Photos From Dad

There aren’t a lot of pictures of my dad.

He was the family photographer. He was the one who documented his life, our lives, and the passing of time.

He had the camera. He took the photos. There weren’t many times that someone took a photo of him.

I took this one.

My dad’s photos – and he took thousands of them – were neatly sorted, by topic, and filed, along with their negatives, in big plastic boxes. Most included handwritten notes – sometimes written over the front of the photo – explaining  who, or what, or when.

Tractors and wide fields of North Dakota wheat being harvested. And, pets. And, every house we ever lived in. And, flowers. And, squirrels. And, plenty of people I don’t know. And, cars.

(There are a few more photos of me, his daughter, than there are of the cars he has owned. But, it’s pretty close.)

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The Short Life & Tragic Death of Walter “Mother” Watson

I wish I had a photo of Walter “Mother” Watson of the Cincinnati Red Stockings to show you, it being “Mother’s Day” weekend and all.

I know he was a pitcher. A three-game cup-of-coffee guy. But, righty? Lefty? No clue.

Over two games, just 14 innings, in May of 1887, the Red Stockings put Mother Watson on the mound.

Watson gave up 18 runs in those two games though, to his credit, only 9 of them were earned.

He played just one more game for the Reds, when they stuck him out in left field.

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My Dad’s Green Hammock & Vin

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be a bridge to the past and to unite generations. The sport of baseball does that, and I am just a part of it.” ~ Vin Scully, Dodgers Broadcaster since 1950

I think we all have squishy memories.

The squishy ones are the memories that have no specific moment or event to make them distinct. They remember no special day or place. No exact time. Instead of one particular thing, a bunch of routine moments from the past squish together to make one single thought.

I have a lot of squishy memories.

Here’s one.

When I was a kid we lived in California. And, on Saturdays, after the lawn was mowed and the Saturday chores were done, my dad would stretch out on his green hammock (a hammock supported by a metal frame, rather than trees, with white fringe along its sides, and with a matching green pillow attached at the top.)

The Googler, which is a frightening tool, took “vintage green hammock with white fringe” and gave me this photo of my dad’s hammock.

dads-hammock

This is the exact one. The very same one that I haven’t seen in 40 years. I was so surprised to see it, I did a double-take. And, then I patted myself on the back for remembering it perfectly, right down to the pillow.

I can see my dad on that hammock on Saturday afternoons in California, drinking a Coors beer, with a blue portable radio that he brought out onto the patio with him. Listening to a ballgame.

Almost always, listening to Vin Scully call a Dodgers game.

This is something Vin Scully still does. Something he has done for 67 years. Something that he will only do for two more weeks before he retires at age 88.

To hear Vin Scully’s voice is to bring me back to Saturdays with my dad in his hammock. Sunny, warm days, when the most important choice I had to make was deciding whether to roller skate first, then go swimming, or to go swimming first, then roller skate.

To hear Vin’s voice is to have that Saturday back. A day in California a long time ago, when I was small and my dad was in his hammock.

And, when Vin retires at the end of this season, that memory will fade just a little, become just a little bit blurrier, a little bit squishier.

A lovely interview on National Public Radio this morning with Vin Scully. Listen here.

vin-scully-npr

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/494684760/494684761

You’re Not Losing, Because You Haven’t Lost Yet

You know what’s a great baseball movie? The Bad News Bears. That’s a pretty great baseball movie.

bad news bears

The original one.

Field of Dreams is an ok baseball movie.

So what if it made you cry? That doesn’t make it a great movie.

Lots of lousy things can make you cry. Fussy contact lenses, broken legs, dropping your ice cream.

This one-minute home video is as good as any movie. Cute characters. Drama. Tragedy. Loss. Heartbreak. Happy ending. (Plus, the kid’s hair swirls just like his ice cream.)

But, back for just a sec’ to Field of Dreams. As the movie winds down, Kevin Costner’s character, picks up his baseball glove, turns to his ghost father, and says, “Hey … dad? Wanna have a catch?”

Wanna have a catch?

If I asked my dad if he wanted to have a catch, he would have looked at me funny and said, “Play catch. It’s play catch, not have a catch. What the hell are they teaching you in school?”

