This weekend a few friends gathered in Baltimore to help their favorite Mississippi darling welcome in her thirtieth year. And what's more is, we decided to make it a surprise. While we came together to celebrate our friend, I couldn't help but think we were also celebrating the decade-long friendships that had begun their course while at Sewanee. We met Kelly when she was 19 years old, a wide-eyed gal with a contagious laugh, ready to take on the world (or at least some Art History classes) in those Abercrombie & Fitch corduroy shorts, paired with a matching tee or tank, tucked just so. In fact, the "front tuck" would become her signature look, and we all envied her knack for fashion forwardness. She was one of a kind, and we knew it instantly. Long story short, we've been spectators of and participants in her life for 11 years and counting. How could we possibly miss the big 3-0?
So like vultures on road kill, we descended upon the city (but not as expediently as our feathered foes, due to missed flights and long airport delays), and giggled with delight as we thought of our Kelly finding us hunched and huddled expectantly on her back porch. Mike, Kelly’s beau, had so exuberantly rallied us to the cause, and we the players—the Graces, Shaffers (long live the Queen!), and soon to be wed Foreman-Trahans—were ready for the task set upon us. However, our army was not quite complete and we missed the likes of our compatriots Monsieur and Mademoiselle Doss and of course Fraulein Martha Lynn (soon to be made an honest Frau herself). We made a note of our losses, and took to the front lines, vowing to throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the shock and awe campaign that was our surprise party. In the time leading up to Kelly’s arrival, we went over our plan of action many times, carefully working out our greeting, practicing voice cadences, and experimenting with pre- and post-surprise formations. Needless to say when our guest of honor finally arrived, tired and weary from her long day on the hospital floor, game-faces on, we launched our surprise attack with success.
The rest of the weekend was a happy blur. Once the initial surprise was out of the way, and Kell came to believe we were really there and not just a figment of her daze and moderate alcohol buzz, on came the next surprise--we would be kicking her out of her bed for 3 whole nights! Yes, we the players, her near and dear, forced the poor 30 year-old onto the floor. Alas, had we no scruples? But she obliged, and we allowed her generosity. On Saturday, we awoke to a glorious brunch prepared by the hands of Kelly's Baltimore gang, Mike and his roommate Tom, Maria and Lucia, and enjoyed it leisurely on the front porch well into the afternoon. The evening took us to Camden Yards, to enjoy America's favorite past time, and consequently America's favorite baseball team the Red Sox take on the hometown Baltimore Orioles . We stood, over-priced hot dogs and beers in hand, above the Bull Pen and watched as the score steadily climbed in favor of the Orioles. Rachel and Josh waited patiently for Matsuzaka, the famed Red Sox pitcher, to make his way into the Bull Pen, but were equally excited when the other Japanese pitcher, Okajima, took notice of their shouts in Japanese. The night wore on, and we bid adieu to Kristin and Shaffer, who left us for their warm bed awaiting them in DC. No sporting event experience is complete without a photo with a crazy fan. So before heading out, we jumped in for a shot with a Red Sox fan who painted his head like a baseball ("Baseball Head"), who seemed to be a popular photo sidekick the entire evening (see below). Sunday brought a new addition to our posse, my sister Shashi, who drove in from DC for an afternoon of lazy river tubing in the quiet town of Monkton, MD. We settled into our tubes, after acclimating to the very chilly waters, then reserved ourselves to a couple hours of floating fun, where we tossed the tennis ball, bumped into rocks, dodged some logs, enjoyed the picturesque landscape, and laughed at how slow Josh was floating. Oh, and Rachel even encountered a snake! The day kept lending itself to new opportunities--it was my first time tubing, and then later that evening I would also have my first go at breaking into some Maryland crabs. But then there was Monday. And as the familiar cliche reminds us, all good things must come to an end. And so it did.
So Kelly, thank you for your thirty years. And for enriching eleven of mine! Events like these remind me of my blessings, and perhaps my luck that friends such as these would have stumbled upon my path. Here's to more celebrations in the years to come! (P.S. Check back for the video later, Andy has got to figure out how to capture HD footage)