A Glimpse Into An Alternate Universe

On June 3rd, Nate noted that he was celebrating the tenth anniversary of his “End of the Year Party.” When third grade was ending, he said to us that he wanted to have a party for all the kids in Mrs. Lathrop’s class. At least that’s what is written in Karen’s note that introduces the photo album of the event. I can’t recall how he would’ve asked for that.

Nate carries some photo albums around as security blankets, and thumbs through others. I believe he pores through old pictures as a way to get further in touch with his past. He talks now about a childhood that he couldn’t comment on at the time.

As I look at the pictures of classmates hopping up and down in the inflatable bounce house (including James of Nate’s essay), it’s clear that Nate was apart from the festivities. The kids are having fun, and the food was all Nate-chosen. Cans of sodas, cupcakes shaped like hamburgers and hot dogs, to name but a few, There was face-painting, volleyball, lots of interactivity. But not for Nate. He walks alone in one photo, is nowhere to be seen in most.

Yet, there are some pictures that, if I strain my imagination just a bit, look as if Nate is really with his friends. In one photo he is looking towards a young boy. In another he seems to be in deep conversation with James. It’s a look into what might have been, and, it gives me great comfort to see him in that light, as a “normal” 10-year-old hanging out with his pals.

But it’s not true and I know it. The last picture in the book is Nate at the kitchen table eating pizza, his right thumb pointing up at a slight angle, his head turned away from the camera. That was the real Nate and, in many ways, still is. And it’s fine. Nate is a great kid, fun to be around, much more involved with people than ever before. But I admit that when a stray photo makes it look as if he fits in completely, it makes me very happy.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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