I have a milestone birthday coming soon (September actually) but since we have two major events that month (For New Day Foundation, click for info) so this past weekend my wife Gina surprised me with an early birthday gift. No it wasn’t a new set of Ping irons (with 65 degree loft wedge and a great new golf bag). What she chose was actually the most personal and thoughtful gift I have received in a long time.
She brought me home.
One of Gina’s favorite new songs is the one by Phillip Phillips called “Home”. In it he sings,
“Hold on to me as we go. As we roll down this unfamiliar road. And although this wave is stringing us along, just know you’re not alone. Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.”
I like that. I’m gonna make this place your home, just by being in it. My presence here makes this your home. Take that any way you wish. Spiritually, literally… Either way, it works nicely. And it makes me think that Gina likes the song for reasons other than Phillip Phillips is cute.
Gina fooled me into thinking we were spending the weekend here at a local Detroit hotel and instead spouse-napped me to the city of my birth, Chicago. Once we were there she had several other surprises in store starting with a knock on the hotel door. When I opened it there stood six friends with whom I had played a regular poker game here in Michigan. A few years back, the circumstances of life scattered us all over the country. But here, in my hometown, my Michigan poker buddies had come.
That night, after an evening of catching up and gorging on Chicago’s finest stuffed pizza, we settled in for a long night of doing what we became famous for: Trash talk, sarcasm, hysterical laughter that still makes our faces hurt, really bad music (sorry Luke) and some cards thrown in there too. Finally, around three in the morning, more from attrition than desire, it had to end.
The next day more surprises. The boys I met when we were ten, now men I am proud to call my lifelong friends. They came. Soon we were all packed into the Red Line El train headed to Clark and Addison; Wrigley Field. Walking into this baseball cathedral is like stepping into a time machine. I swear I can hear the announcer telling me to “Get your pencils and scorecards ready…” Over there is an Andy Frain usher. Cathy’s face is getting red from the Sun out in the bleachers. Standing by the beer guy is my dad and his brothers. Just four rows back from first base is my brother and his sons. In the field it’s “Santo, Kessinger, Beckert, Banks – The infield third to first. The battery is Holtzman and Hundley.”
It was a dream. A sun-kissed Saturday at the Friendly Confines. Everywhere I looked was a memory. As we took the El train home the windows provided a flip-book memory show as we flew past Belmont Ave (Leona’s restaurant and their Sicilian Chicken), Armitage (Gamekeeper’s and nights of debauchery), North Ave (The Second City Theater), and on. Restaurants, taverns, the church where Cath and I got married, parks where we played pick-up basketball, my first apratment… and so it went.
Later that night there was more food, more recollections, more stories from the old days, more “What’s new” with these new days. Eventually it was time. The weekend came to a close. As we drove East on the Skyway headed back to Michigan I was quiet for a time. Stunned really.
I couldn’t believe they all came. Busy men, all with full calendars, responsibilities, bills to pay, etc. They all just put it down for a day or two to come and be together. I loved that. I was humbled by that. I was blessed by that. I know that I call Chicago “home”, but really, home is where your people are. Home is where your boys are. They “make this place your home”. Billy, Curt, Karl, Jim, Luke, Mychal, Scott, Jeff and Danny. Men from different eras of my life. From different parts of the country. Men who blessed me, and each other, by going home for the weekend.
Anyway, I am reminded of Thomas Wolfe. He said, “You can’t go home again.” Obviously he never met Gina.
She did the impossible. She brought me home. I could never imagine a better gift. (Unless of course those Ping irons also included the rescue clubs too! I mean let’s be practical!)
For anyone who appreciates this kind of thing, here is the incomparable Buddy Guy doing the song the way it’s supposed to be done…