I began Nobel Junior High in the fall of ’87 and a few things changed: math got harder, girls stopped talking to me, and lunch went from 50 cents to $1.25.
I was a little upset that my grades went down, a lot upset that kickball skills no longer equaled popularity, and ecstatic that my allowance went up 75 cents a day.
I starved myself each day and went from being a baseball card collector to a baseball card investor. Rookie cards were hot that year and I spent upwards of $6 a week on sets with Jose Canseco, Wally Joyner, Pete Incaviglia, and Bo Jackson. I dreamed my collection was going to be worth six or eight figures by the time I went to college.
Toward the end of ’87, after reading baseball card magazines and pack inserts, I discovered a mail order set. 12 glossy cards, all rookies. One dollar a set now, worth at least ten times that by next month. Taking postage and handling into consideration, the sets were still cheaper if I ordered them through the mail. I gave dad cash for a check of equal value and I ordered my first set.
I checked the mailbox that afternoon. And again the next morning. I checked the mail-order card, “Please allow six to eight week for delivery.” Six to eight weeks! The cards were all I could think about. I dreamed about the glossy smooth coat, about Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell. Rookies and rookies.
My school grades went even lower. Girls continued to ignore me. I raced home day after day to check the mail. I held my breath as I opened the mailbox. I opened my eyes. Nothing. Day after day.
I drew big ‘Xs’ on the calendar after each mail delivery, more certain each day that the cards would be delivered tomorrow and I would impress my brother and my friends and maybe even a girl or two with my glossy, valuable rookie cards.
As the six week mark came and went, I became disheartened. My cards were surely lost in the mail. Yet each day I checked, hoping against hope that they’d be delivered. And each day I sighed at the injustice of life.
Just after Christmas 2011, my wife came to me as I was playing with our eight-month old on the floor. She sat down next to me, giddy. ‘Babe, there were two lines!’ I kissed her. Pregnant again. And I’ve been waiting the intervening nine months. Six to eight weeks took forever when I was in seventh grade. Waiting nine months now is unfathomable. I’m convinced this baby is never coming.
Eight weeks and two days after I sent my order, dejected and sad and resigned that I would fail math, that no girl would ever talk to me, and that I would never be able to pay for college; I dragged myself to the mailbox. I yanked it open.
And there it was. A small box, addressed to me. I gasped and leaped and squealed. I tore the box open as I ran to the house, yelling, ‘They came, they came!’
They were gorgeous and clear, smelling of lacquer. I slid them into my album and showed my whole family. I took them to school and thought myself envied. I raised my math grade to a ‘D’ and a girl sneezed in my general direction. Life was right again.
Those same cards are sitting upstairs today. In a box, next to tens of thousands of others. The remnants of years of lunch money today are, collectively, almost worth three figures.
And each hour I ask my wife how she’s feeling, whether she wants to go to the hospital. And forty weeks for a delivery is still unfathomable.