O Captain! My Captain!

img_1593Earlier this week, Major League Baseball announced that Derek Jeter was one of two players selected to the Hall of Fame for 2020.

Jeter received 396 out of 397 votes, finishing just behind fellow teammate Mariano Rivera for most votes ever received; Rivera was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame last year.

Anyone who doubts Jeter’s selection to Cooperstown merely has to examine his stats and career accomplishments. In his 20 seasons with the New York Yankees, he played in 2,747 games with 11,195 at-bats. He had 3,465 hits, with 2,595 of them singles and 544 doubles. He earned five career Gold Glove Awards at shortstop, tied for fifth-most by a shortstop in baseball history. He retired in 2014 with a personal career winning percentage of .593, five World Series championships, and 14 American League All-Star appearances.  Jeter was named captain of the Yankees in 2003, and that title has been vacant since he retired in 2014.

Nobody could fill his shoes.

Jeter’s talent would have resulted in similar numbers regardless of what uniform he wore, skills he honed through hard work and determination as a child, a teenager, and a man. It just so happens that uniform had the classic navy and white pinstripes with the quintessential Yankees logo emblazoned on his cap, which puts a target on his back.

Yankee fans love Jeter.

As much as they would hate to admit it, rival fans also respect Jeter despite those pinstripes.

I am a Yankees fan, but that’s not why I admire Derek Jeter.

I am a female, but that’s not why I admire Derek Jeter.

I admire Derek Jeter because of his character and his legacy of leadership. Even though he’s three years younger than me, he’s been a role model to me since his rookie season in 1995.

As a kid, Jeter had the goal of making it to the majors. With support from his two parents and coaches, he focused on that goal and wholly devoted himself to it. He worked hard on and off the field, hours each day, to improve his skill and become a better player.

It paid off.

As a player, Jeter always put his team before himself. Even as a captain, it was never about him. He wasn’t the best shortstop in history, but his determination and leadership game after game, season after season, and year after year made his stats rise and his character commendable. He played the game right, with class, and never allowed himself to get distracted with scandals or by feeding his ego. His confidence wasn’t cocky but inspirational and he focused on the positives rather than the negatives. Jeter’s impact and legacy both on and off the field is immeasurable.

That’s why there hasn’t been a team captain named by the Yankees since 2014.

The slogan RE2PECT, which first appeared in 2014, is still appropriate as it stands for not only Jeter the baseball player but Jeter the person.

Integrity. Honor. Determination. Loyalty. Class.

Derek Jeter not only inspired a generation of athletes, but scores of everymen and women like me. He led by example, and his example makes me want to be a better person.

Congrats, Captain, on your well-deserved selection to Cooperstown.

img_1592 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“O Captain! My Captain!” was posted on jillocone.com on January 25, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

 

A New Hope, Indeed

opening_crawlI’m in full preparation mode for Thursday, which includes purchasing as much Kleenex stock as possible and buying tissues by the boxful.

That evening will culminate 42 out of my 48 years here on earth, and I’m not being melodramatic in the slightest.

As a little girl in the 1970s, I wasn’t a tomboy, but I also wasn’t a “girlie girl.”

I fell in the middle, a misfit of sorts, and always sympathized with those toys relegated to the Island of Misfit Toys in the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” especially the polka-dotted elephant.

Toy options for little girls like me in the 1970s included various models of Barbie dolls including Cher and Farrah Fawcett, Shrinky Dinks, Easy Bake Oven, paper dolls, Holly Hobbie, Fashion Plates, Spirograph, and baby dolls.

While the Spirograph and Shrinky Dinks were okay, the rest?

No, thank you.

My little brother, on the other hand, always received the coolest toys for Christmas and his birthday, so I played with them instead.

I spent hours creating highways out of the plastic, orange track that my brother’s die-cast cars could take back and forth to work or use to race their nemeses. I took pleasure in building cities and creatures out of his collection of hard, plastic interlocking blocks in all shades of primary colors. I could pretend and use my imagination to create stories that didn’t have females conforming to the societal stereotypes of the era when I played with toys marketed to boys.

Especially in 1977.

That’s the year when my beloved uncle and grandfather took my brother and I to the movies to see some two-hour-long space-type flick that was all the rage.

I was six years old, and I remember it.

My brother was two, and he remembers it.

The characters and vehicles and lands from this so-called “space opera” were top-billed requests on letters addressed to Santa from all over the country that year, and believe you me, I raided my brother’s treasure trove of vehicles and figures from said “space opera” every chance I got.

That blockbuster movie, known today as Star Wars: A New Hope, has coursed through my veins for 42+ years and positively impacted my life in several ways.

At first glance, many are surprised that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed beach-loving writer and educator has had Jedi dreams and a desire to join the rebel alliance surging through her blood since childhood. I am not ashamed about my love of Star Wars, which began the minute I first heard the London Symphony Orchestra blare the main title while I read the quintessential opening crawler announcing that it was a period of civil war and that “rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.”

