I open the front door in time to hear footsteps running through the yard, disappearing into dusk. A car in the distance squeals away before it can be seen through thestorm door. On the porch, there's a bucket with a clock, stack of money and a handwritten note taped to the handle:
"Mackin: Your old friend Summer here again. You remember me, don't you?
"I've changed. So have you. We're not as carefree and spontaneous as we once were, huh? Much more formal, predictable. But it's your lucky day again, Irish! This old bottomless bucket is filled with money, time and wishes. No limits. Do whatever you want by Labor Day. Have a great summer, old friend.
"Wear your sunscreen!"
I have had this same sort of summer daydream before.
Memorial Day passes.
June zips past us like a rising Rosenthal fastball in the late afternoon shadows.
One lazy afternoon, I sit down at my computer and think about summer and all the things I'd like to do before it's too late --if a bucket of money magically appeared at my front doorstep.
I have written about this same summer daydream over the years. Five times, but who's counting?
Taken trips to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Hiked the Canadian Rockies. Went back to Ireland.
Rented suites for family and friends at Cardinal games. The giveaway to fans was a bobblehead of myself. Funny. He looks a lot like Rusty Staub.
Springsteen played at GCS Ballpark in Sauget on my birthday, and John Prine played in my backyard just for the heck of it.
I sponsored a charity, 3-on-3 basketball tourney for guys age 54-and-over and less than 5-foot-7.
But the last sentence on the bucket's note added an interesting twist.
"This summer 2014, you have to do something you have done in a summer past.
"You figured you'd never, ever do it again. Here's your chance to do it one more time, one summer day ...
Here are my Summer 2014 wishes:
Man walks on the moon. I was on a family vacation in the Smoky Mountains on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I was 10 years old.
I know NASA is out of the moon business today. But I'd give that whole bucket of imaginary money back to recapture that irreplaceable feeling of awe, hope, pride and imagination of a 10-year-old boy from East St. Louis as he gazed up at the moon later that night, in the Tennessee mountains.
Sit in the bleachers at Busch Stadium II. I haven't forgotten my favorite stadium. I loved the left field bleachers there. It's where I grew up. It's where I watched some really bad baseball in the 1970s, and really good baseball in the 1980s. I'd love to sit in those bleachers one more game.
Stadium road trip. Let's go see ballgames in Baltimore, Boston, New York, Detroit, Cleveland, and Minnesota. All American League cities. Remind me why I don't like the designated hitter rule.
Left field ball. It was amazing how much I learned about baseball fundamentals when we had only two guys on a team and a fence behind us.
Maybe play some "Kick the Can" that evening. I'm not sure I remember the rules or if we really kicked a can or not. I think about those childhood games some summer evenings when the street lights flicker and I hear the locusts hum.
Mississippi River Festival. I saw some real bands and had some great times. Details are confidential, though. I think the greatest accomplishment, on that large acreage of SIU-Edwardsville, was that we found our car in the parking lots, every time. That was well before you could push a key button and make your car horn honk or lights blink.
Go back to Ireland. I've been there once a few years ago. It only teased my curiosity. The only vacation I've ever been on when my family blended in with the locals.
See the Rocky Mountains again. It's been a few years. Nothing is more relaxing and inspiring.
Ice cream, you scream. Let's all meet at Dairy Haven in Caseyville. Orange twist cones for everyone!
Stay in a Bagnell Dam cottage. I'd like to find one of those old cottages at the Lake of the Ozarks that my family stayed in during summers in the 1960s. It's doubtful they're still standing. But I bet they're the size of a one-car garage. They had everything we needed for a memorable vacation - bathroom, stove, refrigerator, mosquitoes, moths and pool. TV? I don't remember. We didn't have time for TV.