The One Where I Found My Baseball Cards and Met Jamie

Over the holidays, my wife and I went back to my Los Angeles childhood home.  We ate fudge, turkey, and vacuum cleaner cookies; played Crazy 8s with my five year old nephew and Settlers of Catan with the ten year old.  And we packed up the remnants of my childhood things and trucked them back in a Budget Rental Truck that was 12.2 times the size of what we needed.
 
We arrived in Wichita and I began to unpack:  John O’Hara books, militaria from my Guam days (not medals or weapons, but seashells and knee high, brown-tree-snake-proof boots), baseball trophies, stamps pulled from circulation, the glue soaked off in the sink of the lockless kids’ bathroom, and my baseball cards:  two 5000 count boxes, one 3200 count box, and 12 or so 800 count boxes.
 
Everything was put in place over the next couple of months.   I sorted the books, mementos, and stamps.  I savored the dessert, putting it off and contemplating how I would sort the cards.  Some days I thought I’d do it by team, I probably had three Seattle Pilots cards from 1970 when I purchased an obviously searched pack, others by player.  I settled on sorting them by year, brand, and number.  Earliest years first.  When I hit 1981 I would go Topps, then Fleer, then Donruss.   In ’88 I’d add Score and in ’89 I’d add Upper Deck.  I got to work. 
 
I found three autographed cards:  two Blue Moon Odoms and one Curt Flood from a couple of signings at Mr. B’s Baseball Cards.  My dad was at a double header where Flood went eight for nine.  I got to spend hours in the card shop that day while dad talked to him.
 
I found eighteen of the Mike Heath/ Tom Brookens errors from 1989 Fleer.  Nine of each.  I spent eighteen dollars on them when they were new.  My wife feigned interest when I showed her that the stats on the back were mixed up.
 
I found a dozen or so of the inserts that went into ’87 Topps packs.  If you collected six and filled out the backs of each one, you could send them in with a check for $1 and get an all-star glossy set.  I sent bunches in.  I numbered the calendar for the obligatory six weeks’ delivery and started checking the mail about three days in.  When the sets finally came, dad made me give one to Jake for a dollar even though it was worth four.  I whined that I did the work, to include filling out dad’s check and giving it to him for his signature.  But dad didn’t relent.  I gave a set to Jake and he gave me a dollar – in quarters and nickels and five pennies.  Two of the inserts I found were filled out.  One with my name and age:  Jimmy, 11.  and one with his:  Jacob, 7.
 
On my third day, I found an ’81 Topps Dave Lemanczyk.  The autographs and errors took me back a bit…, but this one I remembered everything about, again.
 
Jacob came along on June 5, 1979.  He was the fourth ‘J.’  There was Jeffrey who was almost ten and had a different mom who he lived with.  Me, Jimmy.  Jeannene who was two at the time.  And now Jacob.  Though I gave him his nickname:  Jake.
 
Jake’s arrival really added two J’s to our family.  Our babysitter couldn’t take on another infant.  So my mom put an ad in the Daily News.  She hired a series of live-in sitters that I heard anecdotes about later in life:  Bertha with her son Wilhelm, a round little boy who dieted all week and went out for banana splits at Farrell’s on Sundays; the Salvadorean lady who watched the 700 club all evening; and the lady who fell asleep in the rocking chair with Jake while Jean and I played outside.  Dad came home for lunch, picked Jake up and fired her.
 
I was already four and a half when Micki came to interview.  She had a lot in common with mom.  She cooked.  She read a lot of fiction.  And she had a son named James.  She moved in the next day and James became Jamie.
 
I was hesitant.  Jamie was six and I wasn’t going to be five until October.   I was starting Kindergarten next week and would need a friend who wasn’t my sister.  Jamie already went to Kindergarten and was going to start first grade.
 
From the first time I saw him, I knew he wanted to make fun of me. He had a mop of light brown hair, freckles, and a long face. He and Micki stayed in the dining room; we moved the table and chairs into the family room.  Most of what they said in their room could be heard in the living room.  That first night, while I was pretending to watch The Dukes of Hazzard, but was really listening to them talk, I heard him ask, “Why does Jimmy have glasses and a patch over his eye.”  I needed the patch for my lazy eye.  The patch went over my strong eye so I’d use the weak one.  I was hoping he’d think I was a pirate.
 
The next day he stayed in his room for the most part.  I went in the backyard to play with Jean.   We played tag and hide and seek and roll around in the grass. I glanced over every few minutes to make sure Jamie was still watching us out of the window.  The grass made Jean itch, so she went inside.  Jamie stayed at the window in his room.
 
There was a big maple tree right outside his window.  The lowest branch had been sawn off, leaving a handhold.  I had climbed it before, when my dad was there to lift me to the first branch, but I had never climbed it alone.  I walked to the side of the house, and dragged one of the metal trashcans to the tree.  I tipped it over and prepared to climb on the trash can.  I looked up at the window, and Jamie was gone.  I walked around for a bit, kicking dirt and glancing at the window every couple of seconds. 
 
I walked back inside.  I saw Micki was setting out the food for our lunch, bread, mayonnaise, and bologna.  I looked for Jean.  Then I heard her laugh.  She ran into the kitchen.  Jamie chased her.  He grabbed her around the waist and poked her.  She laughed a high-pitched laugh, louder and harder than I had ever made her laugh.  He let her go and she ran away, giggling.  She ran by me and I tripped her.  She cried.  Because she was a girl.
 
