So there we were, my 4-year old niece and I, Thanksgiving evening in her room singing nursery rhymes, with turkey and mashed potatoes digesting in our bodies, when she asked me, “Uncle Matt, why are we here?”
And this is what I said.
“I’ve thought a lot about it, Gracie, and I don’t think it’s all that complicated. I think maybe we’re here just to teach a kid how to bunt, turn two and eat sunflower seeds without using their hands.
“We’re here to pound the steering wheel and scream as we listen to the game on the radio, 20 minutes after we pulled into the garage. We’re here to look all over, give up and then find the ball in the hole.
“We’re here to watch, at least once, as the pocket collapses around Pat Mahomes, and it’s fourth-and-never. Or as the count goes to 3 and 1 on Aaron Judge with bases loaded, and the pitcher begins wishing he’d gone on to med school. Or as a little hole you couldn’t get a skateboard through suddenly opens in front of American Pharaoh at the quarter mile pole.
“We’re here to wear our favorite sweat-soaked Boston Red Sox cap, torn UCONN sweatshirt and the Jordans we lettered in, on a Saturday morning with nowhere we have to go and no one special we have to be.
“We’re here to rake on a jack-high nothin’ hand and have nobody know it but us. Or get in at least one really good brawl, get a nice shiner and end up throwing an arm around the guy who gave it to us.
“We’re here to shoot a six-point elk and finally get the f-stop right, or to tie the perfect fly, make the perfect cast, catch absolutely nothing and still call it a perfect morning.
“We’re here to build the ultimate lego set and play in Gabby’s Dollhouse.
“We’re here to nail a yield sign with an apple core from half a block away. We’re here to make our dog bite on the same lame fake throw for the gazillionth time. We’re here to win stuffy the bear or go broke trying.
“We’re here to watch Tatum duel Giannis, and sweat it out as if we were on the court trying to slow the Greek Freak down ourselves.
“I don’t think the meaning of life is gnashing our bicuspids over what comes after death but tasting all the tiny moments that come before it. We’re here to be the coach when Wendell, the one whose glasses always fog up, finally makes the only perfect backdoor pass all season. We’re here to be there when our kid has three goals and an assist. And especially when he doesn’t.
“We’re here to see Pasta setting up behind the net, tying some poor goaltender’s neck into a Windsor knot. We’re here to watch Verlander peer in for the sign, two out, bases loaded, bottom of the career. We’re here to witness Tiger’s lining up the 22-foot double breaker to win and not need his autograph afterward to prove it.
“We’re here to watch Matt Turner stand on his God damn head in the World Cup and make every other country question whether its called ‘soccer’ or ‘futbol’.
“We’re here to see Nunu to do a one-and-a-half for his grandkids. And to see Mem beat breast cancer. And to encourage Nunu to fight his diabetes.
“We’re here to stand at the top of our favorite double-black on a double-blue morning and overhear those five wonderful words: ‘Highway’s closed. Too much snow.’ We’re here to get the Frisbee to do things that would have caused medieval clergymen to burn us at the stake.
“We’re here to sprint the last 100 yards and soak our shirts and be so tired Uncle Matt has to sit down to pee.
“I don’t think we’re here to make Tik Tok reels. The really good stuff isn’t on there. Like leaving Fenway at 4:15 on a perfect summer afternoon and walking straight into The Baseball Tavern with half of section 36. Or finding ourselves with a free afternoon, a little red 327 fuel-injected 1962 Corvette convertible and an unopened map of Vermont’s back roads.
“We’re here to get the triple-Dagwood sandwich made, the perfectly frosted malted-beverage mug filled and the football kicked off at the very second your sister begins tying up your iPad until Tuesday.
“None of us are going to find ourselves on our deathbeds saying, ‘Dang, I wish I’d spent more time on the Maxwell account.’ We’re going to say, ‘That scar? I got that scar stealing a home run from Luongo Contractors!’
“See, grown-ups spend so much time doggedly slaving toward the better car, the perfect house, the bigger company … THE DAY that will finally make them happy when happy just walked by wearing a bicycle helmet two sizes too big for them. We’re not here to find a way to heaven. The way is heaven. Does that answer your question, sweetie?”
And she said, “Not really, Uncle Matt.”
And I said, “No?”
And she said, “No, what I meant is, why are we here when Mommy told us to come downstairs for dessert 15 minutes ago?”
Inspiration of this column from the great Rick Reilly.