The Gift of the Forever Moment

If you happened to catch any of last night’s Field of Dreams game coverage, where the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox played the first ever MLB game in Iowa to honor the lasting legacy of the film “Field of Dreams,” perhaps you shed a tear at some point like I did.

Credit: Getty Images/Stacy Revere; posted by Newsday.com

Hopefully, you didn’t shed a thousand or more (and counting, I might add), like me.

Last night’s game was a throwback to a time when life was simpler and the good outweighed the bad. We collectively paused to enjoy a ball game between two teams, but there was more going on than just baseball.

And just like in the movie “Field of Dreams,” more was happening than just what we saw on the field.

It was a catharsis, an awakening, an emotional roller coaster ride highlighting the power of the present moment sprinkled with nostalgia and resulting in an experience unlike that of any other game I’ve ever watched.

The awe and wonder and excitement on each player’s face as they strolled around the original field and house from the movie set and the cornfields surrounding the play field… grown men looked like children with boyish grins full of innocence and authenticity, no matter which uniform they wore or how hard life may have treated them in the past.

We escaped society’s acrimony and noise for a few hours and, instead, focused on the gift of the forever moment and the treasure of a single day, as Kevin Costner so eloquently narrated in his introduction

Our imaginations are infinite..

Sculpting a baseball diamond from a farmer’s field in Iowa.

Longing for summer as seasons are painted on its canvas.

Once this game and this land touches you, the wind never blows so hard again.

“Hey, Dad?” Want to have a catch?”

“I’d like that.”

I’m Kevin Costner, and on this field, we once made a movie about dreams … of baseball and years gone by, and much more.

A tale of love, family, character.

The treasure of a single day.

America has embraced the heroes of our youth for over a century. Those who ran on grass so green it took your breath away…touching bases as white as clouds

Tonight, we pause time. 

In the warmth of August, two major league teams gift us the forever moment; the White Sox, the Yankees.

Come to our Field of Dreams and play ball.

Baseball united us last night, no matter what team we religiously cheer for, with every at-bat and every home run hit into the cornfield.

My team should have won, as the Yankees had the lead in the top of the ninth inning, but a swing by the Sox’s Tim Anderson scripted a Hollywood-style ending: a walk-off two-run homer to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, complete with fireworks.

Despite my team’s loss, I cheered and clapped and wept tears of joy because of the moment’s incredible magnitude, a culmination of the night’s immense emotions and how baseball, yet again, brought us all together.

“And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.” – Terence Mann

It was baseball that gave us something to look forward to, a diversion from the dark days after 9-11, when the crack of Mike Piazza’s bat as he launched a home run that was heard around the nation and when Derek Jeter became “Mr. November.” Sidebar: I highly recommend watching ESPN’s “30 for 30: First Pitch,” if you have already seen it, which tells the story of President Bush throwing the first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series. Politics aside, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, one that truly captures the gamut of emotions we all felt as we tried to move on with our lives after such a horrific event.

It was baseball that provided a reprieve from lockdown last summer as MLB players were some of the first professional athletes to return to the field. Even with silly cardboard cutout fans filling some of the empty seats and piped-in fake fan noise, we looked to the return of baseball games as a step towards returning to normalcy.

It’s baseball stickers that fill my planner every autumn when the postseason, my favorite sports time of the year, begins. Even when my Yankees do not move on or outright miss the playoffs, I root-root-root for sometimes the home team and sometimes the visiting team as each player on every field pursues their childhood dream of winning the coveted world series ring. 

Back to “Field of Dreams”…

The movie’s premise about a ball field in the middle of a cornfield where ghosts convened to play America’s game is incredibly unbelievable, but that’s the beauty of the film.

Many of our dreams seem unbelievable, like Ray’s, but he did the impossible, the unconventional. He followed his dream, built the field, and they came.

Ray Kinsella made the unbelievable believable.

And 33 years after Ray built his field of dreams on the big screen, Kevin Costner led the Yankees and Sox players onto a neighboring field in front of 8,000 fans in the bleachers and millions of us at home, all because of the lasting impression of a single film with a universal theme.

How many of us can say that about our own dreams? How many of us are willing to put in the work necessary to do the unbelievable like Ray did and make our dreams a reality?

In the quintessential ending scene of the movie, Ray Kinsella and his father, John Kinsella, finally have a catch with each other, making their private personal dreams come true.

How many of us have an ongoing list of the undone things in our life? How many of us, when presented with the opportunity, will make our undone things done?

Behind Ray and John, a line of headlights stretching for miles makes its way to the field.

Ray built it, and not only did he come, but they came. How many of us actually listen to our intuition and attempt to do the impossible?

The Field of Dreams game was so much more than a game.

It was, indeed, like I was dipped in magic water.

It was a pause in time, a gift of the forever moment that amplified the power of the present moment.

It was a reminder of who I used to be, who I am, and most importantly, who I can be.

It was a reminder to love unconditionally and to always treat others with kindness and compassion.

It was a reminder to never lose that sense of wonder or awe in believing each day, each moment, is a treasure.

