A few months ago I was visiting Amanda and she was talking to her son, Landen, about how I am a writer. Landen looked at me and said “I can’t wait until I can read your stories one day, Aunt Kristian.” My heart swelled with joy and broke all at the same time. I hadn’t thought of writing anything that was “kid friendly,” and it made me sad that I didn’t even think of it, but my heart swelled as I learned that this little boy, my nephew, wants to read something that I’ve written. So I made it my mission to come up with a story that he could read. I was focusing too hard on writing something that he could identify with, but as I’ve learned those are not my best stories. The best stories have to come from my heart, and this story is fictional, and while I had a great childhood, I really did, there are somethings that I wish could have been different, there are somethings that I feel I missed out on, so I created them in another world! Landen, I hope you enjoy this story, I wrote it mostly for you, buddy! Aunt Kristian loves you more than you will ever know!
For the rest of my readers,
I hope you enjoy this story too, if you’re a baseball fan, I hope you can relate to it. Either way, I hope it brings you a sense of nostalgia.
Love and Life lessons,
Winter and Baseball
My love of baseball started in the womb, I am sure. My mother tells me that my grandad would listen to the Baltimore Orioles on the radio every evening while drinking a tall glass of Guinness and eating peanuts, throwing the shells on the ground, ignoring my mom’s dirty looks, and responding:
“The squirrels will eat them or the birds will use them for their nest. It’s not littering, I’m contributing to nature.”
My mom, pregnant with yours truly, would sit next to him, in her rocking chair, knitting an afghan, booties, or various other items of clothing for Christmas gifts.
Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of far, western Maryland wasn’t always easy. I was born in the early 80’s, and my childhood was great, but winters were harsh, the closest mall was an hour away, and there wasn’t much to do other than go to the lake, which was filled with tourists. For those who liked to ski, winters were fun, because Garrett County is home to the Wisp, but lacking the grace and coordination, skiing was not for me. I tried it once, when I was 8-years-old. I stepped on the back of my instructors ski’s, apologizing profusely, but he was a saint of a man with the patience of Job, even though I caused both of us to fall many times, before we even headed down the hill. I gained some confidence once I could finally stand on the skis, I took off and I still remember the look of horror on my instructors face as I tripped over my own ski’s, tumbling all the way down the hill only to land on my wrist and break it. I haven’t skied since.
I dreaded the winters, but I always longed for the summers when my cousins, friends, and I would get together and play baseball. My grandfather built a very makeshift baseball field in his backyard, but it was a baseball field nonetheless. He would sit outside watching us, and he taught me everything I know about my favorite pastime. I spent so much time at my grandparents as a child, especially during the summer, because of that ball field.
I remember begging my parents to take me to a game, but we lived 3 hours away, and both of them worked hard, just to make ends meet, we couldn’t really afford a vacation, but I begged them anyway. I loved listening to the games with my grandad, I loved watching the games on TV, but I desperately wanted to go to a live game.
On the morning of Wednesday, September 6th, 1995, I woke up feeling heartbroken because my all-time favorite player was about to make baseball history, and I wanted to see it in person, but I had stopped asking my parents to take me to games, knowing the answer was always going to be no. I started getting ready for school when I heard my mom
“You might want to open this package before you get dressed today.”
I turned around, confused, it wasn’t my birthday, and while my parents did buy me things throughout the year, a package for me to open on a day that wasn’t my birthday or Christmas was rare.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“You’ll have to open it and see.” My mom replied sweetly.
My eyes grew wide as I opened the package to see a brand new Orioles Jersey, #8. Ripken’s jersey. I looked at my mom with tears in my eyes. “This is for me?” I asked.
“Oh, sweetheart,” she pulled me into a hug. “I know these past few years have been rough on you. Dad and I both have been working hard, grandma has been sick, and your brother moved away to college. Your friends have all gone away on summer vacations, and you’ve been stuck at home. I think it’s time you deserve a treat, don’t you?”
I smiled at her. “You could have saved this for my birthday.”
She smiled. “We could have, but today’s a big day.”
My dad walked into my room carrying my favorite baseball hat, baseball glove, and some bottled water and granola bars.
“You’re going to need these today.” He said.
“Why?” I asked, confused for the second time that morning.
My parents looked at one another with smiles on their faces as my dad made a come here motion with his finger.
I stood up and made my way over to him and he walked me out into the living room where my granddad stood in his Orioles gear.
“Are you ready, squirt?” He asked.
“For what?” I don’t think I’ve ever had a more confusing morning in all my life, my 10-year-old brain just could not process what was happening.
“For the game, squirt. Go put on your jersey, we’ve got a long trip ahead of us.”
My mouth dropped to the floor, and my eyes bugged out of my head. I must have looked like Bugs Bunny whenever he saw a beautiful dame in one of those cartoons.
I ran and jumped into my grandad’s arms and he caught me effortlessly, swinging me around and kissing my cheek. I had never been as happy as I was that day!
That game, my very first baseball game, Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played, his 2,131st consecutive game, and I got to experience it in person. I thought I loved baseball before, but my love for the game grew 10 times that night! I watched as he was pushed out of the dugout by his teammates, and Cal made his 22-minute victory lap around the field! I distinctly remember looking up at my grandad, his frail, hunched figure standing, his wrinkly, age spotted hands applauding, and his bright, blue eyes shining with so much pride. He looked down at me, and as we made eye contact, I just knew that this memory would forever be etched into my brain. I remember looking around the stadium, there was so much emotion there that day, you could feel the joy and sentiment as Cal hugged his wife and child, as his parents were recognized in the sky box, and his teammates stood proudly, applauding Cal and you could tell by their expressions that they were truly proud to call him an Oriole! It was a day I will never forget.
That was the first and only game I attended with him. My granddad passed away 2 months later, at the age of 76, he suffered a massive heart attack. I may not have him anymore, but he gave me the best memories of my childhood, and I will forever be grateful for that.