Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Donnie, Jr.

While going through a few more boxes stacked in our garage from our move, I came across a doll I've had for more than 20 years. It's a Cabbage Patch Kid dressed in a New York Yankees uniform. One shoe and sock is missing and his uniform has mysterious brown stains on it, but I won't toss it for anything in the world.

The doll joined our family in 1985 (or thereabouts). My mom, who was a giant Yankees fan, had gotten it into her head that since I live and work in New York City, it would be a piece of cake to meet one of her favorite players, Don Mattingly, and eventually marry him. I thought she was joking and laughed, but she seemed fairly serious (or she has my type of sense of humor - the straight face not letting on that I'm actually joking). I became slightly alarmed, thinking she *was* serious about this. She made my dad drive us up to the neighborhood where her #1 favorite Yankee, Lou Piniella, lived, to see whether we could catch a glimpse of him mowing his lawn (as if!).

Around the time my mom starting telling me to find Don Mattingly and date him, the company that makes Cabbage Patch Kids came out with a line of dolls dressed in MLB uniforms. My two younger sisters and I combined our money and bought a New York Yankees doll to give our mom for Mother's Day. She loved it! She named the doll "Donnie, Jr." and propped him up next to her to watch Yankees games on TV. I thought the heat was off, but she continued to mention how pleased she would be if I would meet Donnie Baseball and date him. I finally told her he was married and that settled things. Besides, I never had a thing for Don Mattingly (no offense to him). The last Yankees crush I'd had at that time was Bucky Dent, and he hadn't worn pinstripes since 1978.

When my mom passed away in 1990, we went through the motions of dividing her belongings among my dad, my three sisters, brother and myself. I didn't really want anything, except for my mom's Timex watch... and Donnie Jr. I got both, along with some jewelry and clothing. The watch stopped working in 1995 but I still have it, along with little Donnie Baseball.

As I sit and think back on my mom's love for the Yankees and her wish for me to marry Don Mattingly, I finally have what may be a glimpse into her belief that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to doing. Until now, all that comes to me when I think about those years is how many times I failed my family and myself. I could go into details, but that will be for another blogpost, should I desire to actually write about it. 

Sitting here, I remember an aunt telling me, after my mother had passed, that she had been amazed at my independence at such a young age - traveling to New York City at age 19 to work at a Chinese take out, work for my older sister as a temporary secretary, land a radio show that broadcast down the Jersey shore, move into NYC at age 20 after landing a full-time job at a record company, singing in bands and seemingly having no fear. I remember being stunned at her revelation and promptly dismissed it as my aunt trying to sugar coat my mom's true feelings of disappointment. But then again, how could my aunt know about all of those things? I didn't keep in touch with her on a regular basis. We didn't have Facebook, internet or cell phones then. We had snail mail (who's got time to write a letter?) and phones (who's got the money to make long-distance calls?). 

It's taken so long for me to sit and look at myself without distain and disappointment that I squandered so much of my life away; to look back at my life and see the bright spots (as well as the dark ones) and see how everything has helped shape who I am today. I hope one day, I can see the positives in a brighter light.

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