The start of baseball season is my annual reminder that I am raising my children on foreign soil. I’m immigrant from the Midwest, with a rich Chicagoland heritage — and, as such, I am a Cubs fan. It’s in the blood; there’s nothing I can do.
My daughters, of course, are New Yorkers. No matter how I struggle to share bits of my heritage with them, it’s all just more stuff from Dad to tune out.
So every summer, we head out to see the Cubs when they’re in town against the Mets. It’s not the same as an afternoon at Wrigley Field (or living in Chicago, of course), but the Cubs are the only piece of my boyhood that travels this way.
As I try to sort out for myself what it is I want to share with my progeny, the word history comes to mind. Communal memories, an understanding of where their great-grandparents came from and the lives their kin lived, these all seem important to pass along. When your family stays put, this task is easy, then your daily life takes you past old schools, parks, landmarks of childhood and family stories.
I’m obviously not alone in feeling that my children are separated from their family’s past. Recent Census data shows at least half of all New York City residents weren’t born here.
Obviously, my girls don’t complain about not being from Chicago. Brooklyn provides wonderful adventures and has been a vibrant setting for their early years. We’ve made annual excursions to Coney Island and festivals in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; birthday parties at Two Boots and Puppetworks in Park Slope. These are all great, but I’d like to be able to share with them the landscape of my youth and history as well.
So I turn to the Cubs. We follow them in the paper and on TV. We buy baseball cards each year, sorting them for the familiar red “C” on the caps. My daughters have overpriced, “official” jerseys I bought them with “Sosa” and “Wood” on the backs. I whoop and holler at the games and enforce what might be termed the “Go Cubs” rule — root for them or go home.
But let’s face it, making my kids cheer for a team isn’t the same as passing on the essence of my past. It’s a lazy substitute for the rich history of my family, which spent many generations in the Chicago area.
There’s no easy answer. Vacations lead us to family and friends elsewhere, and even if I did take my children to Chicago, we’d end up doing the tourist stuff. Family photos and stories fill some of the gap, but they’re always in my voice, which the kids tune out regularly. So I’m left with the Cubs — and the hope that, years from now, my daughters will take their children to a game and say, “Your grandfather was a big fan. You know he grew up in Chicago and so did his parents and their parents, your great-great grandparents…”