It was a reminder of a simple moment’s lasting magnitude, such as having a catch with someone we hold dear, or spending time with those we love doing what we love.

It was a reminder to pursue my dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem, and to believe in the dreams of others.

It was a reminder of all that once was good and could be again.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“The Gift of the Forever Moment” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on August 13, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Nitro’s Check Mark

I took my teenage niece, nephew, and their friend to Six Flags Great Adventure yesterday (August 10, 2018). My husband and I have given Niece and Nephew season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure for Christmas every year since 2015.

What I love most about our gift is that I also get a season pass, which allows me to spend time with them at the park several times a year. Each visit is special to me because it’s our thing, and it’s a great way to help provide a break for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. If I had a nickel for how many times we laughed together or for each memory we made or silly story we told, I’d be a millionaire by now.

Nephew knows more about Six Flags rides and parks than anyone I’ve ever met. He can tell you when a ride made its park debut, who built it, who designed it, and what park received the ride it might have replaced. He understands the physics and design elements that goes into building a ride and if you ask him what park in the United States had the first looping roller coaster, he will know the answer.

When it comes to actually going on the rides, Niece is fearless and she will go on anything.  Meanwhile, Nephew and I have a similar sense of moderate adventure and we tend to stick to the middle-of-the-road rides and coasters, then when we are ready, we’ll attempt riding a more extreme one.

Our favorite ride is Skull Mountain, which is a fun, little inside coaster that operates in the dark. Two summers ago, Nephew and I set a personal record for going on Skull Mountain 22 times in a row, which took a little over two hours. We only stayed on the ride when the ride queue was empty five times; the rest of the time we got out and walked around. It probably wasn’t my best decision, in hindsight, since I flew to Dublin the following day with a splitting headache.

Our last ride conquests were Superman: Ultimate Flight and Green Lantern at the end of last summer. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Superman experience, considering riders are face down to simulate Superman’s flight. We conquered Bizarro in April of 2017. Man, that one is fast! It’s like the Batman coaster after it had three energy drinks and a shot of super-charged espresso. Batman: The Ride has always been one of my favorites, and we conquered that one together in 2015 at Six Flags Great Adventure’s Holidays in the Park.

The coasters Nephew and I haven’t found the courage to ride yet are notoriously extreme, and we weren’t sure which coaster we’d be brave enough to conquer this year.

Enter Nitro.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

When Nitro opened in 2001, it was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in New Jersey (Kingda Ka stole those honors from Nitro a few years later). While Nitro does not have any inversions, it is 230 feet high at its peak (which takes almost 60 seconds to climb) and reaches speeds up to 80 miles per hour in its two minute, twenty second mile-long course.

I went on Nitro once while chaperoning a school trip in 2005, thinking it would be like either Rolling Thunder and Scream Machine, two classic, now long-gone, coasters I loved.

I was completely wrong.

Nitro nearly killed me.

Well, maybe not killed, but the experience scared me tremendously.

I ended up uncontrollably shaking and trembling when I walked off the ride, my legs like jelly and my arm muscles sore for several days later due to how much I strained them as I held onto the restraint as tight as I could.

I vowed I was forever done with the infernal contraption known as Nitro.

I shared my Nitro story with Nephew on several occasions, including yesterday when we safely sat and waited for Niece and Friend to return from Friend’s first time riding the steel beast.

Nephew is older now, and I could see the curiosity twinkling in his eye as he told me what he knew about Nitro while he watched a car roaring along its track. “It was designed by B and M,” he said, “and they have a great safety record.”

There was no doubt about it. He was ready to take the Nitro leap and I wasn’t about to let my fear hold him back.

Niece and Friend returned rather quickly since the wait time was a few minutes at best, and Friend absolutely loved the Nitro experience.

Nephew said that if Friend could do it, he could too.

All three looked at me with pleading eyes but I stubbornly shook my head. “You guys have a great time!” I said as I bid them farewell, then I walked over to where people on the ground could see Nitro’s ride cars leave the loading area. Nephew was safely seated between Niece and Friend as their car passed by, their arms flailing in enthusiastic waves.

“Bye!” they yelled in unison.

They returned 140 seconds later with Nephew wearing the widest smile I’ve ever seen on his face. He gave me a thumbs up from up on high as he jubilantly shrieked, “It was awesome!”

Dammit.

I knew what I had to do.

A minute later, they surrounded me as they jumped around in sheer excitement and joy. A chorus of “please?”s rose up.  Nephew looked me right in my eyes and said, “You can do it. I did it, and so can you.”

I remembered a story told by a colleague who was in a similar situation. Her grandson wanted her to go on a thrill ride with him, and her outlook was, “I can do anything for two minutes.”

Realizing that I could too, I sighed then nodded my head as I said, “Okay.”

A whoop emanated from all three as Niece took my hand to lead me to certain death.

“You’re lucky I love you,” I grumbled as we walked through the air gate to the seats in Row 4.

My pulse raced as I sat down between Niece and Nephew, with Friend to Nephew’s left. The yellow restraints locked and were subsequently checked by the ride attendants. It’s a good thing mine was secure because at the last second, I cried, “I don’t want to do this!” and I honestly would have ran if I could.

