabay

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I have two friends whose sons are contemplating important choices. The first son, Matt, is trying to decide where to attend college.

He has gained admission to two elite schools. He can’t go wrong, as his parents have told him repeatedly, with either choice. Making this decision in a normal year would be hard. In a pandemic year, it’s almost impossible.

Matt can’t stay over at each school for a weekend or even attend a few classes. He can’t get much of a feeling for the “vibe” of the school because he can’t go into most of the buildings, even with a mask and with his letter of admission.

He can compare the national rankings from U.S. News and World Report, check college guides, talk with his guidance counselor, chat with graduates from his high school who attend each school and stroll around each campus. 

He can’t, however, fully try on the school, the way he might a tailored suit. Masks cover the faces of most of the people at each school, which makes it impossible to search for smiles on the faces of his potential future classmates.

He recently found himself leaning toward school A. The same day, his father spoke with a friend of his whose daughter was attending school B.

His father showed a picture of his friend’s daughter to Matt. The friend’s attractive daughter caused Matt to rethink his tentative decision.

That brings me to my other friend’s son, Eric. In his mid-20s, Eric has been caught in the same social world that has limited the options for everyone else.

Eric has been dating a woman for over two years and is considering the future of the relationship. He is not sure whether it’s the appropriate time to consider living together or getting married.

Eric is incredibly attached to his girlfriend, who has been one of the few people he sees regularly in real life during the pandemic.

Eric is not sure how long this altered reality, in which he works from home, speaks with family and friends virtually most of the time, and sees his girlfriend during his limited social hours, will last. In the meantime, he’d like something in his life to move forward.

Matt and Eric are weighing their options. For Matt, the choice of college may well come down to the last picture of another student he sees before he pushes a button.

Choosing a college can, and likely should, involve more significant factors. Then again, both of the colleges line up so well that he is likely to have a similar experience, albeit with different people around him, at each school.

Eric’s decision, however, isn’t so interchangeable. It involves a leap of faith that those of us who are married have made that relies on our own criteria. We can consult family, friends, and counselors as we weigh the pros and cons, but, ultimately, the responsibility and opportunity rest with us.

Coming up with his own questions and his own scale to evaluate the relationship is challenging, particularly when everything seems somewhere between good and great right now. He can’t possibly know what life will look like in two, five, 10 or 20 years from now.

I don’t envy either Matt or Eric as they contemplate these decisions. I do, however, agree with Matt’s parents: he can’t go wrong. For Eric, the decision has more significant longer-term ramifications and likely reflects variables that are difficult to imagine, particularly amid the uncertainty of the present.

Photo from Pixabay
Leah Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

Would you like to be different? Would you like to change your personality? Perhaps you would like to be more extroverted. Or more open to new experiences. Or even just more organized. Well, thanks to the pandemic, here is your chance. 

People can and do successfully change their personalities even as adults. Now we are about to emerge from the isolation of lockdown and quarantine and rejoin the larger world. The stage is set for a new you. But this transformation will take work. To start, one could embrace the “As If Principle,” proposed by Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire in England. This would require one to behave as if one were already that different person, and after a time, the new behavior and the person would sync. Famously, that is the story the debonair Cary Grant told of his early life, which started on the Bristol docks as Archie Leach and wound up at the pinnacle in Hollywood. “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me,” Grant said, according to the British newspaper, The Guardian.

An article in the April 11 issue of The New York Times took up this subject. Headlined, “You Can Be a New You After the Pandemic,” written by Olga Khazan, the story states the following. “Researchers have found that adults can change the five traits that make up personality — extroversion, openness to experience, emotional stability, agreeableness and conscientiousness — within just a few months.” 

Another psychology professor, this one at Columbia University, asserts a similar theme. Geraldine Downey, who studies social rejection, has found that “socially excluded people who want to become part of a group are better off if they assume that other people will like them. They should behave as if they are the popular kid. Getting into social interactions expecting the worst, as many socially anxious people do, tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” In another example of change, “people were able to become more extroverted or conscientious in four months just by listing the ways they’d like to change and what steps they would take to get there,” according to the NYT article. If one wants to be more outgoing, one can make a list of upcoming events in which to interact or persons to call for lunches, and after enough such efforts, the act becomes natural.

