Three Straight Strikeouts…. 30 years later – September 2014

Sometimes the smallest acts have the greatest impact.

Just recently, I had my 20th High School Reunion as a 1994 graduate of Frederick High School. I have to give my classmates credit as they planned the details of the reunion for about 9 months.. They had many conference calls about all the logistics that go into planning an event with some 360-400 graduates. Because of the planning and the scheduling, we were able to have classmates attend from California, Florida, Japan, and all over the country and world. Great Job Planning!

Reunions now are unlike reunions were 15-20 years ago, and even 5 years ago, because of social media, mainly Facebook. There are people that come down on both sides of the fence on if Facebook has enhanced or hindered the whole reunion experience. Some people think that, because of Facebook, we can keep in touch and know what is going on in each other’s lives; therefore there is no need for reunions. Others believe that since we can now ‘keep tabs/keep in touch’ with our classmates, that you can actually have meaningful conversations with your classmates during the reunion. I am probably friends with about half of my classmates on Facebook and know what is going on in most of their lives. Even if I don’t know the details, I know the highlights.

My personal opinion is I love my reunions, both the last one 5 years ago and the most recent one this past summer. I truly enjoy talking and catching up with my classmates. I think Facebook keeps us more in-tune with each other. I remember, when Anthony and Alex were newborns, it was great to get on Facebook and see other parents/friends going through the same stage of life, share stories, pointers, and just know that someone else is getting as little sleep as you are. At this reunion, it was great catching up on classmates’ stories about their kids, their jobs, and from when we were growing up together.

Getting together and telling stories with these classmates made me realize how an act insignificant and quickly forgotten moment in one’s life, can serve as a life-long memory in another’s life.

I had the pleasure of seeing so many people that I graduated high school with, but the real treasure was seeing people that I’d known and gone to Elementary school with. I went to Urbana Elementary and I’d estimate that about 30 of my graduating classmates also attended Urbana with me. Some I’d known since Ms. Wilkes’ (later Mrs. VanHall) kindergarten class, and others I’d met playing baseball at Araby or youth (used to be called Midget) football at McCurdy field. These were the friends that I enjoyed seeing and catching up with as we’ve literally known each other since we were ‘little kids’ sharing the same nerves about starting kindergarten, about going to middle school together. I remember we were in 4th grade watching the ‘Challenger’ and Christa McAuliffe when the horrific explosion happened. As an 8-9 year old kids, we didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation, but we were aware that what we witnessed was not supposed to happen.

When you share these common experiences with people – the highs, the lows, the apprehension of starting school, the field trips to the Washington Zoo – on some level you always have a common bond with one another. And when you see these friends 25, 30, 50 years later you still can fall back on the deep rooted bond that you had as a child. This, to me, was pretty cool. I don’t think that a few years ago I would have looked at this the same way, but having 2 Boyz, both in elementary school, I see the relationships they are forming and the common experiences they are having with classmates. I can envision them at their 25 year reunion saying, “Remember the time when we went over to Anthony and Alex’s house and rode in the golf cart and watched fireworks from barn 7 on the 4th of July? Or the time we went down and caught tadpoles in your Great-Grandmother’s stream?” You never know when these small moments make a major impression in someone’s life.

Of the many conversations that I had at our 20-year reunion, 2 stood out as these early memories, small moments, making lasting impressions.

The first memory was shared by Mike McIlvaine and the second was one I re-told to Jeff Downs. I’ve known Mike and Jeff ‘forever’. I think Jeff and I were in Ms. Wilkes class together and we were buddies throughout Elementary school, along with Mike Evans, we’d get together to play, hang-out, and have sleepovers. Mike McIlvaine and I played sports together growing up, and he also went to Urbana Elementary. We played baseball and football together at Araby and McCurdy respectively. We also palled around, often getting together to play sports with our mutual friends Scott and Tom Coble and Timmy Hill. When we got together we were always ‘rough-housing’ and just having a good time, like boys do. I’ve always been smaller in stature, and Mike was one of my ‘bigger friends’. And although he was always one of the bigger dudes, you’d NEVER find a kinder, gentler, more helpful guy than Mike. Just a genuinely good person.

