The Japanese Maple On 33rd

Even flowers can bring you back to baseball.

Yesterday, Kassie, a massage client, walked into my office here in Virginia carrying a Mason jar of blooms.

blooms in a mason jar

(It’s one of the great joys of being a massage therapist and yoga teacher – clients and students take such good care of mebringing fresh vegetables from their gardens in summer, handfuls of flowers, and countless other kindnesses. They are wonderful.)

But, back to baseball …

I asked Kassie about each bloom that she had just picked on her farm that morning.

There were full-blooming white dogwoods, yellow forsythia (a bush I never knew until I moved to Virginia, where it is as ubiquitous here as grits for breakfast) tiny juddi verbernum flowers which made our porch fragrant like cinnamon this morning, a twig of Japanese maple leaves heavy with seeds, and a feather that a resident peacock had dropped in their farmyard.

She explained why the Japanese maple was so special.

Kassie grew up in Baltimore. Specifically, I knew from past conversations, she grew up on 33rd Street. If you know your Orioles baseball history, you know that before there was Camden Yards, the Orioles played for nearly 40 years in Memorial Stadium. On 33rd Street.

memorial stadium baltimore

Public Domain by Jmj1000 via WikiCommons

I’ve often teased Kassie about not being a baseball fan when the Orioles were playing just up the street from her. Instead, she and her siblings would sit on their stoop and wave to the fans walking to and from the games.

dogwood and japanese maple

The Dogwood & Japanese Maple twigs.

The maple twig in the jar, she said, came from a tree that once stood in her front yard on 33rd Street when she was growing up.

When her family left Baltimore and moved to a farm in central Virginia in the mid-1970s, her father decided the Japanese maple would move, too. It wasn’t huge, but it already stood a few feet high, and he carefully dug out the enormous root ball beneath. It made the transition from Maryland to Virginia and has been growing here ever since.

“So, you’re saying that this twig is from a tree that watched people walk to Orioles games in the 1960s and 1970s?” Yup.

Those years included amazing seasons when the Orioles were more dominant than the Yankees and in which the O’s played in four, and won two, World Series. As soon as the tree moved, the Orioles faded. Well, for a few seasons anyway.

This twig is a lucky Orioles twig.

Kassie thinks I’m a little crazy, but I love these flowers in their Mason jar, especially the Japanese maple twig.

dogwood forsythia verbenum maple

Her family tree was a seedling that came from their Baltimore neighbor who had a koi pond and formal Japanese garden in his back yard. I like to think that the original “mother” maple is still there on 33rd Street, even though the Orioles moved downtown 23 years ago.

Kassie has promised to bring me a seedling that is bound to sprout up underneath her family maple tree this season.

And, I will plant it and have my own 33rd Street Japanese maple in my yard.

This could be just the boost the O’s need to take them through October.

Thank you to Kassie for being a friend and for allowing me to tell this story, even though I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m loopy.

Photos: © The Baseball Bloggess


Picture This, Dad


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.


“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 …


farmyards …


squirrels …


and, his kid …


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.