When Beau's Aunt Janet handed me the Marriott laundry bag and suggested it could be used as a poncho for Cruz in case of rain, I stuffed it in our baby bag, but didn't think twice about it. It was Labor Day weekend, the Hawks' season opener, and Cruz's first trip to Kinnick Stadium. I was sure nothing was going to rain on our parade and I was not about to cover up Cruz's black and gold jersey with a poncho.
Unfortunately, our parade got some rain. It got soaked. A torrential downpour, followed by a 'Dangerous Thunderstorm Warning' flashing across the screen of my phone while the eight of us were in row thirty-nine of Kinnick Stadium. This was after a series of rainy events that unfolded in and around the stadium on and before Saturday's game. We had several 'seats' during the game, from a packed booth for six at Stella when we decided to forgo the game, to the temporary seat at a flooded stadium, but the king-sized bed and over-sized comforter in Mark and Janet's hotel room ended up being the best seat in the house.
After all, it was dry.
The day started exactly as I had pictured. We met Janet, Mark, and Jillian, Beau's aunt, uncle, and cousin, and Ted and Jane, Janet's parents, at the Marriott. Actually, we met Mark in the parking lot of Jillian's work, in a parking spot next to a flashy Yukon Denali, which we later found out held the legendary Hayden Fry, waiting for a cop to escort him to Kinnick. Jillian, Special Events Coordinator for Iowa City Coralville, was pretty much in charge of the annual Fry Fest celebration, and we thought it'd be fun to check out the festivities. Cruz looked so darn cute in his little Hawkeye jersey, and we had been practicing his touchdown dance in the car on the way there. Sure, the sky looked a little sketchy by Cedar Rapids and as we pulled into the Marriott, but, I continued to be hopeful (or in denial), and focused on more important things like getting Cruz's picture by Herky the Scottish Highlander.
Cruz was loving the atmosphere surrounding Kinnick before the game, clapping to the beat of the tailgate music and scanning the sea of college girls from atop Beau's shoulders. He was even cool with the Marriott poncho after the first few raindrops fell just minutes before the gates opened. We weren't phased yet, however, and huddled together under Janet and Jane's umbrellas, playing the name game and deciding the best plan of action for staying as dry as possible.
Our plan, however, didn't hold out for long. In fact, I'm not sure even a plan designed by Jack Bauer himself could have withstood Mother Nature. As the rain began to fall and the sea of yellow ponchos flooded the ticket gate, I learned a few things in a hurry. First, I learned that the college girls working the ticket booth had no empathy for a wet mama trying desperately to keep her baby dry with a diaper bag 'too big to take in to the stadium.' And this college girl working the ticket booth didn't care that I had already talked to a security guard who said my bag was completely acceptable as long as I had my baby in tow with me. No, she decided to argue with me in the rain, as well as tell us that we would have to ditch our umbrellas if we wanted in the stadium. So, as the mascara began to run down my cheeks like eye black, and the only three diapers in Cruz's bag began to test their wetness capacity, we had a decision to make. Either withstand the rain, ditch the umbrellas, and make a run for the sheltered concession area, or screw our tickets and find some place dry to get some nachos and watch the game on TV.
After deciding Janet's umbrella was just too nice to ditch, we huddled together and made our way to Stella, a restaurant just minutes from Kinnick. We squeezed in a booth, ordered a round of Bloody Mary's, and pulled our tickets out to let them dry, in hopes that the ground would dry by halftime. This is about the time Mark casually approached the table, patting his chest and shaking his head...
Mark: "The tickets are gone."
Janet: "What do you mean, 'the tickets are gone?!'"
Mark: "They must have fallen out somewhere between here and the stadium."
Yes, while I was battling with the ticket checkers about my diaper bag, Mark graciously kept our tickets in one place. That one place, however, proved to be unsuccessful at keeping our tickets secure. We tried to laugh it off, however, a sense of defeat exuded from the table. And to top it all off, the TVs were cutting in and out at the restaurant.
The defeat must have been quite apparent, as only minutes later the host who had scored us a table earlier came over holding six tickets in his hand.
"Did you guys lose some tickets?"
Only in these conditions would someone actually return six game-day tickets. We celebrated our find, celebrated the first Hawkeye touchdown from our booth, and celebrated a clearing sky. About two minutes into the second quarter, we paid our tab, repacked our wet bags, and made our way to the stadium, tickets securely in hand.
For the five minutes he saw of it, Cruz loved Kinnick Stadium. He clapped his hands, swayed back and forth to the marching band, and loved the jumbo-tron. The excitement of the day soon caught up with him, however, and he was out halfway through the halftime show.
If I thought the morning's events were wild, they were merely a glimpse into the mess that would ensue just minutes into the third quarter. If the lightning, followed by the rush of people exiting the stadium weren't enough to lure us from our seats, the black rolling clouds did the trick. By the time we finally decided we should make our way to some shelter, we were too late. Row thirty-nine, a sleeping baby, and no umbrellas. Hurricane Irene had descended on Kinnick Stadium, and we were trapped. The rest of the afternoon is best described in a series of images that now leave us in hysterics. Now that we're dry, anyway...
...Janet making the ultimate sacrifice, running out in the storm to retrieve the umbrellas she had hidden under a car before we went in the stadium.
...Our decision to try and catch a spot on the Hawkeye Express Train, followed by me screaming at Beau to turn around as he made his way toward the tracks with Cruz in hand. The wind was blowing so hard that his umbrella was completely inside out. My mother instincts came out and I was ready to tackle someone.
...Jillian shouting 'WOMEN AND CHILDREN' as we slowly made our way to the train in a huge line of others trying to escape.
...Experiencing another 'Titanic' moment when our party was split just minutes before the train took off. They had room for Beau, Jillian, Cruz, and I, but wouldn't let the rest of us on. As we boarded, I looked over my shoulder to see Janet reassuring us, nodding her head, slowly mouthing the words, 'just go...'
Thankfully, we all made it to the I-Hop, where a warm Marriott shuttle awaited us. Dripping wet, but still in good spirits, we made our way back to where we first began. The game delayed about the time we left the stadium, so we were able to finish watching the Hawkeye win from the comfort of a dry hotel room.
What a day.
Gary Dolphin, longtime voice of the Hawkeyes, referred to it was 'one of Iowa's weirdest weather games in history.' It may not have been the 'sunny and 70' day I was picturing, but one thing is for sure. We won't forget it.
And Cruz? Well, nothing seems to phase him. He took a nap in the rain, ate Teddy Grahms in the middle of a hurricane, wore a laundry bag as a poncho, and had his diaper changed in a booth at an extremely crowded restaurant. Good thing he's young enough to forget it; otherwise, I'm not sure we'd get him back ;)