It’s been probably 5-6 years since I’ve seen Mike, but when you see someone with deep-rooted memories like I have with Mike, you revert back to your 9 year old self. I saw Mike at the reunion and I gave him a big hug, as we were both genuinely excited to see each other. After some banter about kids, jobs, life, Mike shoots into a story about baseball, when we played together as 9-10 year olds.
We were with my mom for dinner the other night and telling the story about Mr. Verdi (my Dad) when he had to take over coaching the team because Don Coble (Scott and Tom’s dad) our head coach had a family commitment and had to leave in the middle of the game. I didn’t remember the story, but it had made such an impact on Mike, that he remembered the details so I asked him to re-tell. Remember when Mr. Coble had to leave the game and your Dad took over as coach and 3rd base coach? You know how your Dad always stood with his arms crossed? Well he was coaching 3rd and would say, “That-a-boy Mike”, give a couple claps and then cross his arms. {Mike gives a full-blown reenactment of my Dad and his mannerisms, hilarious.} He did this for 3 straight batters and all 3 of us struck-out, didn’t even swing the bat. When he got back to the dugout in between innings he said, “Boys, what’s the matter? Those pitches are right there. Why aren’t you swinging?” One of the kids spoke out and said, “Mr. Verdi, our take sign is a cross of the arms, and you gave us all take signs.” My dad now understood. He was giving all the players the take sign, and that’s why they weren’t swinging. So Mike remembered that the next inning, after my Dad clapped, he put his hands behind his back to make sure he didn’t accidentally give the take sign.

I didn’t remember this story, but it made such an impact on Mike and the McIlvaines that they still re-tell the story occasionally when they get together as a family and they still laugh about the time Mr. Verdi gave all the kids the take sign. This small moment has been retold for about 30 years.

Then I saw Jeff Downs, who still lives in Frederick. I run into him every few months and still say Hi and we’re friendly, but not someone that I regularly hang-out with. We start talking about Urbana and he mentioned coming over to one of my birthday parties and playing basketball in the top of the barn. I had a miniature basketball court in the top, where we stored hay in the winter, and we’d frequently have intense basketball games with 4-10 friends.

This turns into a “remember when…..” conversation.

One of my memories with Jeff was when Mike Evans and I had a sleepover at his home. We were probably in 3rd or 4th grade. We always played outdoors, built forts in the woods, and went on adventures. Well, in this particular story, I asked Jeff if he remembers us walking to the Flint Hill convenience store? He says, “You remember that?” “Of course I do, that was a great adventure, and it seemed like we walked forever.”

Jeff lived on Monocacy Bottom Road and behind his house were power lines that had cleared a path through the woods and fields. This was about the time the movie ‘Goonies’ was popular, so Jeff, Mike, and I set out on an adventure, like the characters in the Goonies. We started walking under the power lines and what seemed like 10 miles to a 9 year old was probably, in reality a half mile. We finally ended up at the Flint Hill convenience store. I can’t remember if we had set-out specifically to make it to the store or just started walking and ending up there, but we did.

When we arrived at the store, we had to have a lady at the store call Mrs. Downs to come pick us up because we were so far away. We weren’t sure that we’d be able to get back and didn’t feel like walking all that way. At the store, I remember getting Bubble Tape Bubble Gum for the very first time and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. A 3 foot strip of gum – what could be better for a 9 year old?

Jeff and I had a great laugh, talking about how much fun our adventures used to be.

Like Mike’s story, this adventure with Jeff and Mike Evans has withstood the test of time and we remember this as if it happened last week.

You never know what small act, what kind word, or what memory that might be insignificant to you, could have a lasting/lifelong impression on someone else.

Just recently, I was reminded that this is ever-present in my real estate business. The couple, Jason and Margie, that moved here from Colorado a few months ago recently called me. What they asked of me nearly brought me to tears of gratitude.

Margie called me out of the blue one evening. When you get calls from clients just a few weeks/months after buying a home it is usually the call asking for one of my contractors because the HVAC stopped working, there’s a water leak, or the dishwasher doesn’t work. I’m already mentally preparing for helping them with their home problem. When Margie said to me, “this is an unusual request, and if you’re uncomfortable, I totally understand. When we enrolled Levi (their son) in daycare and also when we registered with the pediatrician, they are requesting an Emergency Contact. Since we don’t have family in the area, can we use you?” My response, “of course! I’m floored that you’d trust me enough that you’d put me as an emergency contact for Levi.”

Margie went onto explain that when we spent those 3 days together looking at homes. Ultimately Levi would fall asleep at some point during each trip. She and Jason were gracious that I would stay in the car and watch Levi while they checked out the homes together. And when Levi was awake and the 4 of us were checking out a home together and Jason and Margie wanted to ‘talk’ about the home, I’d just take Levi and show him something in the backyard or take his attention elsewhere so they could have some undistracted time to analyze the home. Levi would talk about ‘Mr. Eric’ and was excited to see me. They felt that if there was an ‘emergency’, and one of them could not make it to pick Levi up from Daycare, he would be comfortable with ‘Mr. Eric.’

The small act of me sitting in a car with Levi while he was sleeping and/or distracting Levi during a showing so his parents could have a few minutes alone to talk about the house made such an impression on Jason and Margie, that they have entrusted me as an emergency contact for their son. I was and still am honored that my clients trust me enough to list me as the emergency contact for their son.

In life, it is often the small, insignificant act of kindness, a nice word, or a mundane activity that may seem minor to one person that can leave a lifelong imprint on another’s life. So live each day keeping this in mind: what is minor to you could be life-changing to someone else.