At best, I'm a casual baseball fan though that may be giving myself too much credit. I root for the St. Louis Cardinals but mostly because it's my civic duty. Our local baseball team, the Memphis Redbirds, is a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate. If I were really going to pick a favorite baseball team, I'd select the Boston Red Sox. Boston has a rich baseball tradition, and Fenway Park is the perfect place to watch a game. However, Eric, our oldest son, loves the Cardinals, and I want to be a supportive parent so "Go Cardinals!"
Every year since Debbie and I married, Eric has asked to go to St. Louis for a Cardinals' game. So a few years ago when they opened the newly-renovated Busch stadium, I made plans for Debbie's dad and I to take the Eric and Sam to St. Louis to take in a game. At the time, Eric was 7; Sam was 4. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling the boys about the trip before I secured tickets and that year ever Cardinal fan within a 500-mile radius of the city made plans to attend a game. Apparently, I was a little late making plans, and I feared Eric's disappointment if I couldn't get tickets. After hours of online frustration, I decided my best hope was to purchase tickets on eBay. I began my bidding on Good Friday for an auction scheduled to end late Easter Sunday. Eric discerned that I was struggling to make the trip materialize and watched as I stewed for the next forty-eight hours. He hung over my shoulder every time I checked the status of my bid. I had to get that boy to a Cardinals game.
Easter Sunday was a busy day. After worship services and Easter lunch, we searched for eggs and played at our house. The younger boys and I had our mandatory Sunday naps. Then, we traveled across town to my parents' for Easter dinner and another big egg hunt. We had a fantastic time, but Eric and I were slightly distracted wondering how the auction was progressing.
We returned home pretty late for a school night, about 8:45. The auction closed at 9:00. Eric raced upstairs to dress for bed while I sat down to view our bidding status. He returned a few minutes later just as I realized I'd been outbid; only a few minutes remained to proffer a higher sum.
Eric dragged up a stool and deposited himself be hind me asking, "Did we get the Cardinals tickets, Dad?"
"No, Eric. I'm sorry. We got outbid. It looks like someone else is going to get the tickets."
"Damn," he declared, a my 7-year old shook his head and slapped his knee in disgust.
I almost burst. If I'd been swallowing, water would have shot our my nose. Tears starting surfacing as I restrained my cachinnation. After a brief moment I gathered my poise and posed, "Excuse me? What did you say?" as if I hadn't clearly heard him.
"Damn." He answered expressing no fear or shame whatsoever.
Again, I had to suppress my amusement. He said it with such poise and resolution. "Eric, do you know what that word means?" I was still a little shocked at his boldness.
"It's what you say when your disappointed," he explained slowly catching on to my look of concern. I had sufficiently suppressed my crow.
"Well, it's not what we say," I explained. "Eric, that word isn't very nice. In fact, it's kind of an ugly thing to say, and it sounds really bad coming from a first grader. It doesn't make you sound like the sweet kid that I know you are."
"Okay." I could see the contrition rising in his eyes. He's a tenderhearted kid; he hates disappointing anyone. I can relate.
"It's okay, Eric. You didn't know. Just don't say it again, all right? Hey, where did you hear that word anyway?" He was obviously relieved.
It turned out he learned it from his first grade peers at school. Secretly, I was hoping he would tell me he'd heard my mother-in-law say it. Oh, the mileage I could have gained from that!
After our discussion and Eric was off to bed, I went back t0 the computer and raised my bid until I was certain the tickets were his. That boy needed to see the Cardinals play. So that's what we did.
(The Cardinals just happened to win the World Series that year, too.)