Eggs and Elmo
June 21st, 2012
Sometimes it’s fastballs and broken eggs. Fuzzy red puppets and cute girls. Friends and foolishness. Loss and legacy. Sometimes, in a perfect moment, it all comes together.
It’s all connected.
As published in The Daily News, June 22, 2012, and in The Memphis News, June 23-29, 2012
He stared at the target, and on this particular night it seemed larger than ever. He got his signal – same as before – bring the heat. As soon as he let it go, he knew that’s the best I got. Nobody’s touching it.
That could have been about our own Matt Cain, the San Francisco ace out of Houston High, who threw only the 22nd perfect game in baseball history last week, 27 up, 27 down. It could be about his 93 mph inside heater that caught the corner, leaving yet another would-be spoiler standing there, staring at a third strike, hearing the heavy whamp of the ball hitting the mitt.
But actually it’s about his uncle, Guy Miller, letting an egg go and hitting the front door of a house on Park dead center. Instead of a catcher, the fool he was with, that would be me, gave the nobody-around-all-clear signal and we turned the front of that house into an omelet – and the only thing that got caught was us. After we scrubbed that house clean we were grounded for … actually … I think we’re still grounded.
Matt Cain’s uncle, pretty good ball player in his day with some giant genes to share, was in my class at White Station.
Cute, funny, smart and lovable. And very ticklish. Lots of kids, and the kid in lots of their parents, have hung on this pixie’s every word for decades. BFFs include Big Bird and Fievel the Mouse.
That could be about Elmo, the little red giggler that turned Tickle Me Elmo into a toy store stampede and the watchwords of a generation.
But actually it’s about the writer behind Elmo’s World, Judy Freudberg, whose wit and wonder has fueled the imagination of millions of kids, earned the respect and trust of folks like Jim Henson and Steven Spielberg, and shared 17 Emmys with her fellow writers on Sesame Street.
Judy Freudberg, a cute little thing in high school and a giant of a writer, was in my class at White Station.
One day last week, I was reminded of both in The Commercial Appeal. Matt led the sports section – every sports section in the country for that matter – and I thought of Guy’s family and the pride they must feel in Matt’s unbelievable accomplishment. Judy led the obits – and The New York Times obits for that matter – and I thought about her legacy of a few zillion smiles including a bunch of mine.
John Vergos, he of Rendezvous rib royalty, likes to remind me how great his 1966 White Station class was, the year ahead of mine – novelist and physicist Alan Lightman, actress Kathy Bates, federal judge Hardy Mays, and so on.
Well, Elmo and Matt Cain’s uncle were in my class, so slap that on a rack and smoke it, buddy.
I’m a Memphian, and Guy and I will join our class for a reunion this fall. With the memories and smiles. With Judy.