I figured “have a catch” was just some insipid, affected phrase that the movie came up with.

Until I looked around.

Shakespeare

Bet you weren’t expecting Shakespeare.

In Twelfth Night, which is Shakespeare (and, no, I did not know this, but the Internet can make you seem way smarter than you actually are), Sir Toby Belch says, “Welcome, ass. Now, let’s have a catch.”

“Welcome, ass,” sounds way more Bad News Bears than Field of Dreams and has encouraged me to rethink my Shakespeare.

Smart people will explain that Shakespeare’s “Welcome, ass. Now, let’s have a catch.” means “Hey stupid. Sing us a song.” Seriously? That makes no sense.

Never mind. I’m not rethinking Shakespeare.

But, Sir Toby Belch is an awesome name. Like a baseball mascot. So, credit for that.

Make room for Sir Toby Belch.

At first, I couldn’t find a pre-Field of Dreams reference to “have a catch” except for Shakespeare. I was ready to say, “Yup, Field of Dreams just made it up.”

But, then I found this.

In May 1953, Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich was profiling Willie Mays.

In that piece he wrote: “Willie didn’t bother to learn the names of his Giants’ teammates. ‘Say, Hey,’ was his favorite salutation. ‘Say, Hey, wanna have a catch,’ ‘Say, Hey, we gonna beat ‘em good to-day.’ They in turn called him ‘Say, Hey Willie.’”

Say, Hey, wanna have a catch?

So, if you’re Kevin Costner or Sir Toby Belch, go with ‘have a catch’ if you want. If Willie Mays said it, then I’m willing to concede it’s ok.

But, it still sounds a bit weird and la-dee-dah to me.

It’s play catch.

dad in modesto ca

Dad. Not having a catch.

My dad and I didn’t play much catch when I was growing up anyway. Mostly we played basketball together because that was his thing.

And, we shot free throws. Lots and lots of free throws. Because, free throws are something you can get right. And, so he taught me the free throw he knew I could practice and get right.

The same free throw Rick Barry used. The same one Barry also taught his kids.

The embarrassing and ugly one. But, if you practiced, it was the one that would always go in.

It was better, my dad would say, to get the point regardless of how silly you looked doing it.

Don’t say stupid things. That was something else my dad taught me.

Like “have a catch.”

Or, “It’s 13-2, the Orioles are losing.”

If my dad were around today he would grumble about that.

“They’re not losing,” he would say, “they’re just behind.”

This was his rule and he would always correct me when I got it wrong.

As he would explain it, if the game isn’t over, your team hasn’t lost, so they’re not losing. As long as there’s hope, they’re not losing, they’re just behind.

And, don’t say your team is winning either. Your team hasn’t won yet, things can change. They’re just ahead.

“You’re not losing, because you haven’t lost yet.”

He wasn’t exactly correct about this, but he wasn’t wrong either. It was his rule and I stick to it today.

As for the Orioles on Friday night, he was right. They weren’t losing 13-2. They were just behind.

Because, they “rallied” in the bottom of the 9th to make it was 13-3 and that was how they lost.

Yup, things can change. (But, not enough when the pitchers desert you.)

My dad was fussy about things. Things should be just-so. And, even though he’s been gone nearly 10 years, I try to remember the rules he taught me.

And, I’ve become fussy, too, about things. Like serial commas. Proper punctuation. And, always running out ground balls because you never know when a little mistake by the other team might be all you need. Because, you haven’t lost yet.

 

We Were Perfect That Way

When I was still pretty small, I had irritated my mom for something lousy I had done and, in her frustration, she snapped, “Don’t get me anything for Mother’s Day.”

A smarter kid might have recognized that what a mom sometimes says is not exactly what she means.

A smarter kid.

I was not that smarter kid. I took the money I was saving up for her gift, went to Woolworth’s, and bought myself a record. I can’t remember which one, but it’s entirely possible that it was this …

 

I was cold shouldered for days. I’m sure she was disappointed in me. It wouldn’t be the last time.

But, to my credit, I never missed another Mother’s Day – including this one, the ninth since she passed away.

