Listen, sometimes I hate social media. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
A few days ago someone posted "We will never be here again." It's one of those cute, easily consumed tropes you find on the internet without looking.
This happens all the time. Someone you haven't seen in a decade might post it on Facebook. It works its way into your Twitter feed. Or gets incorporated into a meme or infographic. It's a simple but vague and seemingly poignant axiom intended to inspire thoughts like, "Yup. Nailed it. So, so true."
The actual quote is from the film, Troy: "Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again."
A friend of mine, Svein Tuft -- who spent much of his youth touring Alaska on a
department store bike with a trailer and his dog -- has the expression tattooed on his arm. And it works: he's a zen-like traveller who views life as short and beautiful, every ephemeral moment worth note. A guy that went from bike-touring with a dog to riding the Tour de France. A man who has been everywhere and refuses to forget that he'll never be there again. (He's actually racing the Tour as we speak: go Svein!)
More and more, I think of this expression. And like anyone who ages (oh yeah, we all do) it makes me think of the past. I have two older brothers. Growing up, we played a lot of sports, but before getting into bike racing, we played a helluva lot of baseball on a homemade diamond in my parents' backyard. My middle brother, the stickler for details, measured blocks of wood to be regulation-size bases and laid them out into a diamond. We made a pitcher's mound and used a timing belt as the pitcher's plate.
When you play baseball with three people, you have to be creative. Two on one is not an ideal set-up in this sport. But we had rules. We "borrowed" a giant piece of plywood from my father and erected it behind home plate. On the plywood, we took a magic marker and carefully drew out a strike zone. If the ball hit there and you didn't swing, it was a strike. If not, a ball. We had trees for defence. This was the 80s and we were Jays fans. The birch at short stop was Tony Fernandez. The willow in left field was George Bell. If the ball hit the tree above a certain branch, it was an automatic out. For my eldest brother, the real challenge was running into the outfield, getting the ball, and whipping it to the backstop before one of us scored: if you hit the backstop (anywhere) it was an out.
Every now and then, the whole family would play, but mostly it was us three. Knees were skinned, a groin was smacked by a line drive, and there were many heated arguments, fights and inevitably crying sessions. Somehow, in all those years, the windows of the house behind home plate and the two cars besides first base were spared. My little sister sat on the grass beside the first base line; I remember time slowing down for every foul ball that sailed over her toward a windshield. Somehow every time the ball missed the car and bounced down the driveway.
My middle brother -- the rules guy -- said something that still tumbles around in my brain with Svein's tattoo like a pair of socks in the dryer: "If we knew that the last time we all played baseball together as kids would be our last time, would we have played a little longer?" We still throw the ball around on occasion and will continue to do so -- I hope -- until we are old men. Now, when I play catch, my arm reminds me of the game the next morning. I don't remember our last game together and of course none of us knew it would be that at the time.
But there was one game, one summer evening decades ago, that we played our final baseball game as teen brothers. And we were never there again.
Here isn't just a place. It can be a time, a phase, a feeling. The person we were in any of those spaces. It could be a relationship, a job. It could be when your parents were your age. Or the time before you had children. It could be when your cat was still alive. When you could throw a ball for a couple hours and not be sore the next day. It could be a time when you thought you knew everything. It could be the freedom to knock on your brother's door and say, "Let's play ball."
Moments are moments for a reason. You will never be there again.
Now excuse me as I post this schmaltz to Facebook.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misattributed a quote to the Iliad. It is in fact from the film, Troy.