When I was a little girl, I remember my family going bowling a precious handful of times. All the aunts, uncles, and cousins would all go. We would get lanes next to each other, complain about how our rented bowling shoes smelled like vomit, didn’t fit right, and see who got the ugliest pair. Then came the race to try and find the best colored or lightest (or in the boys’ case heaviest) bowling balls to use on our lanes.
One of the grownups would painstakingly type our initials into the archaic computer system. We would all get yelled at multiple times for pushing the reset button while pretending to be drying our hands on the hand blower. Each time we would go to retrieve a ball from the ball return, at least 47 adults would shout warnings about not putting your hand down the ball return. The littlest cousins, wielding balls weighing almost as much as they, would lurch and hurtle across the penalty line oftentimes slipping on the shiny, slimy-looking bowling lane. Each time this happened, it would set off the buzzer and start all of us giggling wildly as an adult tried to rescue the Bambi-on-ice little one flailing on the unctuous boards.
As much as I loved to one-two-three, bunny hop, THROW my ball down the lane, my favorite part was watching the grownups bowl. They were like celebrities to me. Watching the banter between the uncles and older cousins, the cat-calls, jeers and boisterous celebration when someone bowled a great (or even awful) turn. I cheered them on from my kiddie lane as they chose their ball, I shouted encouraging words as they approached the line, and went crazy when they knocked down pins. I got off my plastic seat and scuttled over to give a high-five to anyone who got a strike, a spare, or even a TURKEY! I loved that these ultra cool big people bowled WITH us.
Recently we took our kids bowling. My husband mentioned that maybe we should just have the kids bowl–to save time and so we could help them out.
There was no way. Is bowling my favorite thing in the world? Nope–youth group bowling parties where you had to say a verse as you bowled a ball underneath someone else’s (of the same sex, of course!) legs kinda ruined that for me. But now I’m the cool big person on the lane. I’m the one getting the cartoon voice cheers squealed in my direction and the tiny-handed high-fives when I manage to knock down a plethora of pins.
I distinctly remember the day my mom volunteered to sit at the computer and enter our bowling scores. She so subtly declined to bowl that I doubt she even remembers this event. Thoughts of “Why doesn’t mom want to play?”, “Now who am I gonna cheer for?”, “Is mom OK?”, “Are mom and dad getting a divorce?” tumbled through my mind as I stared at mom trying to divine the reason she had chosen to sit the plastic bench. Granted, these are way too deep and dramatic thoughts for a child whose age was still in the single digits and whose parent simply chose not to bowl that day. But I’ve always been an “old soul”. And dramatic? ME?
My mom was just fine. She was not in ill health or physically unable to bowl. We were not headed to the welfare line and there’s never been a question of the solidity of my parents’ marriage. She probably just didn’t want to take enjoyment away from us kids–allow us the maximum amount of enjoyment possible during our rented hour on the bowling lane. Be able to snap pictures of us and capture memories on film. Maybe she had a headache or forgot to eat breakfast. I get that now that I’m a mom.
Yet, because I do remember this event so vividly and how it unsettled me in that moment, it makes me want to make sure I don’t flippantly choose to sit something out and maybe cause my kids to travel that thought tunnel in regards to me. To make them wonder if I’m ok, to wonder why I don’t want to participate in something with them, to wonder if I would rather be somewhere else (or wonder why I would choose fiddling on my phone rather than engaging fully with them…oops!)
So, I’ve resolved that I will always bowl. Whether it’s Wii bowling, the real kind on a lane with stinky shoes and bottomless basket of popcorn, or even if the activity they invite me into isn’t bowling at all. (Please don’t ask me to play Legos, please don’t ask me to play Legos, please don’t ask me to play Legos…) My answer, although my default is currently set to an immediate and vehement “no”, has got to be a “yes” more often.