I wish I could tell you that my mom and I were ever-warm and loving, like sisters really, and gardened together and cooked together and sewed together and did those things that moms and daughters often do.

We weren’t. We didn’t.

Mom and Me

Sure, we got along. Sometimes.

We fought a lot and rolled our eyes at each other and slammed doors in frustration and disagreed on more things than we agreed on.

But, at the end of the day, we were satisfied that she was probably the only mother, and I was probably the only daughter, who could put up with the other.

We were perfect that way.

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One Magazine.

At the start of every holiday I make a “to-do” list. Don’t get the wrong idea – thinking that I am a habitually organized person who makes to-do lists for everything. I don’t.

I really just make to-do lists to make sure my holidays are well used.

I don’t want to waste a minute of a day off, let alone an entire week of days off, since they don’t come around that often.

My list was three pages long. The “work stuff” page was longer than the “fun stuff” page, and one of the things on the “fun” page was “Do something fun” which shows how uninspiring my lists can be.

Mookie On Squirrel Patrol

Mookie’s To-Do List: 1) Look for Squirrels. 

Now, with the end of this holiday approaching much faster than it should, I have one last load of massage laundry left to do, which will give me one more satisfying check-off on my list.

Lest you get another wrong-headed idea – that I actually accomplish all those things that need doing – let me assure you, my list’s check-off rate, even with that last load of linens, was barely 46 percent. (Forty-six percent, however, puts me well ahead of Donald Trump in the polls!)

One of the things I did do … I worked my way through a year’s worth of magazines that had piled up by my bedside.

I love magazines. I love them so much that I don’t even mind the perfume samples, ads, and blow cards that fill them.

There was a time when I had as many magazine subscriptions as a small-town library.

Time was not enough. I had to have Newsweek, too, to catch the things that Time missed. (I had a fling with U.S. News, but it didn’t last.)

New Yorkers would sit, sometimes for years, because they were too precious to discard even though there was more inside a single issue than I could ever read. Old New Yorker covers and cartoons are still tacked up on my office walls … even though the subscription expired long ago.

write what you know

My dad would, without fail, renew my Reader’s Digest each Christmas, and when he passed away, I let it go. But, when my mom died, I absorbed her beloved People subscription, and, although it is pricey and generally news-less, I still keep it, because it seems like something she would want me to do.

I’ve subscribed to Rolling Stone since high school and it hasn’t changed much in all that time, except to become much smaller, and Bob Dylan is still a comforting presence on at least one cover each year. I let Spin go years back. I long for the days of Trouser Press, which you have probably never even heard of.

dylan in rolling stone

Still to-do — Read all these Dylan articles.

Sport. Baseball Weekly. Elysian Fields Quarterly. I got ‘em all.

I’m told that Sport is still around.

And, Sports Illustrated.

At first, my dad would just mail me his old copies, and they would come stuffed three or four to an envelope, often months out of order. Except the swimsuit issue. He always kept that one.

Eventually, he got me my own subscription, but sadly, there were no dad comments written in the margins or big circles drawn in Sharpie around the stories my dad felt were most important. I let SI go for awhile. But, I came back, because it is, I swear, one of the best-written magazines ever.

Editor/Husband estimates that I read 25 pounds of magazines over the holiday.

“Read” is relative here.

One “reads” War & Peace. One “skimmalafies” a year-old Rolling Stone (oh, look, Bob Dylan!).  In the case of People, “reading” may mean simply seeing how fast you can do the crossword or marveling that this week’s cover story on Adele contains not one single piece of original reporting, but is just a jumble of Adele’s previous quotes to Rolling Stone and the Today Show.  (Which means that People did what any blogger could do.)

adele and zuzu

Zuzu is not one for celebrity gossip or, in the case of the new Adele cover story, lazy reporting.

Editor/Husband gets one magazine – Vanity Fair. He has three years of them stacked up on his side of the bed.

“I read them as frequently as there is a Common Redpoll irruption.”

Which means, almost never. Editor/Husband was very excited to see a Common Redpoll at our birdfeeder this morning. (If they’re so rare, why are they called “common”?)

I planned to share three of the best articles I read with you.

