My writing com padres here at the Miry Clay are each blessed with two boys (with Dave having a third “sex-yet-to-be-identified” on the way). I, on the other hand, have the joy of parenting two lovely girls. I love my girls and there are moments (usually when some little boy is hanging from the rafters or making a “naked run” across the room) in which I say a little prayer of “thank you, God” to express my appreciation. However, I do wonder what it would be like to take a son out fishing, playing catch or watching a ballgame together. So this last, Friday God allowed me to venture to the other side if only for a few hours.
A group from our church was going to watch the local minor league baseball team (no, Frank, not the Mariners!) which plays at a stadium right down the road from our house. The tickets were only $9 and the price included a hot dog, a bag of chips, and a soda. Amy and I thought it would be fun, so we purchased tickets the week before the scheduled game. However, Amy decided to leave on Wednesday with the girls to travel to Oregon to visit her grandmother. Her agenda didn’t have her returning until Saturday, so there sat yours truly with two tickets and only one backside to fill the seats. Then it hit me- I should invite my nephews! I was able to acquire a third ticket and the adventure was on.
Now, I should give you a little info on my nephews. Bryan, age 7, is bright, outgoing, caring and probably one of the biggest 7 year olds you’ll ever meet (he is our future NFL Offensive Tackle). Gabriel, age 5, is also bright, very caring and outgoing, but lacks the size of his cousin. However, it seems that somehow God put enough energy in Gabe to power someone Bryan’s size (or much, much larger). But don’t think that Gabe doesn’t know what to do with that excess energy; at least two-thirds of it goes to power his vocal chords, tongue, jaw, and lips (read: “mouth”). The rest is sent to his arms and legs with his brain continually shouting “Move! Move!”. He reminds me of a little blond humming bird… which I should have kept in mind before I gave him all of that “sugar water.” So those are my nephews, but now lets get back to the adventure.
The plan seemed simple enough… originally. My sisters would drop the boys off at my house, we’d go to the ballgame, eat our hot dogs and sodas, and then I’d give the boys back to my sisters. However, both my loving female siblings insisted that the plan undergo some revision. They determined I needed to have the boys spend the night at my house and then they could be returned. Both sisters actually demanded this last part (they’re bossy that way) and then, when I finally gave in, they both started laughing hysterically! As their older brother, it was my right- then and there- to give them both swirlies, however I restrained myself because I’m a gracious older brother… and they could probably both take me anyway.
The big night came and the boys arrived at my house with no real serious problems. We loaded up the car and started to drive to the stadium, talking of the rules of baseball, the joy of being “female-free” for the evening, and our favorite superheroes. Things were going well. We did have to endure some traffic and I heard quite a few times, “Bubba, why don’t we just park there?” “Bubba, this line of cars is moving reeeaaaallllyyyyy slow!” and “Bubba, will we ever get there?”
Maybe I should clarify something here. To my nephews, I am “Bubba.” How I ended up with this title, I’m not quite sure. I’ve never really thought of myself as a “Bubba.” I don’t wear coveralls, pack my lip with chewing tobacco, or live in the Ozarks. However, years ago (when Bryan first started talking) he assigned me this precious moniker and it has stuck ever since. So, that evening I heard a lot of “Bubba….” and so did everyone else seated around us.
Finally, we arrived at the ballpark, having parked closer than the boys thought we should but (after a little walking to the stadium) further than they thought we should. Once through the gate, Bryan (the future OT) started explaining to me all of the wonderful culinary delights he would be purchasing this evening, to which I responded: “We already paid for hot dogs, dude, so we’re eating those first.” Gabe (the man who can live off of sugar water and the energy of the universe) promptly told me “I don’t want a hot dog and I’m not eating one!”
Well, we got the hot dogs anyway… and the chips (which Gabe also didn’t want) and the soda (which Gabe would have taken 12 of, thank you very much). Let me pause here to comment on the soda. Both of my nephews don’t drink a lot of soda and when they do both of my sisters always make sure it is diet and preferably caffeine free. Now, my sisters didn’t seem that smart growing up, but I guess they’ve come along way. The folks at the stadium, who put together “family night” with tickets that include food vouchers? They’re not so smart. In the area designated for those of us with the food vouchers, they made sure their was absolutely, positively NO diet soda. I know because I went through all three black ice-buckets searching, filled with the fear that sugary soda and the blond hummingbird might be a combination I probably wouldn’t recover from.
So, we filled our arms with our dinner and began the hike to the other side of the stadium, where our seats were located. We found our section and then our seats, and sat down next to a nice older couple from our church (the event was sponsored by our seniors group and little did I realize the dilemma that would be created by placing my nephews in the midst of sea of grandparents!). Gabe gave me his unwanted hot dog, Bryan his unwanted chips, and sat down to imbibe his sugary tonic. Bryan handled his hot dog, the 2 bags of chips, and the soda with ease and then requested an order of garlic fries, which I told him he had better wait at least a few innings before purchasing.
The boys were fascinated by the game. It was Bryan’s first ever baseball game (he asked me where the cheerleaders were) and it was a true delight to explain to them what was taking place on the beautiful green diamond before them. When they saw their first home run, they couldn’t believe someone could hit the ball that far. Gabe then got excited when one of the home team fouled a ball backwards and over the stadium roof believing that you got a home run if you hit the ball out in any direction. They cheered and screamed and asked me questions about the game- this was what I was hoping for!… and then came the third inning.
Baseball is a long sport, a patient man’s game. The pitcher steps off of the mound and thinks about his next pitch, his grip, his history with the hitter. The hitter then has to step out of the batters box and adjust his batting gloves, remind himself to stay in against the breaking ball, make sure he checks for any new signs. This all takes time and, as I found out, years of observation to appreciate. The boys hadn’t had those “years.” By the third inning, my nephews’ attention had turned to other pursuits- Gabe was discovering ways to use his seat as a springboard and Bryan was vehemently expressing his deep longing for garlic fries.
I kept trying to drive their interest back to the game, but I was fighting for a sinking ship. Bryan was thinking: “food” and Gabe: “Move! Move!”. Gabe then announced he needed to use the bathroom and (as a parent of a toddler) I know those words must be addressed immediately. The older couple sitting with us said they would keep an eye on Bryan, so Gabe and I ventured off to find the restroom and to make Bryan a happy man by purchasing the garlic fries he so strongly desired.
On the way to the restroom, Gabe informed me that he needed cotton candy and that his mother had given him money to purchase this essential item (thank you, Elisa). So, as I stood outside the stall in the men’s room, waiting for the hummingbird to finish his business, I began to pray imprecations against cotton candy vendors and the mothers who send their hyper children to ballgames with money to purchase items from said vendors…
[due to the ridiculous length of what I thought would be a short little post, I will continue this story Friday, when you will learn about the power of my prayer against cotton candy and why sometimes it is OK to cheer for a victory by the opposing team.]