A Part of Our Lives

Boston, 10.31.2004. The day after the Red Sox's parade through Boston, celebrating the end of the "curse". Mrs. Mallard is wearing a Red Sox hat.

Boston, 10.31.2004. The day after the Red Sox’s parade through Boston, celebrating the end of the “curse.” Mrs. Mallard is wearing a Red Sox hat and I’m inserting both into the life of the next generation.

Boston felt like home.

I was in high school when I stepped into Bean Town for the first time, but I already knew Charles St. because I’d traveled it with Robert McCloskey’s Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, and I knew the North Church and Charlestown Shore, because I’d rowed and ridden with Longfellow’s Revere.

I knew the city from childhood picture books and history textbooks, books that had been my friends and mentors, offering comfort and instruction.

They were a part of my life just as much as any living, breathing teacher or relative. They were a part of me.

I headed outside the city to walk with Thoreau and swim in Walden Pond, and daydream about conversations with Emerson, all of which had already run on repeat in my head.

The year I moved into an apartment on The Fenway wasn’t really a first either. Walking home at night, in the light of Fenway Park, always felt just like a bright summer day. Baseball always feels like summer, no matter the time of year or time of day—and I’d been hearing about Ted William’s Red Sox, and the curse of Babe for decades. Dad was a Red Sox fan and I grew into a baseball romantic, fed on the tales of the old players. I still can’t tell you the stats of every team or player, but the first time I went to Spring Training in Florida, tears pooled in my eyes. I’m not a rabid fan. I don’t watch all the games and I’m often out of date on rosters, but baseball is in me. I can’t imagine a world without it.

All of this came to mind this week as I settled into Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. My son and I are reading it together and I’m already behind. In the introduction to The Gunslinger, Stephen talks about being nineteen, how the idea for the series came to him, the development, and the gap between books. In this last bit, he shared stories of an “82-yr-old Gramma” and a death-row convict writing him, both wanting to know the ending before they died. How’d it all turn out? The convict promised to “take the secret to the grave with him,” which gave Stephen “the creeps.” Same here. Feels a little too close to a real life Misery. But, he got in their head just the same—and not all us fans are convicts or gramma’s with guilt letters.

When I think about childhood friends, I often think about King’s The Body, and Stand By Me, the movie that followed, because of the time in my life when I read and saw them. The Body was my first Stephen King story (Buy the book Different Seasons and you’ll receive the gifts of both The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) and Stand By Me hit when I was the same age as the characters in the film. They’ve stayed with me.

This past week I read an interview with Bob Newhart, too. One of my godmother’s friends looked like Carol Kester, and for years I thought she was Bob’s receptionist, so I paid attention to Bob and his doings. That grew into an appreciation of him as I left childhood. In the interview, there’s a clip of him doing his routine about Abe Lincoln developing his personal brand with his publicist. A classic. At the very end of the interview, there’s this one last question and answer from the interviewer and Bob:

You were my late father’s absolute favorite. Newhart was his favorite show and we’d watch it together every week. But he never learned the name of it. He always called it “Vermont” for some reason.

But you watched. That’s the main thing. The thing about television is that you become part of people’s lives. People will come up to you on an airplane and tell you, “Thank you for all the laughs.” They look back on it fondly as one of the great times of their lives. Boy, when you’re part of peoples’ lives like that, it’s very special. It’s a very special thing.

It IS a special thing—but not just for television. Creators have the power to enter and influence lives, and to create memories. Those memories might be from a book or a team or a city. They might be from a commercial that makes us cry, or a song that transports us back 30 years to a sun-soaked day on Walden Pond.

So when you think about creating yourself (whether it is a book or a marketing campaign for a book or business, or whatever your thing is), think about what you’ve let into your own life. What has meant something to you? What would you want in your own life? Tolkien entered Stephen’s life and Dark Towers was born. What will inspire you? What will you allow in your life? And what will you create in its footsteps?

