I was watching a ballgame the other day. The Boston Red Sox thumped the New York Yankees. It’s been a brutally difficult season for my Sox. Their still relatively new wunderkind of a head coach — the one who led them to a World Series win a scant few years ago — had been summarily dismissed for stealing signs. Then a cadre of marquee players left or were traded away to warmer climes, real contenders, clubs that managed to succeed without cheating. So that Boston, a first to worst team in 2020, could claw out a victory against the ever-powerful Evil Empire this late in a COVID-shortened, lost season should have proved quite pleasing to me.
And yet, a certain measure of melancholy settled over me as the innings wore on and were meticulously recorded in the score books using the arcane numerals and symbols scratched in pencil for over a century. It took me a while to work out what was fueling my sadness: The announcer’s voice carried the flat vowels of my New England youth, all the way from autumn-chilled Massachusetts, over Fenway’s famous Green Monster, across a divided country, into my living room in Northern California, where I sat sweating in the September swelter, wishing I could be home.
When I think of home, I feel the setting of seasons in my bones. I crave Marshmallow Jiff and lobster rolls in buttered, grilled Topsider buns. I smell my mother’s homemade spaghetti sauce bubbling in a vat on the stove in the kitchen downstairs. I see the leaves spring forth bright green, deepen in that hue, then flame red and russet and gold, before withering to dun-colored dust on the hard ground. I hear echoes of my younger self squealing with joy in the sunshine and shrieking with terror in the darkness.