But, as the days wore on and the pile by the bed got smaller, I thought maybe two articles would be enough.

Now, the pile’s gone and I have one magazine set aside. Just one article.

It’s from a 2014 Sports Illustrated and it’s about Roger Angell, who has written for the New Yorker since 1944, the last 53 years as its baseball writer.

angell and stevie

Why should you read it? Because it is beautiful.

Because it includes the line, “Angell is the curator of our baseball souls.”

Because, as Angell points out, reading about baseball is somehow even more exciting, vibrant, and memorable than just watching a highlight replayed on video. Maybe because a play is just a play on film. But, when someone who loves the game writes about it, it takes on extra layers, extra meanings … maybe joy, maybe amazement, or maybe despair. It becomes personal, something a video is not.

You can find the Sports Illustrated profile here: The Passion of Roger Angell.

And, you can find Angell’s New Yorker piece This Old Man about aging and getting by in your 90s, which won a National Magazine Award and has one of the world’s best jokes about death, here.

It has been four weeks since baseball.

 

Know Your Ground Rules

When I was about 10, I challenged my dad to a footrace around the block.

I’m not sure why I wanted to race, but my dad and I were always thinking up competitions with each other. I must have figured it was a no-lose race.

My dad said his longer legs would beat me, but I knew that I was fast. Even faster with my P.F. Flyers. I knew I could out-sprint an oldie like him.

dad in modesto ca

The Favorite.

the underdog

The Underdog.

We set the ground rules. From the tree in our front yard, we would run counterclockwise around the block. First one back to tag the tree wins.

the racetrack

Google Maps confirmed that my childhood home — and the round-the-block track — in California still exists. But, the finish line tree-of-legend is gone.

With the rules set, we took off into the street. A neighborhood block is much longer around than you think it is, especially when you’re 10 and your legs are much shorter than your dad’s. But, I picked up steam just as he was losing his, and I drew even with him somewhere around the houses that lined the block behind us. When we came to the final turn for home, my dad was pooped. I was hitting my stride.

It was at that moment that my dad veered off the street. He cut through our next-door neighbor’s yard, hopped over the waist-high fence that separated our houses, and tagged the tree. He had cut several seconds – and several feet – off of the race by short-cutting across Mr. and Mrs. Faustini’s lawn.

I was still running in the street. Soundly beaten.

Faustini Loophole

I had yet to learn any of the wonderful, bleepful words that grown-ups use but children don’t.  So, I probably just called him a “big cheater.” I was pretty mad.

He was jubilant. “Hey, Kid, you never said we had to follow the street.”

It would be my first time getting screwed by a loophole. There would be no rematch.

me and dad

Happier Times.

I’m not sure my dad saw any great lesson in our race. He was just the kind of guy who liked to prank his kid from time to time.

But, his non-lesson left a big impression on me, and I’ve been pretty careful about making ground rules clear ever since.

Which brings me to this.

Ground rules are a baseball thing. They are the special rules governing play that are unique to a park, usually identifying a park’s lines, corners, poles, and edges as fair or foul.

At Wrigley Field in Chicago, if a ball gets stuck in the ivy it’s a double, but if the ball pops back out, it’s in play.

At Tampa’s Tropicana Field, the four catwalks are governed by different ground rules. Hit the lower ones, it’s a double; hit the higher ones, a homer. Indoor parks have all sorts of ground rules for balls that hit the roof, trusses, cables, or other stuff hanging down.

Some individual games have had their own ground rules. In 1903, during the first World Series, the games were so packed that fans overflowed into the outfield. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Americans agreed that if a ball was hit into the fans it would be a “ground-rule triple.”

The Americans went on to hit 18 triples over the course of the eight-game series, a World Series record that still stands.

The key thing is this – ground rules are unique to a single park or event.

Here’s what’s not unique in baseball.

Rule 5.05 (a) (6)

A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;

There you have it. A ball that bounces from fair territory into the stands is a double.

Nothing unique. Happens all the time. The rule is the same no matter where you are.

It is not a ground rule double. It’s just a double.

What do doubles have to do with my dad? Nothing really.

But, my dad was a stickler for getting things like this right.

