Last year my family and I took our first trip to Spring Training in Arizona. Almost immediately upon arriving home, we started researching details for our second (and hopefully yearly) trip. By July, we had our Airbnb booked, by January we had all of our game tickets purchased, and by February I had a countdown written on the refrigerator.
39 days to go!
And for 39 looong days, I counted down, one by one, erasing and rewriting until we were finally walking out the door to make our Wednesday night flight.
In our Uber ride to the airport, the conversation centered heavily on COVID-19, and the toll it was taking on both the health and sanity of the world at large. We told our driver we were happy to be getting away from the hysteria for a little while, and he nodded enthusiastically, saying that focusing on the people you love is important in times like these.
When we landed in Phoenix a few hours later, my sister, Natalee, and I could hardly contain our excitement. We walked into the doors of our AirBnb and hugged our parents, and our friends Darryl, DeeDee and Cody, each of us buzzing about finally making it back here, together, a year later.
The next morning, we all walked out in our gear—my family repping the Dodgers, and the Beliel’s repping the Mariners. Our initial fears were that it might rain, but when notifications started to come in about the NBA pausing their season, and then the NHL, there was an entirely new concern hovering over us.
Still, we piled into the car and drove to Surprise Stadium to watch the Mariners play the Royals. We arrived about a half hour early, which gave us some time to pace, and play a few rounds of Heads Up! before hearing the rumblings that the game was going to be cancelled. But then, at 11:30 a.m. the gates opened, we walked inside and immediately shifted our thoughts to lunch. Before we could all decide on anything however, an announcement came over the loud speaker to inform us that the game had been cancelled—along with the remainder of all Spring Training games.
Not fully accepting what that meant for us, we got back in the car and went to Top Golf to try and make something of the day. When we got there, it appeared that everyone in a 20-mile radius (and baseball gear) had had the same thought, making the wait time over two hours. So, we put our name in and went out to lunch, where we all took tequila shots, watched a basketball game from the 1996 March Madness tournament (because all current sports were cancelled) and I spilled most of my drink on me, Cody and our booth bench, making our day (which had started out as hopeful and exciting) go from sad to sticky (and cold).
Around 3 o’clock, our bay at Top Golf was ready, so we headed back to golf for a few hours, which was both fun and difficult, especially when we decided to each try and hit a few balls wearing my sister’s glasses, which could make anyone dizzy. For me personally, they made my left eye feel like it was in the center of my forehead, which made the waiting golf ball split into two. Miraculously, I still hit it, where it landed however, I couldn’t tell you.
On our way back to the Airbnb, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some supplies for dinner, and then settled in for the night. Aside from dinner, my sister had put together plans to celebrate the 30th wedding anniversary of both our parents and Darryl and DeeDee—we had even stopped at the airport gift shop to find the
strangest most wonderful trinkets that could act as prizes for the winners.
During the three rounds of the game, Natalee acted as host, and Cody and I acted as her judges and color commentators. And though it wasn’t necessary, we went by aliases—Laura, Lisa & Lance—which we decided on solely because we saw this Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial, and then took a hard tangent into researching the inventors of the first sports bra. (Fun fact: it was invented in 1977 by Lisa Lindahl—hence our “L” named alter egos—Polly Smith, and Hinda Miller, by sewing two jock straps together, and was initially called the “jogbra.”) It should also be noted that my parents won the game, though not before one question revealed that my mother would be the first to eat my dad in order to survive on a desert island. So there’s that.
On Friday, the group of us woke up with a noticeable weight on our shoulders. While it was clear we were all trying to make the best of the weekend, the widespread panic regarding COVID-19, and our mostly unspoken worries of what the situation would be like back home, were heavy in the air. Conversation was quiet at lunch, even as we sat in a BBQ restaurant that had a 60,000 gallon aquarium inside—though I did take a few moments to name one of the sharks “Luke.” To top it all off, it was a very rainy, dreary day, so after leaving the restaurant, we nixed our plans of visiting the zoo next door and instead went back home. After that, the day mostly consisted of lounging, napping, and quiet conversations. And while I think it made us all a little sad, frustrated even that the weekend wasn’t turning out quite how we hoped it would, I also think we knew were lucky to have each other.
This only became more apparent when we went back to the grocery store that night. We went thinking we could grab some wine and a few ingredients to make cookies for dessert, only to find that, on top of the now infamously empty toilet paper shelves, there was also no flour, and only a couple cartons of eggs—one of which we ended up taking, but only after discarding the broken eggs inside. In fact, many aisles lay bare, some hard to make sense of. Walking through the grocery store, it was obvious that the panic we had previously only heard about on the news, was now right in front of us, slowly surrounding us everywhere we went. I started to think about the supplies I had back home, and whether they would suffice for the coming weeks. I started texting friends, asking how they were, trying to squash the anxiety that started to flutter at the bottom of my stomach. We still had a couple days left in Arizona, but the discomfort that had dawned with the morning had only multiplied as the day went on.
As we stood in line at the grocery store, I noticed how everyone still remained in somewhat organized lines, no matter how long, and that we were still, for the most part, kind and polite. I hoped that we’d all remain aware and respectful of our fellow man in the weeks to come, and that we wouldn’t let this panic turn into chaos. Then, in the cart in front of us, a baby smiled at me and my mom, and for a moment I forgot about absolutely everything.
The next day, we got up bright and early to head back to the zoo. And while the grounds were still a little muddy from the day before, we got to take our time walking from exhibit to exhibit, soaking in some Vitamin D, and learning about the surprisingly diverse animal population at Litchfield Park’s Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium.
Afterward, we headed to lunch at the Arrogant Butcher, which would serve as our last sit down meal as a group. Later that afternoon, Cody would fly home, and the next morning, after dropping Darryl and DeeDee off at the airport to do the same, my family and I would make the six hour drive back to California in my dad’s truck.
By the time we all arrived home, it was obvious that the weekend was not quite what we had hoped. While there were some great parts, overall, we lacked the magic (and Mel) that had made the previous year so perfect. Going into it, we’d hoped to put the troubles of the world aside, but it quickly became clear that we couldn’t do that. Unlike most vacations, where the responsibilities of the world can fade into the background, this trip was riddled with calls (and texts and emails and news reports) from the real world, demanding we hear them no matter where we were. So as we all went our separate ways and tried prepare for the week ahead, we agreed that we would try again next year.
As I sit here, writing about the weekend, I have no idea what to expect going into this workweek. I don’t know what the state of the world will look like in a month, let alone next March when, if we’re lucky, we might find ourselves counting down for another trip to Spring Training. What I do know is that I am very fortunate. Times like these make you realize how much you take for granted, and how much you already have, regardless of your dwindling supply of toilet paper. So let’s not lose sight of that as we step into these unknown few months.
Let us remember how lucky we are to have people who love us. Let us hold tight to the world we know, and fight not with each other but for each other, to get back to that world. Let us take it one day at a time, never allowing the fear to overshadow our innate human goodness.
We can get through this together if we go through it together. So let’s take a deep breath, take the necessary cautionary steps, help each other where we can, and get through it.