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  1. Mary Doyle on January 12, 2018 at 4:58 am

    Callie, only you could start out in Boston, detour to Stephen King and then to Bob Newhart and have it all fall together and make sense. I so look forward to these Friday journeys with you – thanks for another great post! I’ll be paying closer attention to what I allow into my own life and where it can take me.

  2. Brian S Nelson on January 12, 2018 at 6:02 am

    I’m up early this morning. Sick dog. Wiley’s got congestive heart failure and coughs frequently. We almost lost him a year ago, but when he coughs–and I know this disease is progressive–gratitude for the gift of this year can be drowned by the sadness of the inevitable.

    That said, I have enjoyed my morning solitude for the past 25 years. This site has become part of my solitude, my morning grounding routine for the past five or six years. You, Steve, and Shawn (and many of the people that post) have woven themselves into my life.

    It matters. It helps. There is something about connection that has its own magic and energy.

    Wednesday I went for a quick run before we had a meeting. I did a quick up and back. I saw another runner both ways. We gave each other the ‘tsup nod’ on the way out. Returning, I put out my hand and we fist-bumped. May never see him again. But I ran the last mile faster after the bump. I had been renewed from a stranger sharing the simple act of running in the cold rain.

    • Jonathan Berman on January 12, 2018 at 9:16 am

      Brian, I echo your thoughts and gratitude regarding all these posts. Love the fist-bump story.

      • Brian S Nelson on January 12, 2018 at 2:46 pm

        Thanks Jon. Connection is a source of energy. Always amazes me.

  3. Anita Garner on January 12, 2018 at 6:20 am

    Beautifully said.

  4. Mia Sherwood Landau on January 12, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Thinking about what we let into our lives is such an important consideration, in many ways. Thinking about how our choices impact our characters is certainly one way, and perhaps the most important because our characters may survive us. This post really made me think today, Callie. Thanks!

  5. Joe on January 12, 2018 at 9:44 am

    I hear your refrain of “What will you let in?“ But the *feeling* I’m getting from this post is, “What will you give?” What is it about Newhart or King or y’all Black Irish that draws people in? It’s because they’re (you’re) offering something. A laugh or a chill or an insight or encouragement. It’s because they say, “I have a gift for you,” not “Hey, look at me!”

    The photo that accompanies this post is a nice complement to what feels warmly personal. Thanks for the gift.

  6. Erik Dolson on January 12, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you for this.

  7. Julia Murphy on January 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    This idea is deeper than it appears. Attention is the gateway to choice, decision and direction. Thanks, Callie.

  8. Tim Murphy on January 15, 2018 at 9:13 am

    “…but baseball is in me. I can’t imagine a world without it.” It’s in me, too, Callie. I love the way baseball finds it way into your musings. And what a rich source of metaphors for writing and life.

  9. Luke Marusiak on January 15, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    This post is a real gem. I’m thinking about a ‘what if?’ theme and Callie has just added: What made you laugh? What made you cry?


  10. Martha on January 17, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    My first time here. I love your writing, Callie. (I’ve been involved with behind-the-scenes publishing for the past 30 years. I know my stuff but never have been much of a writer. I guarantee the struggle with composing this post will last for a good 30 minutes or more!) I was born 59 years ago into a Massachusetts-based sports-crazed family (“Spanning the globe…”–Jim McKay). My father hoped for a baseball team–close with six boys, but the three girls spoiled that dream. Then my mother got tired, I guess. Needless to say, sports are a huge part of my life. (Why, oh why, did I marry someone who had no interest in sports? My bad. It didn’t end well, but now I am free to carry on with my “mild” obsession.) I will ponder your questions, but I believe one thing for certain: Love is the key. (Oh, and Stephen King is da bomb!)

  11. Alex on October 28, 2019 at 9:24 am

    This post really made me think today, Callie. I can’t imagine a world without baseball

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