Then We Were Famous: Chapter Three

17 Jul

Chapter Three: Tommy

Remember where I was supposed to be? At the movies on a date. With a girl who would be very happy that I took her to the Hippodrome to see Ted Porter in his latest movie. ’Cause that’s how Saturday nights were supposed to be spent, with a girl and doing something you liked. Where was I instead? In the middle of a creepy old school filled with jack o’lanterns and rich kids dancing to Buddy Holly.

And nuns.

“May I help you with something?” One of the nuns scowled at me. She was probably trying to figure out who I was, the guy who wasn’t in a jacket and tie.

“I need to find Maimie,” I blurted out because I wasn’t good in situations like this. I was good at stuffing boxes with empty cans at the can company. I was good at driving. And writing stuff, too. But not with talking.


“Yes, Sister.”

“Why do you need to find Maimie? I’m curious, because we don’t have a student named Maimie.”

Was I at the wrong school? No, this was the Villa and this was where I was supposed to go.

“You don’t have a Maimie? You gotta have a Maimie, because I’m here to take her to Mercy. Her mom’s there and my dad sent me to come get her. Maimie Burns? No? Maimie Burke?” What was the name Big Gill had said? I had been so busy figuring out how to get here that I couldn’t remember the girl’s name. And then I did. “Maimie Bauer.”

“Do you mean Mary Evangeline Bauer?”

“Yep, I mean, yes, Sister. If her last name’s Bauer, that’s who I need.”

“Does she know you?”

“Tell her that Big Gil sent me. She knows who he is.”

The nun kept looking at me.

“Please. Her mother is in the hospital. I am supposed to get Maimie and bring her there. Please. This is real important.”

“I’m inclined to believe you, but I’m going to have to make a phone call.”

Because it would have been wrong to let Mary Evangeline Bauer leave school with a boy she didn’t know. Big Gil should have thought of that. Heck, I should have thought of that. I tried to stare at the jack o’lanterns and act like I knew what I was doing. I really didn’t. About ten minutes later, Sister Superior came back with a girl who was wiping her eyes, followed by this big, dumb-looking guy.



She had little black trail of makeup tears going down one cheek, so the nun must have told her the news. I felt bad for her. She was pretty. Her hair was all curly, like girls always make their hair look for dances, and she was wearing this green dress that looked great. She was probably having a pretty nice night, and now all that would change.

“I’m Tommy. Big Gil sent me to get you.”

That was when Mr. Follow Behind put his hand on her shoulder. “I can take her to the hospital. I’ve got my car right here.”

He was letting me off the hook, and maybe I should have let him. “My dad told me to get her.” I had driven all the way up there on my father’s orders.

“That’s all right, buddy. I can drive her.”

Buddy? So, he was one of those guys. Everybody was a friend, except they really weren’t. “I’m supposed to bring her,” I said. There had to be a reason Big Gil had asked me, right?

The nun looked back and forth between us. “Mr. Nelson, that’s very kind of you to offer,” she said to the kid. “But this young man was sent here to bring Mary Evangeline home.” She looked at me. “What did you say your name was?”

“Tommy. Tommy Romero. Big Gil … my dad … sent me to get Maimie.”

“Maimie?” Follow Along was confused.

“Mary Evangeline,” Maimie said. “And I want to go now. I don’t really care who drives me. I just want to get there.”

“Let me help you with your coat,” Follow Guy said. She slid her arms in her sleeves and he wrapped the coat tightly around her. “I’ll call you,” I saw him whisper. Man, that guy was determined. Was he going to run along side my car when we were finally on the road?

I took Mary Evangeline or whatever her name was by the arm and guided her to the door. That’s when I did the perfect thing. Just before we got to the door, I turned to the nun and asked her, “May I call you with any news when we get to the hospital?”

“Please do,” she said. “We will be praying for Mary Evangeline and for her mother.”

Next chapter: We meet Maimie’s mother.

Then We Were Famous: Chapter Two

10 Jul

Chapter Two: Maimie

I would have remembered everything that happened at the Fall Fantastic that night anyway — every moment, every detail — because that was the night that I danced with Greer Nelson. Greer looked even more handsome than usual in his black jacket and bow tie. He smelled so debonair, too. He smelled clean and sophisticated, like someone who was refined. Greer Nelson was refined, with his curly hair and a better than normal dimpled smile. He wasn’t like the other boys I knew who slicked back their hair and thought they were Elvis. Really, Greer could have been a television star, he was that handsome.

