By Candace Walsh
Capital H, capital F. With parenthood comes the responsibility (and the desire) to Have Fun with one’s children—especially in the summertime. Each sunny, school-free day seems like an opportunity to either fill in that blank with Fun or have another black mark placed next to your name in the Dud Parent category.
The thing about trying to have fun as a family is that, oftentimes, it isn’t fun. There’s too much pressure, or the kids don’t like the activity or, even though the kids have fun, the adults are gritting their teeth, although they’re trying really hard to get over themselves and be those awesome, cool parents who feel perfectly at home spending the day (the day) at the children’s museum. What is up with those people? I’ll have what they’re having, unless I’ve already tried it and the side effects are intolerable.
I wasn’t sure we’d all have a good time at the Isotopes game the other weekend. My partner Laura loves going to baseball games, and that’s one of the great things about being in a relationship: When you’re totally in love with someone, you’re usually open to doing things that you might have spent the rest of your life never doing again. I haven’t been to a baseball game since I went to see the Mets play the Yankees when I was about 7 years old (we had nosebleed seats and it seemed to go on forever). And it was a first for my daughter Honorée (age 8) and my son Nathaniel (age 6).
When we arrived at the stadium, which, according to the Isotopes’ website, is “affectionately called ‘the Lab’” (which makes me want to crack meth jokes), I was pleased to see it was clean, bigger than dinky and smaller than cavernous. We went straight over to the Hebrew National hot dog stand and got foot-long hot dogs and Cokes (for the kids) and regular hot dogs and big cups of frosty cold beer (for the grown-ups). Although Coke used to be on my childhood dinner table reliably each night, it’s a very exotic and taboo beverage for my children. Their eyes opened as wide as saucers.
“Really? We can drink this?” they asked.
“Yes, because it’s a special occasion,” I said. “It’s okay to have junky food on special occasions.”
I hoped their dad would buy the same explanation and not give me a lecture.
I ordered my hot dog with sauerkraut, and there was a fixins’ bar right next to the stand, stocked with copious amounts of relish, ketchup, chopped onions and mustard. We loaded up and went to our seats, which were good. It’s kind of like the Lensic in that there aren’t really any bad seats. We were just outside of the infield near first base. But unlike the Lensic, the audience had a robust level of diversity going on. There was the tattooed girl wearing a skimpy bikini bathing suit with a pair of unzipped Daisy Dukes that seemed to pull her bikini bottom down a few more degrees toward her butt cleavage. We also saw college kids, multigenerational families of all colors, and a big group of baseball-loving lesbians who gave us a certain level of comfort as the only same-sex-relationship-headed family for as far as the eye could see.
After we got settled into our seats, an angry-seeming white guy, who had the special talent of being able to enunciate as he bellowed, started talking trash, complete with lots of F-bombs, at a high decibel level a few rows up. I got the feeling he spent his life hoping to be discovered by David Letterman.
“It’s a good thing that guy isn’t right behind me,” I said, “because, if he were, I’d have to have some words.” The cold beer in the hot sun had encouraged my already overly sassy mouth. With that, the huge dude in front of me busted out in a whole-body laugh. His sunglasses, the arms of which were jammed into the sides of his inked, shaven head, almost fell off. He turned his head just enough to acknowledge that I was the source of his yuks. I felt cool and wisecracking, like Carla on Cheers. You know her character went to a lot of baseball games. And here I was at one, making big tough guys laugh.
When the kids started to get squirrely, we wandered over to the conveniently located Fun Zone, just above the outfield. They played on the playground (free) and a carousel, bouncy houses and a giant slide, which required cash money.
Amidst all this, we did watch the game, and it was a good one, although it was long—four hours long. The Nashville Sounds got the first couple of runs, making me wonder if we’d be spending the afternoon gamely witnessing the Isotopes getting creamed on home soil. And now, a quote from Laura, who speaks baseball language:
“The Isotopes opened a narrow lead, until a hit-fest in the seventh inning put the Isotopes up 15-5.”
Just when I thought the game was going to end with an anticlimactic, highly padded Isotopes win, the Sounds rallied and had us all on the edge of our seats with a score of 15-12. As the bases loaded swiftly with men in red uniforms, I wondered: Would the Sounds triumph, just when we all thought an Isotopes win was in the bag?
It was clear that, either way, we all Had Fun. We had eaten great junk food and drank slightly naughty beverages; the kids had played on the playground; I had remembered the sunblock and re-applied it at the right times; Laura had emanated extreme well-being; I understood the game (which is so much better than fighting off feeling like a numbskull while watching football); and Laura had bought Honorée a pink Isotopes baseball hat with purple flowers on it, and Nathaniel a huge blue foam pointing finger—which is, like, so his speed right now. I don’t know whether he’ll ever get clear on the team being called the Isotopes and not the Isotoots, but that’s not high on my list of worries.
In the last few minutes of the game, the Isotopes pulled the trigger on a fatal smackdown: “an infield grounder and an expertly turned double play” (thanks, Laura) that ended the inning and the game. That night, the kids had a bath and then went to bed—although the Coke had jacked them up enough that they could not settle for a while. They had Had too much Fun, which is never enough.
Laura and I went to bed with the anticipatory and lulling knowledge that the four of us could and would, as a family, go to baseball games for the next stack of decades and, although our ages and dynamics would change, the game would stay the same.