San Francisco Giants broadcaster Jon Miller is a stickler, too. While most everyone else calls a fair ball bouncing out of play a “ground rule double,” Miller will call it what it actually is – an “automatic” double or a “rule book” double.

Like this:

 

Jon gets it right, but if you listen through, you’ll hear Mike Krukow get it wrong. And, look! That’s former Oriole’s closer Jim Johnson on the mound giving up the automatic!

(Even legendary Dodger’s broadcaster Vin Scully gets it wrong. Listen.)

Though he liked the Dodgers, my dad wasn’t much of a baseball fan, but I think he would appreciate my using this Father’s Day post as an opportunity to set the record straight about ground rule doubles.

And, he’d probably ask me to remind you: Always set clear ground rules, lest you get beaten by someone who discovers the “Faustini Loophole.”

 

“Love You, Too.”

My mom’s last words to me were “Love you.”

That was seven years ago and she died – somewhat expected-unexpectedly – soon after.

I was her only child and we talked by phone every day. Those final words are especially comforting because we didn’t know that call would be our last.

She wasn’t very happy with me that day. But, no matter how angry we were with each other, or frustrated, or resigned to the other’s insolence, stupidity, or stubbornness, we always ended every phone call with “Love you.” “Love you, too.”

No matter what.

Here are four people and things my mom would love today if she were here …

1) Jose Altuve. My mom was nearly 5’11”. She enjoyed being taller than most everyone in her world. (“I don’t know how you ended up so short,” she would say to me since I’m just 5’6”. “Your weak gene pool,” was my answer. This would get me the silent treatment for a few hours.)

But, my mom would have loved Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, because, although just 5’5”, he excels in a sport meant for taller, bigger, beefier players. She loved it when an underdog made good.

She would love to see Altuve do this …

altuve double play

Altuve starts an amazing double play on Thursday.

And, this on May 2 …

altuve dinger2

“How about this for the little guy!”

2) Adam Jones.  Baltimore Orioles All-Star centerfielder Adam Jones doesn’t mince words – winning or losing – and plays hard every day.

When he slammed into an uncushioned wall at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, banging himself up badly, his words to his manager were only, “I should have caught that ball.”

adam jones

My mom had a rare medical condition that kills most people it affects, but she lived with it for nearly 40 years. She lived in a lot of pain, but she rarely let on and never let it limit her. (She’s probably a little pissed that I’m even telling you this. But, now that I have, she would insist I also tell you that it wasn’t what killed her.)

She would love a gamer like Jones who could shake off a collision, not complain, and just keep playing.

3) Girls Playing Baseball. My mom was pretty clear on this – girls should have the same opportunities as boys. Period.  My mom was all for women Presidents, women priests, and women playing sports at the same level as men.

Had she thought much about it, she would have been insulted to learn that girls are encouraged to play softball because it’s believed they aren’t up to the rigors of baseball. She would be all for girls playing baseball just to stick it to the idiots who think they can’t.

(I’m pretty sure she would enjoy the fact that blogging about baseball is mostly a guy thing, but I’m doing it anyway.)

NPR’s Only A Game shared a story this week about “Baseball For All”, a girls baseball academy.

baseball for all

4) This Blog Post. When I was in, I think, seventh grade, my mom was in a snippy mood one day early in May and said to me, “I don’t want anything from you for Mother’s Day.” I made the mistake, born of innocence and youth, to believe her. I took my allowance, went to Woolworth’s, and bought myself a record with the money I had set aside for her gift. This, as I’m sure you have guessed, was a mistake. I eventually realized that “I don’t want anything from you” was mom code for, “Don’t you dare forget this holiday.”

I haven’t missed one since. This is for mom. Love you, too.

mom me

 Me and mom. (I’m the short one.)

 

Babe Ruth. Ballplayer. Brownie. Mom.

babe ruth makes good headlineOn July 11, 1914, George Herman Ruth played his first major league game. He had recently joined the Boston Red Sox and was already known as “Babe”.

He pitched seven innings, gave up three runs (two earned), and got a no decision in a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Naps (later the Indians).

He went 0-for-2 at the plate. His first major league at bat? A strike out.