No one really had a date for Fall Fantastic. Tradition said that we always invited the boys from Xavier – their homecoming was a week away and this was sort of our salute to them before the big game. So, no one had a formal date except of course the girls who had steady boyfriends from Xavier. Everybody just danced with the boys they knew, but of course the boys did the picking.

Slow, slow, quick, quick. One foot after the other. My green heels, with their little bow clips, clicking on the floor as I followed his lead. Glide, glide, saunter, saunter. Swing, sway, look cool. There was the fact that stood all on its own – a prom queen in its very own corner – that before everything else that happened later night I danced with Greer Nelson.

OK, you know what else? I had a great dress. That must be said, even if that meant I was boasting. However big of a braggart it made me, I didn’t care. I had a great dress that I made myself. It was possibly even the best hand sewn dress in the history of the Fall Fantastic and was green taffeta with lace cap sleeves. It was quite Fall and it was quite Fantastic!

So was Cecelia Hall. Every table around the dance floor had its own jack-o’-lantern and there were candles on the Great Room mantel. Garlands of silk flowers hung from the back of each chair and on the terrace, paper lanterns and tiny Christmas lights were strung across the awning frame. We got to dance beneath these glittering lights and beneath a sky of full of stars and a yellow moon. Oh, it was so beautiful.

You know the first thing they told you when you visited the Villa was that Cecelia Hall was haunted. Well, the first thing Sister Superior told you was that Villa Innocenica was a serious institution of learning that has been educating the young women of Baltimore for one hundred years, and that many, many famous and important women had attended this school. They told you that it was a privilege to attend the Villa, but that we were in fact worthy of this honor. There was something special about us, some unique quality that maybe we didn’t even know in ourselves just yet, but it was our mission, our call from God, to discover what that blessed trait was during our four years in this beautiful place of learning.

I didn’t usually fall for that sort of stuff. But there I was, more than two years ago, a little freshman in a crowd of newcomers. We were so nervous, all of us in our new uniforms, and our hands so sweaty, our stomach churning with nerves. We had to stand up for a benediction in front of the whole school, and that’s when the business of being told about our specialness started. And those words, well, they had sort of an effect. We barely made it out of chapel, we were such a wreck, and we staggered to our first classes of our high school career. We were emotional messes of pride and worry, and wondering if we were going to be the first person to fail out of our class. That was when the older girls started to whisper to us the rumor that Cecelia Hall was haunted. By the end of the day, all of us had heard the story.

“See,” I told Greer as we danced on the terrace. “before Villa Innocencia was a school, Cecelia Hall was a someone’s house. Some steel baron who had gone to England and seen all the castles and wanted one of his own right here in Baltimore.”

He nodded. “It’s so gray and creepy.”

It was. It had a round center tower that looks like it needed a drawbridge and moat, it was so forbidding. There were other little turrets and big, beveled windows with twinkling glass frames and a giant wooden door that was as dark as a tree trunk and about as big as a garage door. That was the front door! I could just imagine a butler opening it when it was a castle. It was all very Tower of London.

“No one’s told you the story of the ghost?”

“No one.”

“Really? But what did you talk about with the other girls when you danced? Oh, wait,” I teased him, “Maybe you didn’t talk?”

“They didn’t tell me ghost stories. That’s for sure.”

So I told him. The tale went like this: The steel baron’s daughter was wronged by another girl, an artistic rivals who had taken a painting of Cecelia’s and passed it off as her own so that she could get into art school. Cecelia, that was the name of the daughter, died of influenza shortly after, unknown and unable to fulfill her artistic potential.

“Cecelia’s ghost will haunt any of the students who wrong one of their Villa Innocencia sisters,” I said. “She will creep out from the crevices with her hand over her broken heart to frighten us into doing the right thing and being good girls. Sort of the Golden Rule Ghost, I guess. So the moral of the story was to be true to our sisters, to be a good Villa girl in our intentions and our actions.”

“And you’re sure that every word of it’s true.”

“Of course. Villa Innocencia girls don’t make up stories.”