It can help in this transformation to see a therapist, research recommends. One such example described a person with neuroticism, “a trait responsible for anxiety and rumination.” After a short burst of therapy, in which the “warm, comforting presence” of a therapist encouraged the idea that the client is a valued person, neuroticism receded, and the studies showed the effect lasted for at least a year.

But not everyone can afford a therapist. Mirjam Stieger, a postdoctoral researcher at Brandeis University, and her colleagues developed an app that “reminded people to perform small tasks to help tweak their personalities, like “talk to a stranger when you go grocery shopping,” to prompt extroversion. The app then asks them if they had done that. According to the study, after three months, the change had stuck.

Agreeableness, by the way, involves “greater empathy and concern for others.” And so, being agreeable after this pandemic could mean being gentler toward one another. We now know, for example, how much essential workers sacrificed during the pandemic, many even their lives. That would suggest greater kindness and patience toward someone who, during the pre-pandemic, might just have been dismissed as annoying. We don’t know what exactly has been that person’s recent experience. At least that can be a conscious thought to modify behavior in what otherwise might have been a contentious situation.

For those who wish to change or live differently, as the NYT article says, “your personality is more like a sand dune than a stone.”

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

About 16 years ago, I stood on the warning track and held my then one-year old son high in my arms above the blue, outfield fence in right center field of the old Yankee Stadium. We asked him to extend his glove as if he had leapt in the air to catch a home run.

Now, as he prepares to graduate from high school, my wife and I are pondering the end of an era filled with the numerous triumphs and challenges of youth sports.

In the last few weeks, while we have awaited the time outs, batting glove adjustments, pauses to look for signs from the catcher, and warm up tosses by each pitcher, we have been replaying our own montage from his years on a baseball field.

A few years after his Yankee Stadium debut, our son donned a baggy uniform that hung from his slight four-year old frame, standing with his left arm out, hoping to catch a ball I tossed with a slight arc toward him.

As the years advanced, his skill set and intensity for the game grew more rapidly than the developmental rules of the sport.

Station-to-station baseball was an abomination for him. When he was six, he caught a ball at shortstop, tagged the runner jogging from second and stepped on third for, what he considered, an unassisted triple play. He tossed the ball to the mound and jogged off the field, only to hear that everyone hadn’t batted so he had to stay on the field. I can still see the disappointed look on his face as all the runners moved to the next base.

Every moment wasn’t athletic heaven. He struggled to find the strike zone when he was pitching, swung and missed at pitches he knew he could hit and suffered through the inconsistent coaching and advice of everyone from his father to the parents of his teammates to semi-professionals eager to give back to the community.

Despite playing a game of failure, he continued to venture to fields close and far for another opportunity to compete, get some exercise and join teammates who have become long-time friends.

He learned how to pick up his friends after their moment in the spotlight didn’t end the way they wanted.

He took us to places way off a tour guide’s map of the eastern United States, as we drove from single traffic-light towns, with their one gas station and one diner, all the way up to Cooperstown.

We paced along frigid sidelines, hoping darkness or snow would grant us a reprieve from frozen bleachers and numb toes. We drove on roads in which the car thermometer read 113 degrees.

When he was old enough, he stood on a 90-foot diamond, looking from third to first as if he needed binoculars to see his teammate and a strong wind to help his throw reach the target.

As he got taller and stronger, the distance became more manageable. 

As parents, we made our share of errors on the sidelines and in the stands. While we told him it was the effort that mattered, not the result, he could see the joy in our faces after a win and the slumped shoulders after a tough loss.

While he’ll undoubtedly play other games down the road, that road won’t be as close as the ones we’ve traveled together. 

In a recent game, our son raced back and caught a ball against the wall, in a place on the field similar to the one where he extended his tiny glove at Yankee Stadium. We have shared such a long and inspired journey between those two mirrored moments.