Star Wars was deliciously different and provided me with a new way of seeing things. It was the first time I was exposed to a strong woman who wasn’t being molded into a future wife or mother. Leia was a princess, that’s true, but she had a purpose much greater than her title. She wasn’t searching for a prince or seeking admiration. Instead, she was fighting for a cause she believed in with fierce determination and ultimate fearlessness.

Leia was my inspiration, and I adored her.

I still do, now more than ever.

Star Wars offered me new hope at an age when I so needed it.

And it wasn’t just Leia.

I loved all of the characters and their idiosyncrasies. This most interesting band of misfits and their missions transported me to exciting worlds as they defended their cause with 100% effort and dedication for what they believed was the greater good.

And Boba Fett is the baddest-ass misfit mercenary ever to travel to the Outer Rim and beyond. He’s got swagger and an aura of cunning dauntlessness, and is the coolest cat I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

Star Wars lands like Tatooine, Hoth, Bespin, Endor, and Yavin 4 were so different from the other lands of suburbanite make-believe I was exposed to as a child. Who would have ever thought that now, thanks to the magic of Disney Imagineers, I can actually board and ride the Millennium Falcon and walk through lands inspired by those in the Star Wars franchise two- score-and-two-years after seeing them on the big screen for the first time? Shameless plug here for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is out of this world, pun intended, and Shangri-La for the millions of people like me who have Star Wars in their bloodline.

Three trilogies with nine movies and two spinoffs spanning 40+ years in both space time and reality… I’ve loved every single one of them.

Let me loudly repeat that for the fanboys in the back: I unconditionally loved every single movie.

Now, the saga featuring the story of the Skywalker lineage is ending with the ninth installment, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which premiers on Thursday night.

Sure, there will be new Star Wars series and films in the future, especially on Disney+, but THIS saga, the Skywalker three-three-three trilogies, has reached its end.

This saga’s threads spans generations and have run deep through my life tapestry inspiring me, exciting me, and providing me with a sense of acceptance and a love of story I might never have found otherwise.

More importantly, this saga has provided me with hope, time and time again, and I’m eternally grateful for its lessons.

Carrie Fisher taught me to follow my heart and age authentically, that it’s okay to be broken, and honest writing can be therapeutic. George Lucas taught me to write what my soul tells me to write in spite of the naysayers. Princess Leia taught me to be a strong and independent woman while fighting for what’s right, and also that I never have to conform to society’s norms. Han Solo taught me that scoundrels aren’t all that bad. Luke Skywalker taught me to believe in what I cannot see. Chewbacca taught me the value of friendship. C3PO taught me the importance of wisdom. Anakin Skywalker taught me the perils of giving into darkness. Darth Vader taught me that family ultimately comes first. Padme Amidala taught me to serve when I can. Lando Calrissian taught me to let bygones be bygones. The Emperor taught me the importance of balancing the dark with the light. R2D2 and BB8 taught me to keep rolling when things get difficult. Kylo Ren taught me to focus on the lesson instead of the outcome. Finn taught me that anyone can be a hero. Poe Dameron taught me the importance of teamwork but to recognize when it’s time to work alone. Rey taught me to seek my destiny and to believe in my journey, no matter where it takes me. Obi-Wan Kenobi taught me to trust the Force because it will always guide me in the right direction.

Boba Fett taught me that there’s nothing cooler than being a bad-ass misfit, and to answer requests made of me with, “As you wish.”

Finally, Yoda taught me to do instead of try, and that there’s a time for everything to end.

And, so it is.

If you see me on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s opening night bawling like a baby, it most definitely isn’t only because of what happens in the storyline, not that I know anything that’s going to happen, mind you.

Those heartfelt tears will be flowing because the curtains will have closed on a very special part of my life as the double suns set for the final time while the credits scroll among the stars.

Cue the John Edwards fanfare.

The force will be with you.

Always.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“A New Hope, Indeed” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on December 14, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2019, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

The Treasures of Kid-hood

My husband and I are moving, and we’ve got two more days until we have to be out of our house. It’s hot, he’s sick, and my muscles are screaming as they sporadically stiffen and cramp up.

Those who have moved know just how much the process of boxing up your life SUCKS, and when you’ve got an attic like mine, it SUCKS times INFINITY.

My attic has been a catch-all for an almost half-century of life that wouldn’t fit within four ten-by-ten rooms over the last 20+ years. In fact, every classroom I’ve ever taught in has been bigger than the living space of my house, which is one of the many reasons a backhoe will work overtime later this summer to demolish the house as we begin a new chapter.

But, the attic…

Or should I say, the Post-Apocalypse of 2019….

What a nightmare.

I like to save things. I like little toys. I like scrapbooks. And I like to write.

