breakfast of champions
the little one was shlurping up the last bit of waffle a la jam, running way behind this morn, when he called out, “excuse me, can i have my sports section?”
he didn’t seem to mind the strawberry dribble running down his cheek. but he did mind when i–the one charged with shushing him out the door and down the sidewalk, somehow sweeping to the schoolhouse door before the whistle blew–did not oblige.
demurred, in fact, with a simple, and emphatic, “no, sweetheart, we’re late.”
still gulping, he protested: “but you can’t interrupt my morning schedule.”
oh. so sorry. hadn’t realized, sir, that what we had here was a routine, a way of being, a moment on which the day depended.
of course i’d noticed that, morning after morning for the last few days, while the rice chex soak up milk, you, my slugger sweet, soak up RBIs and ERAs and all those alphabet equations that long ago and always have escaped me.
but i had not heard the sound of cement drying, and this becoming what it’s been for ages long before you and who knows how long into the beyond: the rite of little boys and sometimes girls obsessed with all things round and flying through the air, cracking off of wooden sticks and diving through the dirt.
you have joined the ranks, my little reader, of those whose day begins with the shaking out and creasing of the pages where all the world’s a horserace or a ballgame or a wobbly putt rolling toward what might be a rodent hole but, in fact, was put there for the purpose of men and women wearing god-awful-colored pants and shoes with little nails jutting out from underneath the toes.
you, too, now scour the front page, search for what you call the headline, the score of last night’s game. and then, you bore inside. you up and rise off your stool or chair, you dive head-first into the somethings you call “the standings.” you report, out loud, all sorts of names and numbers. and by then i’ve lost you, i am sad to say.
just this morning, as i combed the house for keys, ran back for one last swallow of caffeine, you were broadcasting in spanish, no less, spitting out the scores–“quatro to uno,” you barked–for those who cared not to know in english.
quite impressive, little boy. you who months ago could have cared no less for all those scribbles on the page. you who thought you’d never read a number or decipher all the letters crowded there together, a herd masquerading as a word.
in a world where newspapers are whirling at the center of a storm, where few and fewer see the economic sense of printing news on paper and plopping it on your doorstep–such service, and such fear, will we go the way of the milkman and the knife sharpener, those door-to-door deliverers of goods and service, long lost–someone needs to understand the power of the third section from the front. the one marked plainly, sports.
it is from here that whole lives of depending on the news are born, are launched, are set in motion.
i have watched it time and time again. my brothers, four, my own boys, first one, and now the other.
it is reading, yes. but it is so much more. it is learning how in this dog-race world you measure up. it is boiling down the game of running bases to charts and graphs and teeny-tiny type. it is drama on the field–and life–condensed to bare-bone stats.
it is the way a boy with spoon in soggy flakes first reaches out beyond his little world, into that of world beyond.
what’s on the screen at night, becomes his in the morning, there in black-on-white, just beside his cheerios and wheaties, his waffles and his raisin toast.
it is the breakfast of champions, with a splash of milk. and orange juice on the side. hold the pulp, please. pass the syrup.
i find it wholly charming to watch as little boy begins to sift through all the chaos of the world, and claim as his the simple practice of nose-diving deep into the sports page.
at least you get no grass stains sliding into home.
do you make sense of your world through daily rituals? how and when did you learn to order your day through the religious practice of some sense-making routine? do you too have your breath taken away watching little children grow, take on the ways of grownups all too soon?