, Gloucester, MA

April 22, 2013

Letter: Remembering, recovering days of innocence

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

I’m going to hate leaving this life when my time comes someday. It is so magical to me.

I was collecting baseball cards when I was a kid growing up in Havre de Grace, Md.

My older brother Eliot and I would hunt down discarded soda bottles along the railroad tracks and in the woods which could be cashed in for two cents apiece. We’d head down Stokes Street to a dingy little wooden-floored, poorly lighted convenience store called Lawder’s, where we’d cash in six of ‘em and receive two packs of cards at five cents each and a Tootsie lollipop — excitedly hoping the seven-card pack of Topps brand would have a Yankee in it.

Mickey Mantle was my hero. I wore his No. 7 on my Orioles uniform when I pitched in Little League. A kid down the street named Tommy would trade cards with me. It was so important to get a good deal.

Then we’d rubber band a pack of ‘em and stand facing each other on the sidewalk in front of my house. You’d lean a little and toss the pack toward the crack in the sidewalk. They’d bounce. Whoever got their card pack closest to the crack got a card from the other guy.

I was also learning to build models in those days. Planes and battleships. What a rush. The joy was immense. Opening the Revell or Monogram box was such a thrill.

As I progressed, I began painting the planes. I built an aircraft carrier once. It seemed such a daunting undertaking.

Putting on the decals at the end was so cool. Dipping them in water and carefully sliding them off the paper onto the model took such care. Messing one up was so upsetting.

About a hundred yards away from my brother Eliot and my bedroom window, across a wire fence, lived Squeaky and his older brother Steve. We devised this clothesline-like device running through the air from our window to theirs. And we attached notes and pulled ‘em across after dark. How I wish I could remember the content of those messages so I could re-enter the mindset of an 8 and 12-year-old.

I have the greatest memories of sledding. I wish the ghost of winter’s past would visit me and take me back. Watching the weather report in Maryland hoping with all my heart a meaningful snowfall would arrive. School being canceled created such euphoria in my childish soul.

In the summer, it was Wiffleball. My dad built us a miniature Little League backstop right in front of the creek and we had a low wooden stake and string fence. It was homerun derby. We kept statistics, the goal being to become the homerun champ. One night we had a massive rainstorm. The creek became enraged and swallowed up the backstop.

Some of you reading this know I’m a “street preacher,” but what I’m really preaching is innocence — the loss of innocence, and the hope of re-capturing it again through Jesus.

Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”