Chris Ersk­ine on kids’ stuff; k.d. lang plays for a Bud­dhist nun; trou­bles with tip­ping

Los Angeles Times - - SATURDAY - CHRIS ERSK­INE chris.ersk­ine@la­times.com Twit­ter: @er­sk­ine­times

I have a wine cork in my pocket and 50 cents to my name. Lunkhead that I am, I blew the gro­cery money on a Mar­riott in Irvine, and the big ques­tion right now is whether I can find my ho­tel room af­ter a late-night strat­egy ses­sion with the other base­ball tour­ney team coaches.

Ob­vi­ously, this is a danger­ous sea­son to be a fa­ther.

What do I like most about Irvine? The sweep­ing sense of his­tory, prob­a­bly. There are places on the his­toric reg­is­ter down here that date all the way back to the mid-1990s. To say they all look the same to me would be to ac­knowl­edge that I sim­ply don’t ap­pre­ci­ate ar­chi­tec­tural nu­ance. One day, I will move here to study it more.

Till then, I must lo­cate my room. I have lost the lit­tle en­ve­lope with my room num­ber on it, re­placed it with a bag of pret­zels. There is noth­ing nois­ier than a cel­lo­phane bag of pret­zels at mid­night as you fum­ble for your room card.

Slowly, I en­ter a ho­tel room that might be mine.

My bud­dies keep telling me th­ese are the good old days, but I don’t know. They in­sist that one day I will look back on th­ese out-of-town tour­na­ments with fond­ness.

I was re­minded of this the other night when we ran into a coach­ing chum from 15 years ago. Soon we were laugh­ing over old sto­ries of meat­head first-base coaches and the in­struc­tions our buddy Ulf used to holler from the dugout to our kids’ famed in­field of Itchy, Ritchie and Scratch.

At the time, we didn’t know they were the good old days. At the time, we just wished to get through each game with­out our wives leav­ing us and our fore­heads catch­ing fire.

Yep, this is a tough time to be a dad. Sea­sons are wind­ing down, as are sports ca­reers. Kids are jump­ing from one grade to the next. Some are run­ning off to get mar­ried — June is an atro­cious sea­son for such en­deav­ors.

Change like this is tough on dads. More so than in late au­tumn, or the hol­i­days, June means the end of things. There are more mile­stones now — grad­u­a­tions, wed­dings, the Stan­ley Cup.

Where there are end­ings, there are also be­gin­nings. We are just start­ing this sum­mer base­ball tour­na­ment sea­son, for ex­am­ple, and in a few months the lit­tle guy will en­ter the sev­enth grade.

With his school year end­ing, he’s been bring­ing me six­th­grade sou­venirs — pho­tos from the spring play, a spi­ral note­book of his writ­ings.

Each day, there is some­thing else. I mean, what am I sup­posed to do with this junk? Build a fort?

His mother al­ready main­tains a Tup­per­ware box with a few pre­cious me­men­tos from his child­hood. It is roughly the size of a Lexus sedan. I think there might be a teacher or two in there. Maybe a bike.

So we don’t need much be­yond that, yet I don’t have the heart to turn his lit­tle dona­tions away.

“Sure, I’d like that,” I say and take the item grate­fully, pile it on my desk to fig­ure out later.

Be­cause right now it may not mat­ter. Right now, I’m too busy try­ing to find my stupid ho­tel room. But even­tu­ally …

On Fa­ther’s Day, we will cel­e­brate the dads who spend their lives cel­e­brat­ing their chil­dren.

To that end I give you Jeff Dier­cksmeier of Costa Mesa, a dad who has fig­ured out a way to stitch to­gether some mem­o­ries. Once his kid moved be­yond youth sports, he had a quilt made of the boy’s old sports jer­seys.

You know how th­ese things pile up, right? You can use their old jer­seys to pol­ish the car or buff the boat.

Then what do you do with the small tee-ball shirt with your kid’s name across the back? Toss it wist­fully.

In­stead, Jeff sent his son Grayson’s jer­seys off to a seam­stress who made a quilt of them. He thought he’d give it to his son as a gift but ended up keep­ing it. “Maybe later, Dad,” Grayson told him.

So on a re­cent night, when noisy neigh­bors kept him awake, Jeff went into a guest bed­room of his sub­ur­ban home and pulled the quilt all the way up to his chin.

There, blan­keted in this ban­ner of youth, Jeff slept like a kid again.

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