“If you say so.”

It was getting chilly on the terrace, and some of the girls and their dates left the terrace to continue dancing inside. But I didn’t want to break the mood.

“Let’s stay outside,” I said to Greer. There were goose bumps on my arms and my teeth started to chatter – just a little bit, not enough for him to hear. But if we went inside, I knew he would find someone else to dance with.

“OK, Mary Evangeline.” He pulled me closer and we danced like that for a few minutes.

If a chaperone had been out there, we would have been told to step away from each other. But there was just us. That’s when he bent down to kiss me.

“Don’t worry,” he whispered. “No one can see us.” He kissed me again.

Then the spell was broken.

“Mary Evangeline.” That wasn’t Greer’s voice. “Mary Evangleine.” I knew that voice.

Suddenly Greer Nelson pulled away from me so quickly, I tripped forward and almost fell on the patio.  That’s when I saw Sister Superior.

“Mary Evangeline,” she said. “You’re going to have to come with me.”

Next chapter: Tommy interrupts the dance.

Then We Were Famous: Chapter One

6 Jul

This is my 100th post with CharmCityWriter, and with it, I am switching up genres. I am putting the pen down on essays for a while and will be featuring some fiction in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully, you will enjoy these stories as much. I have always been grateful for the great comments and support I have received from readers! Keep reading, and I will keep writing.


Chapter One: Tommy

When I looked back on that night, I couldn’t help but think how that was one of the last nights of Maimie’s regular life. October 20, 1962. Mark that down, because that was the last time she could still walk out the door without looking to see who was on the street first. Or if there was a car parked at the corner, you know, with a reporter ducked down low in the seat. Or a photographer hiding behind the trash cans in the alley. That was before they interviewed the girls from her school, girls who never called her once to see how she was doing or came to the hospital or sent flowers. The girls who never talked to her when she was in class with them. But after everything that happened, they would have happily ripped the Rosary out of her hands and sold it along with their own souls if it meant they could get their own names in the papers. If it meant that a little bit of her fame rubbed off on them like glitter that was going to stick.

But mostly, I remembered that night because it was the night I met Maimie in the first place. I was supposed to be taking Trish up to the Hippodrome to the see the new Ted Porter movie. Rumor had it that Baltimore’s most famous actor was back in his hometown, so naturally everybody thought he would show up there. I wasn’t so sure, but you couldn’t tell Trish otherwise. So, I was going to take her up there for a big date and then go in to work on the midnight shift at the can company. It was me and Dan and Mooch’s night. All three of us would probably be working to make up the money we spent on our dates. That’s the way it was.

Then Trish got sick. She was so sick that her voice was nothing but the thinnest whisper on the phone. I sounded bad and I knew she felt worse since she had to miss the movie and everything. And make me miss it, too. She knew I wouldn’t want to go on my own or with the guys and their dates. At least I could still make money.

Then around nine, Big Gil called me. I hadn’t seen him since the last time he came over with money for Mom, which he always tried to slip to her without me seeing. Like I didn’t know what was going on. Like I wasn’t the one who took the envelope later and put some of the bills in different hiding places so it wouldn’t all disappear at once.

“Son, I need you to go pick up somebody who’s in a bit of a bad spot,” he said.

“What?” Big Gil was a bouncer and his work didn’t usually involve me.

“A girl we know needs to get over to Mercy.”

“The hospital?”

“Yeah, I need you to pick her up and bring her to the hospital.”

“Is she sick? Cause I gotta work. I don’t know if I can get out of my shift.” I probably could’ve, but I didn’t really want to.

“She ain’t sick, but she needs to get here real quick. And honestly Tommy, I just thought you could help out. She’s just a girl and she’s at a high school dance right now. I don’t want to send one of the guys from the club to collect her. She’s up at Villa Innocencia.”

Who did Big Gil know who sent their daughter to Villa Innocencia?

“I mean, I figured you would be okay there,” he said.

I knew what he was trying to say. I went to Catholic school, too. Holy Brother. Which was sorta the same as Villa Innocenica, but not really. All a guy had to do to get into Holy Brother was show a birth certificate that said you were Catholic. At Holy Brother, you didn’t have a Monsignor over to your house every Sunday for dinner. Your dad didn’t have to own anything but the lunch box he took to his shift at the Point. If your mother was too hung over to take you to Mass on Sunday, it didn’t matter. We went to enough Mass there anyway. We had a lifetime of Mass stored up in our own personal little piggy banks of holiness.  But we didn’t have any wealthy students like Villa Innocencia did.

