When I was young, I lived for baseball. Since I was in Michigan, that meant I was preocuppied by the Detroit Tigers.
I was the only fan in the house. We lived far from Tiger Stadium, but I was able to talk my dad into a game or two each year. Seeking to maximize the experience, I sometimes chose double-headers, which he gamely attended by my side.
Early one spring, I analyzed the schedule of 81 home games until I found the one I wanted to attend; a summer matchup against the Red Sox. We called and purchased the tickets, which arrived a few weeks later. Every couple of days, I pulled the tickets out of the envelope just to look at them, counting the days until July.
The night of the game, I walked down to my dad's music store, tickets in hand and Tigers cap on my head. He was closing up for the day and I was bouncing off the walls with excitement. He asked if I would help out and drop a utility check in the mailbox at the end of the street. Happy to have something to do, I grabbed it and ran out the door.
The second the mailbox door swung closed, I knew something was wrong. I looked in my hand and saw the envelope I was supposed to mail. What I didn't see was the envelope with two tickets in it.
I opened the mailbox and stretched my skinny arm as far as I could through the opening, hoping to feel the top of a large pile of mail. According to the pickup times on the box, the day's last pickup had happened about an hour earlier.
I ran back to the store where my dad was on the phone. He had never seen me look so desperate. He hung up quickly and I blurted out, "I mailed the tickets!" The first pitch was two hours away.
Phone calls were next—the nearby post offices and even our mailman friend—each one starting with the same, brutal summary, "Well, my son just mailed our tickets to tonight's Tigers game." Each one was unsuccessful. We concocted various schemes, such as utilizing gum and a coat hanger to empty the mailbox of its contents, but none were plausible enough to try.
Finally, my dad called the box office at the stadium. A few transfers and retellings followed until he found someone who offered a glimmer of hope. My said into the phone, "Let me check, just a second."
He put his hand over the phone and looked at me. "Do you know what seats they were? They're saying that if we know the seats, they'll let us in and as long as nobody else shows up with the same seats, we'll be okay."
No one could've been better prepared to answer this question. I had stared at those tickets for months. The section, row and seat numbers were clearer to me than my sisters' birthdays.
We drove to the stadium and found the Will Call window. My dad did the talking, but the man at the booth looked at me and smiled. "So, you're the kid who mailed your tickets, huh? Here you go."
The seats were great, as was the game. I had fun telling the story when we got home and many times after that, but my dad never did. He winced at the memory of my face when I returned carrying the wrong envelope.
To this day, every single time I drop something in a mailbox, I look at it twice to make sure it's the right thing. You never forget the feeling when something that matters dearly slips through your fingers.