Babe Ruth, Pitcher

SDN-061193, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. (1917)

He became the greatest ballplayer ever. (This is not even worth arguing over.)

If you want the stats, you can find plenty online.

But, how about some other Ruthian notes on this auspicious day?

He Was Born In Baltimore (And Lived In Centerfield)

According to the plaque at Baltimore’s Camden Yards: “During the early 1900’s, Babe Ruth and his family lived at 406 Conway Street in what is now centerfield of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Babe’s father operated Ruth’s Café on the ground floor of the residence.”

The Café? A polite way of saying saloon.

Adam

Adam Jones, Orioles Centerfielder. Camden Yards.

Ruth Was A Catcher (Before He Was A Pitcher, Before He Was The Sultan of Swat)

While at St. Mary’s – a reform school/orphanage for wayward boys where Ruth was sent by his family for being “incorrigible” – he began to play as part of a formal school baseball league. He was a star of the league and played catcher – a lefty catcher (a rarity then and now).

Babe_Ruth_-_St._Mary's_Industrial_School

Public Domain image. (1913)

Babe Ruth, Catcher. St. Mary’s. Back Row, Center.

He later moved to pitcher and in 1913, his last year at St. Mary’s, according to historian Robert Creamer, he homered in nearly every game he played and was undefeated in every game he pitched.

The Baltimore Orioles Signed Ruth To His First Professional Contract (But, Not Those Orioles)

Yes, the Baltimore Orioles did sign Babe Ruth to his first professional baseball contract in 1914. (His salary: $100 a month.)

But, no, it was not the historic 1890s-era Baltimore Orioles that eventually moved to New York and evolved into the Yankees. (They were long gone by 1914.)

And, no, it wasn’t the current Baltimore Orioles. They have only been in Baltimore since 1954, and were previously the St. Louis Browns.

The Baltimore Orioles that signed Ruth were a minor league team in the International League – a team that was originally based in Montreal.

The Orioles weren’t even the most popular baseball team in Baltimore that year. They played a woeful second fiddle to the Baltimore Terrapins, a Federal League team.

They couldn’t compete with the popular Terps and Ruth was quickly sold to the Boston Red Sox. The next season, those Orioles packed up and headed to Richmond, Virginia.

babe ruth red sox

SDN-061536, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. (1918)

Babe Ruth and two other Orioles were sold to the Red Sox in July 1914 for a reported $25,000.

Baby Ruth Candy Bars Were Not Named For Babe Ruth (Except That They Were)

baby ruth bars

The Curtiss Candy Company always claimed they named the Baby Ruth bar for Ruth Cleveland, President Grover Cleveland’s daughter who died at age 12 in 1904, which was nearly 20 years before the candy bar even appeared.

More likely is that the Curtiss Candy Company jumped on the Babe Ruth bandwagon, but Ruth Cleveland was a convenient back story that would allow them to avoid paying Babe for his image, likeness, name, and endorsement.

Should you wish to argue that Babe Ruth and Baby Ruth are two completely different names: Reporters of the day would, on occasion, refer to the Babe as “Baby Ruth” and here’s some proof of that.

baby ruth headline

In the 1990s, Nestlé, which now owns the brand, contracted with the Ruth family to use the Babe’s image in their marketing.

Although, Nestlé seems to have put Baby in the corner these days – Baby Ruths aren’t even listed on their chocolate page. (Aero Bars? They’re horrible.)

But, if you dig around, you can uncover this Gooey Baby Ruth Brownie recipe!

brownies

A candy bar melted into a brownie? With cream cheese? The Babe would definitely put his name on that!

Ruth Played Where The Sun Don’t Shine

In 1922, Ruth lost a fly ball in the sun while playing left field at New York’s Polo Grounds.

After that, Ruth determined what position he would play from game to game, based on where the sun would shine in the outfield in every stadium – always avoiding the “sun field.”

At the Polo Grounds and in Yankee Stadium, for instance, he would always be in right field.  At Boston’s Fenway Park, however, he would forever after play in left.

I wonder where he would have played at the Trop?