Plus, the Villa was a girls’ school.

“Me and Betty are here at the hospital. We’ll meet you and Maimie.”

“Who’s Maimie?”

“The girl you’re picking up.”

“Is she sick?” I asked him again.

“No, but her mother’s real bad. Don’t tell her that though. Just bring her up to the hospital.”

Like that, I was doing Big Gil a favor.

Villa Innocencia was all the way up Charles Street on the north side of the city. I could’ve swum across the harbor faster. I even had to get out a map and look up the best way to go. But I figured as soon as I did my good deed, I could go into work, even if I was late, and make some money. I left South Baltimore a little after nine and headed north into downtown with all its office buildings. I kept going and the office buildings turned back into rowhouses, only bigger rowhouses now. By then I head reached the Hopkins campus and all the big houses of Guilford and Roland Park.

Then there was Villa Innocencia.

The school wasn’t like anything I had ever seen before. I mean I had heard about this place, but I had just never been there. I drove past the gates and under trees that had to be the tallest ones in all of Baltimore. Maybe there were trees this tall in Patterson Park. Maybe. When the trees opened up, there were a few buildings arranged around a circular drive. It would have been hard to figure out which building to go, except that one – this great big stone castle looking building –  was lit up so much that I knew that was where the dance must be, and I knew that was where I would find Maimie.

Next chapter: We meet Maimie.


1 Jun

It’s been a while since I have written. More than a month, actually. I haven’t gone this long without writing since I began this blog two years ago. And I certainly didn’t intend to take such a long break as I was gearing up for Post No. 100. This, in fact, is my 99th post since I started this blog as a New Year’s resolution, so only one more until 100!

What a time to disappear, right? And where exactly have I been? A few readers have wondered, which is awfully considerate of them.

Here’s an end to the mystery: I have a new job! And I have been dividing my time between that job and my old job.


My new school!

My new school!

Here’s what an average day looks like for me. In the morning, I go to Sisters Academy in Lansdowne, just south of the city, and continue to work as the graduate support director, making sure 58 girls in high schools across the city have what they need for academic success. Then in the afternoon, I drive to Cristo Rey Jesuit in Fells Point, on Baltimore’s east side, where in one week’s time I will serve as their full-time communications director.

In the off hours, there’s been the usual itinerary of soccer practice, baseball games, and driving my daughter to the store to buy things like adhesive paper so she can make class election stickers.

I have a legal pad of notes for one job, and a legal pad of notes for the other job, plus an electronic calendar, a calendar book for the academic year, and the calendar on my phone. Too many calendars! It’s more than a little confusing going back and forth between two places, and it leaves me no time for writing.

Ah, transitions. I have spent the past five years helping students transition from middle school to high school, and now I am transitioning myself.

Life is weird, because Cristo Rey Jesuit is probably the high school I know best in this city. In fact, almost a third of the students I track when they leave our middle school now attend this high school. Since I did school visits for Sisters Academy, there were some months of the year when I was at CRJ every week. Sometimes I was there twice a week. When I tell colleagues and friends that I now will be working there, they say, “Of course,” or “That makes so much sense.” There’s no surprise factor to my surprise, which is all right with me.

Another fun fact: I am being mentored by the school’s current communications director, Mary Beth, whom I met nearly a decade ago. At my grandmother’s funeral. Yes, it’s true. She was there representing Notre Dame of Maryland University, where my dad served on a board and my younger sister studied as an undergraduate. I went there for grad school.


It gets even smaller – Cristo Rey Jesuit has been open for seven years. Before that, there was another school in the building, Our Lady of the Rosary. My dad was the vice principal of that school. Although my office is in a different part of the building than his was, I still walk the same halls that he did.

He worked there during the time that I lived in Montana with my family, and I vividly remember him saying how bone chilling the winter wind could be as it came off the harbor, which is just two blocks down from the school building. Ten years later, I stood on Eastern Avenue and checked the thunder clouds gathering one afternoon over the same harbor view.

