Episode 195- Go Out Of Character

So my parents came into town from New York right before Christmas and it’s pretty funny because each time we tell stories and now that our kids are getting older, they start listening a little bit more than they hear the stories and have questions about things. And so often the stories revolve around our childhood, me and my brother about funny things that happened or scary things that happened, sometimes really stupid things that we did and the more time goes on, the more you realize as long as you survive the incident, the bolder we were, the funnier the story becomes. And my book, Freelance to Freedom was filled with stories like that. My upcoming book will be as well. But I thought about it as I was sitting with my parents this week that my mom wasn’t a part of a whole lot of the stories that I’ve told.

My mom was always the one trying to stop me from doing things because she was worried for me rightfully so, or she was scared from what could happen. And I think my personality grew from that because the more I saw her push against it, the more it made me want to push towards those things. But there was a time that I remember clearly that she pushed against herself. So when I was 11 years old, I followed the New York Rangers religiously. They’re my favorite hockey team and I lived on long Island when the New York Islander were in the midst of winning four straight Stanley Cups. So it was so tough watching my favorite team year after year lose to a team that played not far from our house, but they lost year after year. And one of the Rangers best players was a guy named Ron Greshner. And I saw on the news that he was getting married to a woman named Carol Alt and she was a supermodel who grew up not far from where we lived.

And then I heard that the wedding is going to be at St. Aidens Church, which was the church that we often attended. And this became like larger than life to me cause I was like all of my heroes are going to be together in one place at the church that we go to. And it all seemed kind of surreal. And my mom was always the one that wanted to play things safe, didn’t want to take chances. My dad was the one that went on his own, started his own businesses, he had successes and failures, but he always had that entrepreneurial spirit to try something different. My mom kept a steady full time job and was the consistent one. And then one day, I don’t remember if it was a Friday or Saturday because I have visions of her picking me and my brother up from school, but I’m not sure that that was accurate.

But I remember her driving us home and having us change our clothes. I remember pushing back against it because I’d never wanted to dress up in nice clothes. So I was like, where are we going? And she said to me, I found out the information about Ron Grehsners wedding, and we’re going to go. And all of a sudden my mom became really cool and I clearly recall getting in the car and driving down Willis Avenue. I’m thinking, is my mom really doing this? And lo and behold, there we go. We go into the parking lot and we get out of the car dressed up all nice. My mom’s in her dress and me and my brother all looking good and we walked towards the entrance of the church and it felt just a little bit different than Christmas morning. There were limos everywhere and everybody looked really dressed up and nice.

And I remember thinking, I wonder if the Rangers are in there. You know, looking back, if it was a couple of years later, I probably would have been more interested if the supermodels were in there. But at 11 I was really just concerned with the Rangers and my mom. Cool, calm and collected. Just let us up the stairs into the foyer of St. Aiden’s Church and with all the hustle and bustle around us, we just stood there looking around. And my brother wasn’t a big hockey fan, but he was into the moment and I had my notepad, my pocket with a pen just in case I’d actually meet a Ranger and get an autograph. And to my right, towering above most people was Barry Beck who was the Rangers star defenseman. And I walked over to him and I was real nervous and shy and I asked for his autograph and he was really nice and he gave it to me.

And as he finished signing, I looked up and the door opened and through the door what the guy named Herb Brooks, if you’re a hockey fan, you know who he is, but if you’re a history fan you might as well. He was the head coach for the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, the one that won the gold medal over the Russians and one of the greatest upsets in sports history. And he was the one they made the movie Miracle about. And before I can get too scared, I walked up to him, I said hello. And I also asked him for his autograph and he smiled and he knelt down. He patted my shoulder and he said, of course, and he asked my name and he signed Herb Brooks in my little autograph book. Have you ever been so nervous and excited at the same time that you almost feel like your body’s going to shut down if you have.

That’s what I felt like at that moment. And it wasn’t long after that, they started ushering in the guests to go sit inside the church. And my mom again, confidently let us into the church. We walked through the Pew and we took a seat and the place was jam packed and before you knew aggression or as groomsmen were walking down the aisle, headed towards the alter. And we apparently were some of the guests. And I distinctly remember a woman in front of us looking around and just shaking her head. And she turned towards my mother behind us and she said, can you believe all these people that are here that actually aren’t from the wedding, but they’re here as fans? And my mom’s smiling. She shook her head and she just said, yeah, I know it’s terrible. And the woman turned around and my mom looked at me and she smiled and I smiled back.

It was around that time that the music started and we all stood up and to my right, not more than 20 feet away, the doors opened and all I saw was a flash of white as Carol Alt and in her wedding dress and her veil began walking down the aisle. And I don’t remember much more after that, aside from gathering more autographs, as many as I possibly could outside of the church. And I tell this story because of the impression my mom made on me by going out of character that was not in her nature to do. I know she must’ve been nervous out of her mind that we were doing something that was wrong, that we would get found out, that we would get kicked out. But she recognized a moment, a moment that she could do something special for her kid. And I know I still look back on that day so fondly that those are the days that really matter.

And as I think that was 36 years ago, and I don’t remember what I did the day before and I don’t remember what I did the day after or the week after. But I do know that by going out of character, my mom created a moment for me that made me feel really special because it wasn’t just about the fact of meeting Herb Brooks and Barry Beck and all those other players, which admittedly was really cool, but my mom didn’t have to do that and I never would have looked back and said, man, I wish my mom would have taken me to crash Ron Greshner and Carol Altt’s wedding. It never even would have been an opportunity for me to think was possible. So I feel like I’m kind of a natural rule breaker. I don’t think you could be a successful entrepreneur if you’re not, but my mom isn’t and a lot of people are not. And I’m not saying just go out and break rules indiscriminately, but I am saying if you’re very conservative and you’re so worried about a lot of different things, take it upon yourself to go out of character every once in awhile, especially with your kids, because those might be the days they remember more than anything. I’ll be back with you tomorrow.

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