My baseball cards are in mint condition. They went straight from their aluminum packaging, years ago, into a safe plastic case. They are arranged by team, filling pages and pages of binders and binders that I refer back to when I am at a loss for a statistic. I am careful not to crease them, not to destroy them. They are timeless.
When it comes to friends, I tend to be one of HDTV’s Ultimate Hoarders. I tend to fill my life like an album full of baseball cards…I collect friends—all different types: Big, small, street-smart, book-smart, sport-smart, delicate, tough, fragile, strong—each one just as important as the last one.
Like baseball cards I carefully slip each one in to my heart like I would my Darren Daultons and Babe Ruths into protective coverings so that I don’t lose them, so that they don’t get hurt so that they don’t stray. I am careful not to hurt them—not to bend their words, fold their time in half, not to write on them with something I can’t take back. Like baseball cards, I assign value to them—not monetary—but love--and with the exception of my very best friends and a few others who have graced my heart, the love value statistic (LV for short) always comes out about equal: but I love them each in different ways. Like baseball players, some friends are better at hitting away and making big moves…others are better at making sacrifices, and some are better at pitching me words of encouragement. Each one has a different significant quality…each one of them, I want to believe, belongs on my team.
A good friend recently wrote about a time that she was collecting rocks with a young girl. They couldn’t keep all the rocks that they collected…and they had to leave some behind—the way we have to leave people behind—the way we have to let go of some in order to let others, others fit. But I don’t want to give up any rocks. I want to fill my garden with all the rocks in the world. I want to fill my baseball field with as many players as I can. If I build it—they will come (right Kevin Costner?! Field of Dreams).
But the truth is…you just can’t build a team of thousands. They would all run in to one another trying to catch the ball. They would drop fly balls because they didn’t know who called for it…and no one would ever get to bat more than once in a game—in a week—maybe even in a few months. The game wouldn’t go on—and it would ultimately hurt the team.
Even when collecting baseball cards, you start running out of pages—you start having to replace books, and you start having to give them away to make room for new ones. Even when collecting baseball cards, you can’t spend the same amount of time each day researching the statistics on the back…keeping up with how their skills and stats have changed. You have a collection of thousands of baseball cards, and you can’t keep up with them all. Time just doesn’t allow.
Slowly, I am learning to sort my baseball cards out, to take them out of their casings, and put them in new ones---solid, protected, unbreakable cases, ones that can be stored in a shoebox, that I can bury---hide—in a safe place---where they’ll go unbent, unfolded, untouched. Where they’ll stay safe even when I can’t tend to them…Where I know I can find them if I need them…where they’ll always be reserves on the team that I can invite out for a game a day, a week, a month down the road. Where they’ll always be on my team—where they’ll always have a space in my heart even if not on the clock.