The metaphor I have in mind has to do with the fact that I learned at an early age to dislike sports. I have told a part of this tragedy before. How I wore glasses in grade school. How, when it came time for us kids to play baseball for gym class, my teacher realized the threat that my glasses posed if I were hit in the face with a baseball. As she herself put it, my glasses would break into deadly razor sharp shards and pierce my eyes on their way to my brain, where doctors would be helpless to remove them, and I would either die in violent throes of agony, or I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life.
Therefore she made me go out and play right-field blind. Therefore I was hit on the head with a ball which I could not see coming. Therefore I did not die or become a vegetable, thank you teacher. Instead, I became traumatized for life.
Actually, I had already been traumatized for life three years earlier. That was when my father took me to a Red Sox game. I was six, and I had never seen a baseball game before. At the time we lived at Fort Devens, an army base about 35 or 40 miles from Fenway Park, so seeing the Red Sox was well within reach. It's also relevant that we were living on a street named after a Civil War battle, Chancellorsville Street. It has since been renamed Elm Street -- this is absolutely true -- to make it easier to spell.
You see, when I went to that Red Sox game, I thought the idea was to watch a baseball game, yell on behalf of the good guys, eat some hotdogs, see them win, and go home happy. My father had neglected to tell me that the good guys don't always win.
All he had to do to prepare me was to explain to me what our street name was about. Namely, what did transpire at Chancellorsville, Virginia in early May 1863, when they had the aforementioned battle? He could have said, "Son, we live on Chancellorsville Street. Have I ever told you what happened in the Battle of Chancellorsville?" And I could have said, "No, Dad, you suck. You're always watching Lawrence Welk. You never tell me anything." And he could have smacked me.
Or, he could have told me that when the Battle of Chancellorsville was over, General Robert E. Lee was generally considered the winner, since he had got the higher score. And this would have taught me that the other side (we, my father and I, being Northerners) sometimes wins.
Or, he could have really bored me to tears. He could have told me that, actually, General Lee went into the battle with only about half as many men as his opponent General Hooker, so the higher casualties on Hooker's side in fact represented a smaller percentage of losses for his total forces, and he was thus left with the larger force at the end, so you could very well say that the Union side won after all, so there.
Or, my father could have said that it was exactly during the Battle of Chancellorsville that Stonewall Jackson was fatally shot. Who knows, but maybe that particular casualty by itself cost the Confederates the whole War.
Or, he could have said, go read about it in a book, I'm too busy watching Lawrence Welk to talk to you now.
In any case, I could have learned that winning and losing isn't always what it looks like. I could have learned that the Red Sox could lose that game in 1955 but might still have a chance to win the World Series in 2004, or 2005, or someday after I'm dead. I could have been prepared for the 2000 presidential election, when the guy with the best score lost.
So what is the moral of our story? The moral is, don't demand that street names have to be easy to spell. What do elm trees have to do with presidential elections and baseball games? Nothing. So leave the names of streets alone.