If I have one prayer in life, it’s to be guided to where I am supposed to go. If there is somewhere I am supposed to be, or someone I am supposed to help, don’t let me miss that message because I am standing in a Target aisle contemplating which kind of granola bar to buy. Or I am sorting through one of my three calendars.

Guide me. I say it all the time, and it’s amazing because I seem to get where I am supposed to be. I felt that way when my journey took me away from Baltimore and then when it took me back again.

I felt that way when I started working at Sisters Academy, and I certainly feel that way now.

This is going to be an emotional week. Tonight was the last 8th grade dinner I will attend at Sisters Academy. Wednesday will be my last graduation. The Class of 2014 will be the the last class I will help apply to high school. Next week, I will be helping Cristo Rey Jesuit’s valedictorian and salutatorian write their graduation speeches, and I will go through commencement activities there.

I thought for sure this spring would be all about writing and my blog, and celebrating 100 posts. I wanted to have a big party and maybe even use that occasion to do a little fundraising for an educational cause. But I am be guided in another direction, to another place, and I am going along.

This is Post No. 99. I am going to take a break during the month of June and then return July 1 with Post No. 100 and something new, something different. I hope you will continue to follow.

You just never know where it might lead you, but I hope you continue to let me be your guide.


Good news is no news

29 Apr

I have some news. I have some good news that I can’t share at the present moment, for a variety of reasons. Oh, I can tell a few people here and there, enough folks to keep me from losing it over my own embargo.

But I can’t say much more than that.

When I was the age of the students I teach, I pretty much couldn’t keep a secret to save my life. Or anyone else’s for that matter. It wasn’t personal. I wanted to keep people’s secrets. But the only way I could handle them was if I took them out for a spin and a shine, and then tried them on somebody else. If I could speak somebody’s truths, then I understood exactly what they meant and how important they were, or not.

Life as an extrovert: We have to speak to believe.

In college, I was proud of myself when I kept a friend’s secret for years. For years the exact date of when this person started dating that person was such a deep dark secret that I didn’t even remember the date myself, although I’m pretty sure I eventually told other people there were some funky numbers involved. But that was when I learned a handy tool – listen intently to someone’s secrets, bear witness by listening to their deep dark deeds, and then promptly forget everything they told you so as not to accidentally unburden it on anyone else.

They can ask, but you don’t tell.

Now there are so many bits and pieces of information stored in my vault – the name of the girl my son likes, the identities of the two boys who asked for my daughter’s number, the fact that one of my friends is expecting a baby but hasn’t spread the news at her job yet. She is someone I like to chat with these days, because she is counting the days until she can talk freely, too.

I remember that feeling. I remember when I was expecting Leeannah and I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pregnant until I was through my first trimester. My sister had had a miscarriage, so experience had taught me to wait with that news. Plus, I am seriously superstitious. But I really wanted to talk about every last detail with somebody, so I ended up joining an online group at Stork Site (forever and fittingly referred to as Dork Site by Leeannah’s dad) and spending a lot of time sharing the news with other mothers there.

At work, there is information that I have to keep to myself, private financial information about some of our families, or concerns that are to be shared with the right channels but not anybody else. It’s hard, because sometimes there are things I see that I do want to share with others. This is particularly true when it’s something that defies stereotypes or sheds light on what it’s like to be living today in urban America.

When it’s so important that it’s something that we could all learn from, I write about it but often change the details of a student’s appearance or a school. Or I write about it more broadly so the point is made more important than the details. Even then, sometimes I go back and further vague the specifics. That’s because these stories are never meant to be about outing people, as much as they are about turning the light on teenagers and other folks who are so often misjudged.

Speaking of which, once a friend of a friend famously accused a sitter of something she didn’t do. I tried to write about that, which readers loved, but in the end this little scarlet letter story became a fiction piece (which won a prize!). The truth in that is that sometimes when readers are going to know so much more about a character than she will know about herself, it’s just better if that character is fictional, or not really present in the story at all.

A little goes a long way with dating stories, too. Kissing and telling, particularly in a blog can be tricky business (unless a helicopter or marijuana are involved), because you never want somebody to think you are just dating him or her for the story.