However, it was zero hour and flight was not an option.

After the “visual scan” and “all clear” over the loudspeaker by what I was sure was the Grim Reaper disguised as Nitro’s head supervisor, our car was set free.

Nitro, from the Six Flags Great Adventure website

I closed my eyes and leaned my head as far back into my seat as possible. With each upward click, I squeezed Niece’s hand a little tighter. She, along with Nephew and Friend, found my reaction highly amusing. I think they were all laughing, but I can’t exactly remember because I was concentrating so hard on praying for redemption.

“Here we go, Aunt Jill!” Niece shouted as we reached Nitro’s summit.

This is it.

I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Within seconds, we were traveling down the 215-feet drop at the advertised eighty miles-per-hour.  I’m pretty sure my heart rate matched the number of expletives I let fly.

“I’m going to die! My eyes are closed! My eyes are open! No, they’re not! I’m going to die!”

Towards the end of the journey to my undeniable demise, Niece yelled, “Bunny hops!!”

I opened my eyes to see the blue and yellow hilly path we were on as we smoothly rode over each bump. It was surprisingly much smoother than the Runaway Mine Train bunny hops at the end of its path, that was for sure.

“Hold on!”

The car suddenly came to a halting stop.

And I was alive.

Sure, my legs were once again like jelly as we walked off the ride, and I felt a surge of electricity pulsing through my entire body.

But it was a good energy, and I did not die.

The sleek, wicked-fast roller coaster was one of the smoothest rides I’ve ever experienced, and the sensation of weightlessness was exhilarating.

I looked at Nephew, who threw his arms around me and exclaimed, “I’m so proud of you!” Niece and friend hugged me too. “You did it, Aunt Jill!”

Somewhere along the ride route, a remote camera snaps a photograph which is then displayed for about a minute or so on the monitors at the Nitro photo kiosk near the ride’s exit. The picture of our row featured three gleeful faces with arms up in the air and one red face screaming for mercy as she gripped onto the restraint for dear life.

We didn’t buy the photograph, but I’ll be able to picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye for the rest of my life.

The unspoken question hovered in the air around us as we regrouped outside the ride.

It was answered by all four of us walking together once again through Nitro’s entrance.

Three minutes later, a photograph with four delighted smiles in our row flashed upon the photo kiosk’s screen.

2018 Roller Coaster: Nitro. Check mark achieved.

 

Nitro’s Check Mark“: Copyright 2018 – Jill Ocone. This post originally appeared on both the Soulseaker blog (www.soulseaker.com) and the personal blog of Jill Ocone (www.jillocone.com) on August 11, 2018. Views and opinions contained in this post are solely those of the author, who was not compensated in any way by any entity, including Six Flags Great Adventure, the Six Flags corporation, or their affiliates. All rights reserved.

A Manifesto for 2018

We are once again standing on the cusp of a new year.

It’s a time every year when my failures each ring their own bell and demand my attention. “Look at me,” they each scream. “Look at me! Don’t forget the detour I created! You suck and are teeming with regret at the sight of me!”

Frigging bastards.

When looking ahead to a new calendar, I’ve tended to play the victim and blame my failures and shortcomings on my self-perceived inadequacies, half of which are undoubtedly formed by unrealistic societal expectations.

I’ve also blamed time: there’s not enough, or there’s too much.

Either way, I’m continually thrown off the path that I believed would lead me to attaining my goals, yet while I paved it with good intentions, I also paved it with excuses chock full of my own bullshit.

The cycle of getting nowhere very quickly happens every year because I allow it to.

That stops now.

There’s no resolutions for me this year.

No, sir.

Instead, my goal from today forward is to live the hell out of every minute of this extraordinary life and truly cherish the miracle that is the present moment.

Whether I am writing, swimming, driving, exploring, laughing with family and friends, teaching…whatever I am doing, I will give myself fully to that miraculous moment.

The fact that I’m sitting here all snug and warm, with a cup of hot coffee to my left and quiet music playing as snowflakes delicately dance down from the clouds to the ground…there’s so tiny miracles right here in this present moment, miracles that I always took for granted or overlooked.

What matters, I mean what truly matters, is this moment.

I am alive.

And so are you.

This is a time of rebirth, a time to take those lessons from past failures and regret, be thankful for them, and apply their wisdom while moving forward.

No more bowing down to society’s expectations or to feeding the trolls of self-deprecation. I am not inadequate and I do matter, if only to myself.

It’s time to live the hell out of this one and precious life I’ve been given, because I am not promised a tomorrow. Wasting time is no longer an option, either.

I will live with those who are alongside me in real life and for those who are alongside me in spirit.

I will be a beacon of kindness and empathy as I look to stand alongside my fellow humans with understanding and compassion.

I will be grateful for everything I experience and for everyone I interact with.

Most importantly, I will embrace and celebrate the moments extraordinary that fill my days with joy and with purpose as I pursue my passions with conviction.

Let’s do this, 2018!

With gratitude and joy,

Jill