I cried on Christmas Eve. I was at the 11pm service at the church I grew up in — the one Christmas tradition I love and uphold — and I ugly cried. The truth is I don’t love the holidays. In fact, I kind of hate them. And I swear I’m not usually that cynical, but the holidays come with so much pressure and so many schedules, and frankly, I enjoy the tailgates we plan and the suppers around the fire that we don’t plan so much more than the forced celebrations. But I love Christmas Eve service. And over the years, it has evolved beyond a simple tradition. It’s become a safe place and a touchstone, where I can take a step back and see where I am and what I need and what’s going right or terribly wrong and where I stand mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
When I got to church this past Christmas Eve, I was already a little frazzled, and I spent most of the service holding back tears. Our pastor opened his sermon by asking if anyone remembered what happened on October 14, 1992…the day that Sid slid and the Braves won the National League pennant. And that was a pretty weird opening line because the Braves winning the pennant on October 14, 1992, though I didn’t know the exact date, is my first full memory.
I was in bed with my mom. My dad was downstairs ironing his shirt, as he did every evening. I had fallen asleep — I was 5 — but I woke to Daddy yelling and cheering. I opened my eyes and saw Sid Bream lumbering around the bases with his mustache flaring. Sid slid, the throw from Barry Bonds in left field was slightly off the mark and somehow — somehow — Sid was safe. “He is… SAFE! BRAVES WIN BRAVES WIN BRAVES WIN!” [True story: I just looked up Skip’s call of that play to link here, and it brought tears to my eyes. The Braves really were the fist thing I consciously loved in this world, and it breaks my heart all over again every time I think about them abandoning Atlanta, but that’s a different story for a different day.] And here’s the video, but don’t kid yourself, Skip’s call is the best. I’ll forever be grateful for that base hit, Frankie Cabrera.
And anyway, as soon as Terry started talking about the Braves and Frankie and Sid and Skip, I knew I was supposed to be there. I knew this spot and this sermon and these tears I was struggling so hard to hold in were for me, even if I didn’t understand them. Continue Reading…