Yankee Stadium — The House That Ruth Built

He didn’t literally build it. He did, however, have basic tailoring skills and while at St. Mary’s briefly worked at a shirt factory. His job was to attach collars and he was paid six cents a collar.

I’m Related To Babe

Seriously. But, not Babe Ruth.

My mom was named Julie at birth, but everyone in the family and most everyone in town knew her as Babe. Her high school yearbook lists her as Babe, too. She was called Babe, she said, because she was the youngest in her family and the youngest in her class.

Sadly, her daughter’s witty jokes about her being named for Babe Ruth or Babe the Blue Ox were wholly unappreciated.

But get this …

In the 1930s, Babe Ruth discovered that he was a year older than he had been told he was, when he had to produce a certified birth certificate in order to get his passport.

In the 1990s, Babe, my mom, discovered that she was a year older than she had been told she was, when she had to produce a certified birth certificate in order to get Social Security.

Coincidence?

_____________________________

Picture This, Dad

gnome

I’ve lived in Virginia for decades now.  (If you add up the decades I’ve lived in Virginia you will discover that I am somehow much older than I think I am.)

My dad came to visit once. (Which, to be fair, is one time more than my mom, but she had her reasons.)

They lived in North Dakota and I was very excited when my dad decided to fly out.

I had just bought my first place – a condo on the Virginia side of Washington, DC.  He came to paint the walls and do the fix-ity things that dads do with their amazing certainty and rightness of purpose that is unique to dads everywhere. Every dad project was a teachable moment, but, really, all I wanted was to make sure the pink walls in the bedroom were painted over.

And, I wanted to show him around and show off my world.

Which didn’t really turn out all that well.

He wasn’t impressed by Washington, its Capitol or White House. He was annoyed by the traffic and all the people. He wasn’t impressed by any of the historic buildings all along our day drives. Blue Ridge Mountains? Sure, OK. He was moderately impressed that the Cuban restaurant offered Philippine beer.

He was truly impressed by only one thing. The trees.

trees

“Damn, kid, I’ve never seen so many trees,” he said as I drove him around.

He said it as if I was somehow responsible for covering up a lot of otherwise good farmland with all these unproductive trees. He wasn’t disappointed. He simply thought it was funny, in the same way he thought a lot of my life choices were “funny”, as in “Well, I would never do that, kid, but it’s your life.”

When he got back to North Dakota, the only thing he told my mom and his friends was that we sure had a lot of trees in Virginia.

He never saw the farm where we ended up.

trees yard

And, damn, he’s right. We do have a lot of trees.

front yard

We have so many trees that I wonder how the sun even reaches the ground some days.

pecan tree

We have three pecan trees. (Yes, they DO grow in Virginia, people, so stop telling me they don’t.)

japanese maple

This Japanese Maple that came as a sapling from Montpelier, James Madison’s home.

rose of sharon

And, a Rose of Sharon. (More bush than tree, I guess. I thought it was only a girl’s name in Grapes of Wrath until I moved here.)

The winter did this to one of our magnolias …

dead magnolia

I know, I know, they’re not supposed to grow here either.

Is it dead? I don’t know, but look what I found on one of its branches this morning …

new mag

Editor/Husband plants trees like many people plant marigolds. This is his “Tree Garden”:

tree garden

I think I’m much more like my mom than my dad.  But, there are a couple things about my dad that carried into me.

My dad loved basketball and football with the same passion that I love baseball.  (“You didn’t get baseball from me, kid.”)

He gave me a love of politics and beer. Bad puns, bawdy jokes, and Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons above all others.

And, he loved taking pictures.

He had a couple cameras that were good enough. He would take and develop so many photos that he was probably the reason the little camera store in Devils Lake, North Dakota lasted as long as it did. When my father died a few years ago, I went by the store to tell the owner and he seemed truly sorry. The shop closed not long after and I think the loss of my dad’s business was part of the reason why.

My dad wasn’t a very good photographer, but it made him happy.

He liked to take pictures of tractors …

tractor

farmyards …

hail

squirrels …

squirrel

and, his kid …

me

Now, come to find out, I carry that gene, too. I’m not a very good photographer, but it makes me happy.

And, it reminds me of my dad.

dad2