Hey, here’s a cute story for you. It involves tulips.
Shortly after I graduated college, my parents gave me a thousand dollar plane ticket and sent me to Europe (it’s not as nice as it sounds?I was dating a European chick that they totally wanted me to impregnate), where I spent four months. Now, that particular summer, I didn’t have the luxury of following baseball with any regularity. In fact, I didn’t see one baseball game at any level that entire time. What I did see a lot of, however, was Tulips (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise).
While driving through the Netherlands (coolest people ever, by the way), I came across several tulip fields. I tell you, when you’ve never seen it before, there is nothing stranger than seeing miles and miles of tulips in waves of different colors. I can’t really describe how I felt about it. But I loved it.
Now, one day in May (hey, that rhymed), my then-girlfriend was driving us on a road that featured tulip fields on both sides. I had locked on to the rows of red, blue, pink and yellow flowers that seemed to actually massage my eyes (am I getting too poetic here? My bad), and just when I thought it couldn’t get any more beautiful, I saw the proverbial diamond in a pool of rubies.
“Stop the car,” I demanded.
My then-girlfriend, a German jeans model who may as well have been the poster child for why Hitler did what he did, was not used to me speaking to her with such an anxious tone. She stopped the car immediately and asked, “Are you all right?”
I didn’t answer. Instead, I opened the car door and walked towards a little league baseball field in the middle of a tulip field.
Now, because of its location, this particular little league field was a little quirky. A thick mesh of netting covered the field from fence to fence (the netting hung from poles that extended out over the field almost like archways). I know now that this was done to protect the tulips from foul balls and homeruns. At the time though, all I knew was that I was looking at the first baseball field I had seen in a month.
Like a moth to a flame (without all the flying and dying), I walked directly to that baseball field, opened the gate, walked in and began running around the bases.
My then-girlfriend kept yelling stuff (possibly reminding me that the field wasn’t my property or asking me what I was doing or maybe even chanting Gregorian style) but I couldn’t hear because I wasn’t listening. I was too busy sliding into the bases and admiring the way that rows of tulips looked next to outfield grass.
A few minutes later, when I finally pulled myself back into reality, I looked over and saw my then-girlfriend sitting on the hood of her car and chatting with some old farmer.
I, covered in dirt and grass stains, walked up to them and said hello.
“American,” said the wrinkled old man.
And he chuckled.
Now, my then-girlfriend didn’t speak Dutch. And the old man didn’t speak German or English. But they both knew a little Italian. And so, after a few exchanges were made, she deduced that he wanted to play catch with me.
A short while later, a little red truck showed up. In the front was an old woman. In the back were two baseball gloves and a ball.
And, just outside of a town called Hillegom (pronounced hill-a-home) in the Netherlands, an old man and a young man (who couldn’t communicate at all) had a game of catch, while an old woman and a young woman looked on quizzically.
When we finished (and he let me know we were finished by grimacing repeatedly on the last few throws) he patted me on the back and smiled. I shook his hand and thanked him. Had there not been such a horrible communication gap (I later learned from Then-Girlfriend that the old woman only spoke Dutch), we may have gotten to know the old couple. But as it was, we just had our game of catch and went our separate ways.
“Well, that was weird,” said Then-Girlfriend as we drove away.
And then, after a few seconds of silence (highlighted by a discerning stare at my grass-stained, dirt-covered clothes), she added, “But it was good weird.”
“Couldn’t a said it better myself, babe.”