Sitting a few rows behind home plate at the Nationals game over the Memorial Day weekend, the glare of the sun was nothing compared to the glares of the Orioles' fans, who wondered in disgust how we Washingtonians could abandon orange for red after claiming the Baltimore birds as our own since birth ... or thereabouts.
Smothered with SPF 55 sunscreen, my 5-year-old and her boyfriends complained of the heat under their Curly W ball caps. Indeed, sweat trickled from their ears, and they spent more time pouring water down each other's shirts than watching the heat coming off the mound.
That is, until the O's pitcher walked the Nats' Ryan Zimmerman, loading the bases and summoning our "boos." I gathered my sunkissed arms around the sweaty children, their faces stained with ketchup, their teeth sharing space with Cracker Jacks, and spoke to them as if the first space shuttle were about to launch.
"Kids, see how there's a man standing on every base? The next batter could bring them all home. Don't even blink."
The children watched Adam Dunn swing and connect powerfully as the ball disappeared out of sight. They didn't have time to ask exactly where in outer space it went.
They were swooped up in our arms, propped onto the backs of the seats in the row ahead, joining us as we wildly jumped and screamed for joy. We shredded our vocal cords and tweaked our backs, but we hardly cared. Fireworks exploded overhead, amplifying times 50 by the thrilling sound of the last bat crack.
My Blackberry buzzed. I didn't notice as the clouds moved in and let light showers fall. The kids welcomed the relief, but we took cover anyway, and started to make our way out of the ballpark before the boys could whine about not getting to run the bases. We were overdue for a trip over the river to grandmother's house for a Memorial Day family get-together anyway.
I felt guilty about leaving the team before congratulating them properly. They deserved a standing "O" in front of those now really disgusted O's fans. We personally apologized for our premature departure to the Nationals' president, Stan Kasten, who made his way through the seats like the host of a very happy party. Then my phone reminded me a message awaited.
It was from my husband, whom I had sent back to Capitol Hill by foot -- at the top of the seventh, one batter before Zimmerman was walked -- to pick up the car so the boys wouldn't have to trek 10 long blocks on blistered feet.
"Did I just miss a grand slam?"
Ouch. He had. Not only a grand slam, but the game-winning grand slam. I gently reminded him of his card-carrying Red Sox fan status and the time I arranged for him to fly to St Louis to witness the lifting of the curse.
Sunburns, sweat, the sweetest moments missed.
But never as much as losing.