Merry Unbirthday To You

Dear Mom,
 
Today is your would-be-birthday, a strange absence of a holiday. I thought I’d write to tell you what we’d do today if you were alive and well…
 
Today, C and I are taking you to a game. Phillies home against the Nationals. Season home opener was yesterday which means it’s early — we won’t get worked up about a loss, but get pumped about the coming summer if it’s a W.
 
We park in Lot B — the one where the entrance feels far away, but it’s easier to get back out onto 95 and Walt Whitman Bridge. It’s one of your Phillies home secrets. We go in through the East entrance where we run into a customer of yours – retired sweet older man who scans tickets at the entrance because he simply loves baseball. He’s thrilled to see you and has a 2017 Season Opener tee (xl) he stashed away from yesterday hoping he’d see a friendly face.  
 
Next, it’s a pit stop at the 200 level bathrooms; En route we linger at the merch booth and exchange some ooooh cute hoodies! We take our time finding our seats, stopping to peek through the section gaps on the lower levels. Maybe a “good spot” will open up in the 7th inning, doesn’t even look that full yet! We’re hopeful at the bottom of the 3rd. Here, nothing is rushed.
 
C and I ask you for facts and figures you learned on the stadium tours. The food all comes from Aramark, except in the locker room — that’s made-to-order…The dirt the game balls are covered in comes from a top-secret farm in Virginia…We listen like it’s all new information; all fascinating.

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The 400 level has that woozy sea-sick effect on me, the perilous slope and day-drunk fans! We squeeze passed a man wearing a Penn State sweatshirt and you say, Yeaaah Go State! He smiles and chants back the language of your sports-crazed alma mater. The three of us maneuver around some rowdy college guys and find our spot, getting comfy with our jackets, bags, binoculars and camera. You look so happy — a little kid with those shiny apple-round cheeks. I’m proud to be here with you, relieved I’m past that teenage stage of embarrassed mother-daughter quality time.
 
By the top of the 5th you brilliantly suggest ‘dogs and Chickie’s. First: the dogs. We’ll make our way to the stand among a row of eateries all serving the same selection. Avoiding the long beer stand lines, we head straight to the hot dog warming station, each bundled gently in a foil wrapper. I pay and we dress the dogs in ketchup and mustard. Next: Chickie’s & Pete’s for crab fries. You’ll have finished the dog and be complaining of heartburn before we make it through Chickie’s velvet rope maze that would outdo the line at JFK airport security. At the Order Here counter it’s easy because they only sell one thing: cups full of crispy French fries coated in Old Bay seasoning. We step up and shout just one please! The Chickie’s teenager on duty scoops fries into a black paper cup and charges us some insane sporting event price, which C happily forks over.
 
The fries will be a quarter finished by the time we navigate out of the food area. That’s when we’ll try scoring a seat in the 200s. The 7th inning stretch along with its Jumbotron Dance Cam and sing-along have us laughing and swaying with the new neighbors in 211 and 207. We make it to the top of the 8th, but the abysmal score — Phillies down 4 runs — we say Let’s hit the road, pack up our jackets and bags and binoculars.
 
You’d be 64 today. Happy would-be-birthday, Momma.

your Daughter,
Kiddo