How a Story About Baseball Connects All Three
Somebody, somewhere, sometime said, “You can never go home again.” I thought of that cliché when I came across the photo “Scott Street #2” when I was organizing some photos a while back. It is a photograph of an apartment I lived in many years ago. The building is long gone. A strip mall stands in its place. The photo and that cliché got me thinking about idea of home and what it means. Is home a physical place or an emotional state of mind? Can we go back home? Would we want to if we could? As I got to thinking about these questions my mind drifted to Kmart. What? Kmart you ask? Why Kmart? Hell, I got to thinking the same thing. Stick around and you’ll find out.
Kmart was a common shopping destination during my formative years (which was quite a while ago). Before Wal-Mart, Target, or Meijer I made many a trip to Kmart either with my Moms or by myself. I could bore you with a long list of purchases (from my second G.I. Joe action figure, Snake Eyes, to a tie for my first part time job) and memories (the joy of buying my parents birthday gifts or the thrill of looking at prints from my first roll of Kodak 110 film developed at the photo counter) but that’s not the point. Let’s just say seeing Kmart stores being replaced by other store fronts or being demolished rubs some of my sentimental nerves pretty raw.
Yet, those sentimental memories of shopping trips long past couldn’t have been the reason Kmart came to mind when I got to thinking about the idea of home. I kept wondering why this photograph of an old apartment building got me thinking about Kmart? I found the answer tucked away on one of my bookshelves. “K Mart” is the title of a short story from W.P. Kinsella’s Go the Distance Baseball Stories, a book I read over twenty years ago. I decided to pour myself a tall glass of Wild Turkey Rye, think about the six homes I lived in during the last twenty five years, reflect on the personal impact of once mighty retail chain on the brink of disappearing from our consumer landscape, and reread Kinsella’s short story. Although the title of the Kinsella’s book would lead you to believe it is a collection of baseball stories, it is really much more. Yes, baseball serves an important role in each story, but Kinsella uses the game as a means to address larger issues. “K Mart” is about friendship, the concept of home, the ghosts of one’s past, and how baseball connects all three through the years. There is a line from the story I underlined all those years ago that holds as true today as it did then: “Carrying the leaden ball of what-might-have-been deep within us is not a punishment but a lesson.”
There are some homes I can return to, others I can’t. Some I want to return to, others I don’t. The same can be said for those ghosts (people and events) from my past that float in my periphery, always there but just out of sight. This line from Kinsella’s baseball story serves as a reminder that home (whatever definition you chose to use) is always with us.