Before I get into more vacation shenanigans, let me tell you why we're here when it feels like I just left. Besides watching Jarret pitch, the main reason we all flew back to Bluefield this month was to help Jarret celebrate his 21st birthday. I know some of you can still remember the little preemie I brought home in 1989, the jaundiced peanut who grew quickly into a 30-pound infant who hung limply from my hip and caused a permanent hitch in my step. You remember the prune juice bottles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kicks. You remember the day he picked up a Nerf golf ball with his left hand and threw a bullet into a desktop basketball hoop net (also the day, incidentally, when his dad began counting the days until he would teach Jarret to pitch left-handed).
Well, that was 21 years ago now.
When the clock turned midnight on Aug. 14, we began a birthday celebration that turned into a 24-hour festival of eating (mostly cake). At one point, Rob stared at me, bloated from cake, beer, or both, and said, "I have never seen a group of girls who can drag a birthday on for 24 hours." Between all our mini parties, Jarret received 4 cakes, 3 full meals, and tons of good times with his friends at... where else? Applebee's. A few players from his team joined us, and I watched as it became legal for people to put beer, shots, and every manner of alcohol in front of my son (wasn't it past his bedtime?). Never discount the weirdness of sitting at a table and sharing a beer with your first born.
More observations: As we sat in the stands at Bowen Field, nothing had changed. Well, the mascot had changed but only because the old one got "called up" to the bigger leagues (while some of the actual players received their release). The new mascot was just as good and was considerably more interested in the 3 females sitting to my left. Speaking of the females, the girls discovered the intense male scrutiny that women of the wild west must have felt when they traveled to male-populated gold rush towns or how the USO volunteers in WWII felt when they realized they outnumbered the soldiers 20 to 1. The presence of a trio of unfamiliar (and good looking) girls was nothing short of a distraction for the opposing team, whose dugout is situated parallel to the "Bird Feeder" (snack bar). If the Baltimore Orioles were wondering how to get an edge over any opponent in their league (they are in last place), perhaps they should consider this tactic.
On Jarret's day off, Rob and I took the kids 2 hours away to a "real mall" where we smartly purchased MORE items to go 3,000 miles home with us. See, this time we packed "lightly" because last time we flirted too much with the 50-pound luggage weight limit. At LAX, my suitcase weighed-in at a dainty 41 pounds, which meant I had 9 pounds to play with in Bluefield. Jaisyn is taking full advantage of her 12 pound weight advantage by buying school clothes that we won't have time to purchase in Bakersfield when we get home. Rob brought an empty suitcase, hoping to ferry home some of Jarret's heavy items so he won't be so burdened when he heads back to Cali in September. Jordyn, on the other hand, must have been delirious from her impending flu when she packed: All she used was a small carry-on suitcase and thumbed her nose at us as we waited for our rolling monsters by the luggage carousel in Charlotte.
Jordyn is now filling Rob's empty suitcase with evidence of her poor planning. Jarret is on his own in September.
The greenness. I've said it before, but it deserves repeating: This is amazing country! Everywhere I look is impossibly green and freshly-washed clean landscape. It's rained nearly every day of our trip, but it's OK. The sky is dark and we're so high in the mountains that our heads are (literally) touching the clouds. The clouds stretch around us like that fake cotton "snow" some people spread out for their Nativity scenes. I know I'll be coming home to my beloved, desert-colored county, and I'll be glad to see the bumpy, rolling hills between Magic Mountain and Lebec, but while I'm here, I can't look enough, inhale enough, can't fill my eyes enough with the beauty that I'm sure people here take for granted.
We took a detour yesterday to see Virginia Tech, the beautiful college with the awful distinction of having so many students and teachers gunned down a few years back. It was raining again (of course), so we didn't stay long, but their football stadium looked like something out of a movie (steep concrete bleachers which Rob estimates to seat about 60,000) and (what would be million dollar in California) homes lining the country club area of Roanoke. All the homes are brick and gorgeous. Incidentally, Allie tells me (and Google verified it) that Virginia Tech's mascot, the "Hokie" (not hokey), is a totally invented word originated as a nonsense cheer by Virginia Tech students. Don't believe me? Take a look.
We're leaving soon. Two of Jarret's games were rained-out, which means (again) that we will have seen him throw only one game during this 10-day trip. Thanks, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, and Padres for allowing an East Coast team to nab a West Coast boy. We've collectively seen him throw the ball three times this year because of his distance from home. If he'd have been drafted closer to California, other teams play closer (much closer). No complaints, though. He's playing professional baseball, which isn't unlike winning the lottery in some ways. Many people dream of doing it, but only a few get to make it a reality. He is a very lucky young man.
I was lucky, too. When we arrived to our first game in Bluefield last week, the "Peeps" called me from the stands and asked me to walk with them. The Peeps are the young women on the Orioles staff who are in charge of activities like dancing and managing all the games and races between innings. I saw the flowers they were holding, but I didn't know what they were doing with them (or me) as we walked toward the Orioles dugout. When we got closer, one of the girls said (in her adorable twangy accent), "Congratulations! You're our Lady Oriole tonight! Would you like your son or another player to present the flowers to you?"
Evidently, at each game, a woman in the stands is chosen to receive flowers, and a player on the field presents them to her between innings; her name is announced and flashes across the scoreboard. I told her that of course I wanted my son to give me the flowers! Didn't every mom want their gorgeously-uniformed son to hand them roses?
"No," said the Peep. "Some of them say, 'Nah, I have enough pictures with my son already.'"
Not this mom. Bring on #37, please.