Friday, August 11, 2006

Bowling is Okay!

My family takes its bowling seriously. My parents, with their matching bowling bags and monogrammed shirts, were sometimes on two (three) leagues at a time, and they watched the televised sport every Sunday. Ocassionally, the entire family (I have two brothers and a sister who are between 7 and 11 years older than me) would go on a bowling outing. Though I was the smallest, there was no special treatment -- no handicap, no placing the ball on the ground between my feet and giving it a good push: that's for babies! "If you are going to bowl with us, bowl right and try hard, even if you suck, even if it's miserable. Otherwise, you'll never improve." That was the motto. And the whole family was so good! The folks breaking two hundred and the sibs breaking one hundred consistently -- while I struggled to keep my ball out of the gutter and perhaps break sixty. One time my ball was rolling so slowly that it stopped halfway down and we had to get an employee to walk down the lane socky-footed to nudge it the rest of the way. This interrupted not only our game, but also the game of the family next to us. In the lanes, I was a wild disappointment to my kin.

So it has been with great ambivalence that I, as a grown woman, have accepted the ocassional invitation to bowl. And as ever, the sound of my father's voice repeating, "You're spinning with your thumb! Come on now," haunted me last night as I approached my fellow bowlers, my fellow poet bowlers, at Memory Lanes.

It was "black light bowling." I got off to a bad start -- three gutterballs in the first two frames. I blamed it on the distraction of the day-glow balls, and truly, once I switched to the only non-neon ball in the joint (which was a lovely merlot color and nicely matched the flowers on my skirt), my game improved.

I was okay with the fact that I was going to lose. I decided to keep my mouth shut about it; after all, I was there for the fellowship not the torturous activity. And the fellowship was very fine. As the game progressed, and our team began to bond, I confessed my bowling history to my teammates, Gunner, Rhonda, and Don (These were bowling names. Mine was Gladys.) and Don very compassionately said, "I recall crying while bowling as a child." This was a revelation! There are others who suffered traumatic childhood bowling? I'm not alone? Don asked Rhonda if she had ever cried while bowling, and though she hadn't, she had cried post bowling, which is much sadder in a way. (We never asked Gunner, who was busy kicking our asses...and with perfect form.) Looking across the expanse of lanes then, I saw all the bowlers in an entirely different light. There was a good chance that the majority of them were in those rented shoes, hurling those bowling balls, and having a good time after overcoming equally, perhaps worse, difficult childhood bowling experiences. I felt a new kind of kinship. I was proud to be among the number there.

We finished our game and had to leave for elsewhere before we even got to play the table version of Ms. Pacman, but I will not soon forget this evening at Memory Lanes.

And my score? 89!!


brian said...

Gosh, P. I was nearly in tears. Then, you got to that part about playing in the present and I wasn't so alone anymore.
Nice entry.
Sweet. Touching.

Anonymous said...

I was a competitive bitch even while losing. How is that for sad, other P? Have you read "Bowling Alone"? That is sadder then when you or I cried in our room because we weren't good enough, at anything, bowling, pressing shirts, stopping toddler tantrums, et al. Someone is projecting again.

I wish I was there. Actually, right now, at 11:48 EST, I wish I was anywhere but here.

Glad as always for new postings, gorgeous.

paula said...

Gosh thanks, Brian. I think this story is really funny. Does it not come off as funny?

Anonymous P: I wish you were here since 11:48. We would be dangerous teammates; it would be great! I am adding Bowling Alone to the book list I plan to glut on when this quarter ends. Thanks.

brian said...

Of course, it's really funny!
Remember: my Inner Child is Sad :-( and has a lens of perception all his own.
But my Inner Adult thought it was a hoot!
;-} He wants to slip into a comfy shirt, fire up the Ponti, and roll down to Lucky Strikes Lanes! Long necks and Jerry Lee!