Micki looked up when Jean started to cry.  She had big, late 70s glasses and a yellow tube top.  She looked at Jamie and narrowed her eyes.  He slunk back a little and pointed at me as she walked toward him.  “Mom, no…,” he said, but it was already too late.  She picked him up with her right arm as she sat down.  She pulled his brown courdoroys down with her left hand.  I started to say it was my fault, but she was too quick.  “Wap!  Wap!  Wap!”  Jamie cried and ran to his room.  Jean and I, who had only been spanked once each, Jean, for biting me because I ate all the frosting off her birthday cake and me, for eating all the frosting off her cake, were silent.  We stared at Micki.  She smiled and said, “Lunch time.”  We ran to the table and ate.
 
We finished lunch quickly and went outside.  We both felt a little bad.  Jean picked up one of the fallen oranges and threw it at Puddles, our mutt.  Puddles, who didn’t fetch, looked at her.  I picked up some oranges and threw them at Jean.  I missed her a couple of times, kind of on purpose.  One of those times, the orange rolled over toward the trash can I had set up.  As I picked it up, I noticed Jamie in the window.  He had stopped crying and was calmly looking at me.  I turned, threw the orange as far as I could and began to climb up the trash can.  I pulled on the edge of it to boost myself up once or twice, but it fell toward me each time.  I got my Tonka dump truck and set it next to the trash can, but every time I tried to shift my weight from the truck to the trash can, the truck rolled away.  I looked at the window and Jamie was gone.  I looked for an orange to throw at Jean.
 
“Do you want a boost?”  I turned around and Jamie was standing next to the trash can.
 
“What?”
 
He laced his fingers together and bent down.  “Put your foot right there.  I like your socks.”
 
I looked down at my knee high socks.  They both had green stripes.  The one on my right leg had three stripes and the one on my left had two.  I tried pretty hard to match them in the morning.  I didn’t know if he liked them or was making fun of me.  “Thanks,” I said and put my foot in his hand.  I put my right hand on his shoulder.  He stood up a little bit and I got my left foot onto the top of the trash can.  I stood on the trash can and held tightly on the sawn off branch.  “Watch this,” I said as I tried to swing my legs up to the next branch.  I swung up, kicked for the next branch, and missed.  Swung up, kicked, missed. 
 
“You should let me try,” he said.
 
“No, I can do it.”  I swung up again, this time just reaching the branch with the bottom of my shoe.  I loosened my arms and inched my foot forward until the back of my ankle rested on the branch.  I brought my other foot up and worked my way forward until the backs of my knees were on the branch.  I let go of my hand hold and swung from my knees.  I’d never done it before, but I was aiming to impress.  I looked down, but didn’t see him.  I heard metal being dragged.  Toward the lemon tree, I saw him dragging the trash can.  I began to panic.
 
“Bring it back,” I yelled, “I can’t get down without it.”  My thick rimmed glasses fell off into the dirt.
 
“I’m going to climb this tree,” he said.
 
“No!” I screamed, “I’m going to fall!”
 
He turned and ran toward me.  “I’ll catch you,” he said.  He reached the maple tree and held his arms up.  “Reach down and I’ll catch you,” he said.  
 
“No!” I yelled, “I want the trash can.”  
 
“I reached down and he reached up.  I could just reach his hands.  Our fingers interlaced.  He pulled and I loosened my legs as Micki walked into the backyard.
 
“James Jacobs!” she yelled, “what are you doing?”  Just then I fell with an “ooof.”  Right on top of him.  We stood up to dust ourselves off.  
 
“Thanks,” I muttered.  I bent down to pick up my glasses, in two pieces.  I held them up to show him.  We started to laugh, but Micki picked Jamie up again.  She sat on the step and pulled down his pants again.  He began to cry before she spanked him.  She stopped and he ran to the other side of the yard.  Micki looked at my glasses.  “This is probably coming out of my paycheck,” she said.  “You shouldn’t be a trouble maker like Jamie.”
 
“Oh no, I won’t be,” I said.  She turned and walked inside.   Jean walked up to me with a couple of oranges to throw for Puddles.  I wakled by her and over toward Jamie.   He slowly stopped sniveling and began to stare at me.  After about a minute, he pointed at the patch on my eye and asked, “Are you a pirate?”

Jamie, Me, Jean, and Jeff (Micki in the background)

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About Jimmy

The stories herein are about a sentimental 80s child who cried at every showing of ET (the sad part where he was lying in the wash) and his families, then and now. His wife, son, parents, and siblings play their parts well. They have their exits and their entrances. Sometimes their exits are sad, but not as sad as ET.
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5 Responses to The One Where I Found My Baseball Cards and Met Jamie

  1. kjg says:

    Every time I read about you tripping your sister and blaming her tears on the fact that she’s a girl, I laugh and anticipate, knowing I’m seeing double…the little pirate of the past and his son in the days to come.

  2. sethbeccard says:

    Funny how things never change. The part that I laughed at loud at reminded me of our softball team and how you repeatedly threw the ball ten feet over the first baseman’s head, kind of on purpose. Poor Kristi…you guys probably should get a female dog or something to balance things out.

    I also enjoyed the transition from Dave Lemanczyk straight to Jake. I assume they had similar stats.

  3. Mom says:

    Very enjoyable story, but as you said, I always did like fiction. I’d say it’s about 67% true. Arrgh.

  4. Pingback: The One Where Zach’s Eyes Lighten and Look Like Mine, Sort Of | Stories About My Life, 92% True

  5. Pingback: The One About 8-week-old Babies Trying to Live Up to Expectations | Stories About My Life, 92% True

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