I also am leery of blogs that are only about dating, particularly if the goal of that blog is a long-term relationship. I remember reading a great finding-the-guy memoir about a hip single mother who was launching her writing career and who had finally met the man of her dreams. Only to break up with him after the memoir came out, according to her website.

Jinx, man. Total jinx.

So, mum’s my word. Until I get the word. This is a case of crazy timing, because here I am closing in on 100 posts and wanting to celebrate writing — and to cheer on the streets, darn it — and by all means, to keep writing.

But this news, and my need to guard it, has pretty much kept me from the computer for the past two weeks. I am just waiting for the moment when it’s OK to let everybody know. Then this writer’s block will crumble and the words will just come tumbling out.

This is my 98th post! Have you signed up to follow me? There will be prizes each week as CharmCityWriter closes in on 100 posts. Last week’s prize went to the last person who signed up to follow me, Mary G. 

This week there is a prize for my most frequent commenter, Mary Kay Baker, who writes in a lot and I hope writes in to this very post.

Happy reading!


Going local

16 Apr

It was Robin Wright who made me think about the Sunday farmers market.

Last week I read that Mrs. Underwood thought eating soft shell crabs was the best thing about filming “House of Cards” in Baltimore. Aw, hon, that’s like saying you’re one of us! Immediately I thought of the crab guy at the Sunday market, with his single cooler of squishy blue crabs crawling around inside.

They were sold live. So if you bought one, you had to boil it when you got home. Then you breaded it in some cornmeal and sautéed it right up. A soft shell crab tasted best on toast, the legs hanging out of the sandwich. A Baltimore delicacy!

April was too early in the season for soft shell crabs. But it wasn’t too early for the market, so I called my sister Gilly, who has the good parking juju, and we headed there with her son.

Gilly and Wynn navigate the crowd.

Gilly and Wynn navigate the crowd.

Every market had its smell – this one had an olfactory blend of popcorn and fried rice and good coffee. This market had its own sound, too, for it was held beneath I-83, the roller ramp of a highway that led in and out of the city from points north. It was the highway that froze immediately, because it was just one big overpass that vendors sheltered under on spring and summer Sundays to sell turkey burgers or African cloth.

Ten a.m. and the line for Zeke’s coffee was already pushing past the boundaries of the market, a queue of caffeine-depleted people that stretched onto the civilian sidewalk. Gilly and I ducked through the crowd to the pastry stall on the other side, which sold coffee that was just as good and had blueberry streusel, too.

Coffee was essential to getting your bearings in this cloth-bag carrying mob of tattooed couples in sandals or dads with strollers. Children with ice creams. Best girl friends in sundresses with loaves of bread tucked into their recycled totes. It was massive, this crowd, but they were happy with full bellies or at least bags of goodies that would fill their bellies later.

And of course, there were flowers.

The farmers market is the perfect place to buy flowers for your porch or garden.

The farmers market is the perfect place to buy flowers for your porch or garden.

“We’re going to do one loop around and see the antiques lady and then we’re going to do another loop around,” Gilly said, which sounded like the sort of insider intel one needed to tackle a market like this. But it just meant we were circling and circling in a pack of people as the overpass above us rattled with cars.

In other words, we meandered and enjoyed the sights – booths with tin jewelry, crocheted bags, or vintage prints of Baltimore. And the smell of kettle corn, followed by the scent of breakfast crepes.

“Look, there’s Kiefer Mitchell. Over there in ball cap,” Gilly said, pointing out a politician who serves in the House of Delegates. “You gonna take a picture of him, too?” she teased me after I snapped a shot of pastries and then one of pansies.

My sister preferred her savory to her sweet, which meant that after one lap we stood in line for shrimp toast and coconut chicken, ogling the dimpled pork buns and the pans of fried rice.

Of course, we hit the seafood stall. Not the guy who sold the crabs, because it was definitely too early for him, but the other seafood guys with their SUV fleet of coolers the size of my desk and filled with squid and shrimp and lobster tails. My sister and I each bought squid, and I sautéed mine on Sunday night. I added it to a salad of greens, Japanese eggplant, and croutons made from rosemary olive bread.

It wasn’t a soft shell, but I do think Robin Wright would have liked it.

