"No kidding!" people are saying. "Your first time?"
"Yes," I say. "First ever. And it's true love, too."
Oh, I know there'll be trials, times when a little rain falls, when we don't see eye to eye. I know I have a lot to learn. But I'm sure that these first stirrings of passion will last me the rest of my life.
You see, I went to my first baseball game the other night. In my 40-somethingth year. And it was beautiful.
No one, in fact, had told me about the beauty of it: the field like a faceted emerald, the stands a kaleidoscope of color and motion, the sky glowing in tints of Maxfield Parrish . . . and later, the moon, a tiny sliver like a silver bowl waiting for the earliest star to fall right in. It was an enchanted evening.
To be sure, those who'd been down this path before me had claimed it was fun, even exhilarating. And songs have been written about the food. So I was prepared for the general air of camaraderie, the siren shouts of the Budweiser man, the extra relish that such a setting adds to the taste of a hot dog.
But I didn't expect to be surrounded by 32,595 of my closest friends, every one of us united in pursuit of single goal -- "Dump the ump!" "Here comes the wave!" "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOSE!" I didn't expect to scream until my voice gave out, to be trading high-fives with everyone I could reach, to be carried away on a momentous rush of human excitement. Great folks, these Baltimore fans.
In my innocence, I didn't catch much of the sheer athletic prowess that makes the players, these big young guys, so special. I saw some amazing catches, and I saw three home runs (who would believe that an object as tiny as a baseball could be driven so far with a stick?). But I also saw guys fall down and drop the ball and run too slow and throw too late. And I saw a surprising number of balls zinging into the stands. And that may have been the best part of all: The sheer surprise of it, so much of which gets stripped away in the tightly focused, once-removed commentary of radio or TV.
And then all too soon it was over, leaving me tired, hoarse, impassioned and ready for more.
I hope this love will last. Right now I can walk through charming neighborhoods to the sweet old stadium and stroll home by the (( lake beneath the stars. I don't know what will happen when my new love moves farther away, downtown, to a sleek new place surrounded by superhighways and busy city streets.
For the time being I'm content to bask in the sunlight and the light-banks and see what the future brings. Maybe I'll guess, before I'm told, why everybody's booing. Maybe I'll catch a ball. Maybe the Orioles will win next time. Whatever happens, we'll face it together. Love is like that.
And by the way, I now have something in common with the queen of England.
It was her first time, too.