As such, I knew there were four or five boxes and my old footlocker full of such relics I had to rescue from the attic’s abyss. I also knew those boxes and footlocker were buried deep from throwing things up there that we just didn’t have room for with such a small living space, or things we wanted to hold on to “just in case.” Year after year, I intended to attack the attack during my summer off, but the attic was so far gone and the task was too daunting because I didn’t know where to start.

So I didn’t start at all.

Smart move on my part.

Since the spring, I’ve made small progress with packing here and there, but with the timer ticking double-time towards the “have to be out” day, I now had no choice but to fire up the fan and ascend the stairs into hot, steamy hell to do battle.

Ascending into hell…shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Anyway, yesterday was the second full day of my onslaught as I fought my way through boxes of outdated kitchen tools and old college syllabi and bags of clothes labeled as “too small but I might fit in them again someday.” Who was I kidding, holding onto that pipe dream?

Anyway, I dug deep into the mountain formed by life, and a few hours later…pay dirt!

My memory boxes and footlocker.

I precariously carried each one down the rickety, pull-down stairs while a steady stream of sweat dripped from my forehead like a faucet.

I intended to put everything right into the “this goes to the storage unit” pile and continue my assault on hell upstairs.

However, if I was a cat, I’d be dead right now from curiosity.

The packing tape from one of the late 1980s Tops paper boxes had lost its stick, probably eons ago, and the corner of the box was open just enough for me to glimpse a small part of a red tote bag with a rainbow on it.

I remembered that rainbow bag. I got it in 4th grade from the local Hallmark store. And I also knew what was inside it.

img_5980I slowly opened the cardboard flaps, removed the rainbow bag, and took out five binders of stickers.

And I mean STICKERS!!!!

Hundreds of scratch-and-sniff that collectively lost their scents, Pac-Man stickers that lost their stick and flew out all over the place, prism and puffy stickers, Garbage Pail, Shirt Tales, and Lisa Frank stickers … you name it, even issues of the failed magazine aptly called Stickers.

My heart’s desire to see more overpowered my mind’s common sense to obey the ticking clock. I img_5981removed the scrapbook under the rainbow bag and slowly opened its now-cracked and partially disintegrated cover. Inside was my kid-dom: letters from pen-pals and cousins written during the late 1970s, invitations to classmates’ birthday parties (which I took pictures of and shared with them on social media), an old newspaper clipping of neighborhood friends playing with a hose on a warm, summer day in 1980, boarding passes from an Eastern Airlines flight to Tampa with two unused child Key tickets from Walt Disney World.

[Sidebar: It’s fitting that I’m listening to the Sirius-XM Yacht Rock channel as I write this, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan just segued to “Cool Change” by Little River Band.]

I carefully turned the aged page to reveal a momentous page from my life, pun intended: the concert tickets and program to my first concert EVER.

Hold on to your hat, friend…

The Date: August 18, 1979

The Venue: Garden State Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ (now known as PNC Bank Arts Center)

The Artist: SHAUN CASSIDY

img_5944This was a time when CHiPs and The Love Boat were my favorite television shows and stars like Shaun Cassidy, Scott Baio, and Leif Garrett graced the covers of Tiger Beat magazine.

And I loved Shaun Cassidy, I think because he used my name in his remake of “Da Doo Ron Ron” instead of Bill.

Before the concert, my mother took me out to dinner at the Old Mill Inn, my choice. After seeing an advertisement for the restaurant in the local newspaper (yes, I read the newspaper just about every day once I could read), my 8-year-old self thought the Old Mill Inn the perfect place for dinner before a swanky, grown-up concert.  At the concert itself, I listened to each song and politely clapped my hands after each one while sitting in my seat. Screaming teenage girls surrounded me, and my mom told me I could stand and scream too if I wanted.

I didn’t want to. Instead, I sat and applauded because the idea of standing and screaming made me uncomfortable.

Why?

I don’t know, but I probably would do the same thing today. I’m accepting input from armchair therapists on that one, so feel free to send along your diagnosis.

img_5983I took a quick look through the remaining boxes and my footlocker. My husband peeked in and laughed at the little toys, the stickers, the momentos, the ticket stubs and programs, the pictures, and the notebooks because these are things I still find joy in keeping, just like I did so long ago.

Nope, I haven’t changed that much at all.

With time NOT on my side, our looming “out date” forced me to abandon sorting the treasure trove of my kid-dom, my teenage-dom, my college-dom, and then some. The retro New Order, WHTG 106.3 FM, and local surf shop stickers slapped on my footlocker in the summer of 1989 alone are worth more than gold, and I can’t wait to see what else I find from the roadmap that made me who I am today.

What’s a trinket from your past you hold dear? I’d love to know in the comments.

Forgive me, but I must answer the loudly roaring battle call from the attic for round three, and time is a-ticking…

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone. This was posted on July 12, 2019. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.