Hey, CharmCityWriter readers: Gina Fabbroni is the winner of the first contest in honor of 100 posts. Over spring break, Gina traveled through more than a quarter of the country in a week. She visited a navy base, an army base, and an air force base, and attended an army ranger graduation. “Oh, and I listened to three books on tape,” Gina wrote. 

Gina wins a $20 Starbucks gift card. Congratulations, and thanks for reading!

This is my 97th post! Have you signed up to follow me? There will be prizes each week as CharmCityWriter closes in on 100 posts. In fact, this week’s prize is for the very next person who signs up to follow this blog.


Dates with a diamond

6 Apr

Baseball season started at 8 a.m. in our house this past Saturday with the shout of these ominous words — “I forgot I have to wear a cup!”

Yes, it’s a Little League rule: A catcher has to wear a cup.

I was still trying to summon the needed energy to get out of bed on a Saturday morning, and Doyle was already showered and dressed, ready for a practice that wouldn’t begin for an hour. In case you don’t have middle schoolers in your own home, they are rarely if ever ready for anything an hour ahead of time.

Wynn and Doyle, Little Leaguers small and tall

Two players, Wynn and Doyle, Little Leaguers small and tall

Little League, Season No. Six. The baseball fields are two blocks from our house, and by 8:45 the empty parking spots on our street were filling up as players and their parents arrived for uniform pickup and the first practices.

It still felt like March: Scrubby whiskers of green grass were plotting to overtake the mud sop that needed to return ASAP to its real identity of playing fields, and parents wrapped in scarves and clad in rain boots huddled in twos and threes to gossip or compare sports schedules. It was too windy for a camp chair to stay upright without a seat in it. But there was the tell-tale thump of spring’s heart — the crack of the bat to ball as one young hitter after another took their turns in batting practice.

This is Doyle’s second year in a row as a Cardinal. Before that, he spent two years as a Durham Bull, before that he was an Iron Bird, and he spent a season as a Blue Claw. The shirts from his old teams cycle their way into his pajama drawer, so he can dream Major League dreams in a faded Little League T-shirts.

No cleats in the gym during baseball uniform pickup!

It’s a school rule — No cleats in the gymnasium during baseball uniform pickup!

He has different teams and different coaches every year, even in the years when his team name stays the same. He always plays the same position though – catcher. There was one year a coach really favored him at shortstop, but in the championship game, which his team won, Doyle caught.

“Last year, I played every inning in the playoffs as a catcher,” he called to me as I was writing this, because like any good baseball fan, he has calculated and stored a filing cabinet worth of stats and highlight reels in his mind.

His cousin Wynn, for example, currently has a 1.000 batting average – “a perfect batting average.” He’s played one tee ball game, he was at bat three times, and he belted out three hits. Not too shabby of a start.

Wynn runs home in his first ever tee ball game.

Wynn runs home in his first ever tee ball game.

We thought we might miss his first game. It didn’t look too good as Doyle and I stood for close to an hour in various snaking lines in the middle school gym, waiting to collect from different stations the Cardinals T-shirt, hat, socks, belt, and the gray baseball pants that will be permanently grass and dirt stained after one game as catcher.

But we made it home in time to collect Leeannah and then two of my nieces and head over to Gilman School’s fields for Roland Park Baseball League’s Opening Day. The League has been around longer than the Baltimore Orioles, and we’re pretty convinced its next greatest hitter is my nephew, who, as we might have mentioned, is three for three.

If there is anything I like as much as packed car headed to the beach, it’s a car full of kids headed to a sporting matchup of some sort. We will be squeezing games in around Doyle’s year-round soccer practices, Sunday school, spring break trips, other family trips, and all the things that clog the end-of-the-year school calendar and make a parent cry, “No more!”

A family of Little League fans

A family of Little League fans

So begins our Tuesday and Friday night baseball picnics, our standing dates with a diamond. Sunscreen, sunflower seeds, and Oxy stain remover will find their way onto the weekly store list. We won’t see any of our TV shows. And if the season goes on long enough, we will be packing mosquito repellent.

But we’re ready. Baseball season is finally here, and we’re definitely ready.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done on a break? Send me an email at by Wednesday, April 9. The most original entry, as judged by me and my adorable children, will win a $20 Starbucks gift card.

This is my 96th post! Have you signed up to follow me? There will be prizes each week as CharmCityWriter closes in on 100 posts. Stay tuned!




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