Last night was couples bowling night, normally a night that I look forward to with great anticipation. But as I may have mentioned, a time or two recently, I am getting old. And this oldness means that my back hurts more often than it used to. And an aching back and the tossing of a fourteen pound bowling ball don’t seem like a good combination. But since I had bowled last Monday with the pulled-muscley back and it worked out pretty well for me, I figured I’d give it a go again last night.
I couldn’t seem to shake the achiness all day long yesterday. Not being a glutton for punishment, I took a bunch of (okay, just three) Extra-Strength Tylenol before we left and it seemed as if the medication was helping some. We left early and met up with a group of our fellow bowlers at Acapulco, a Mexican restaurant, for some drinks and a casual dinner. (I had shrimp tacos for the first time ever, at the urging of friend, Steve. And I must say, YUM! I will definitely have those again soon!)
I love having dinner with a big group of people, where the conversation is loud and varied, and I can leave one topic and join another without anyone hardly noticing. (I tend to do that when the subject of politics comes up.) It seemed like we had barely arrived though, and it was time to get going to the bowling alley, so we all trudged out of the restaurant, through the snowy parking lot and back to our cars, which started to get warm again just about the time we arrived at the lanes.
Upon arrival, we met up with our partners, Jim and Jackie. Jim seems inclined to give the team a pep-talk before each game and as I scanned over the last week’s standings, I informed him that we were slowly climbing our way up the ranks. For the longest time, our team hovered in or around last place. However, the last time we bowled, we started getting our act together and we now find ourselves in a semi-respectable eighth place out of twelve. (We consider this quite an accomplishment. Don’t judge.) Jim gathered the team and spoke some words of encouragement.
“We’re playing Jorja’s team tonight, guys. Remember last year when I tried to voodoo her and she fell down? And she ended up with what was probably the best game of her life that night. We are not going to let that happen tonight, you guys. Now let’s get out there and kick some ass!”
Jim’s excitement was contagious and I repeated, “Yeah! Kick some ass!”
Jackie said, “Where’s the waitress with our beer?”
Mark, never one to pay close attention during moments such as this, had already become distracted and wandered off to talk with one of the other guys. Despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm, I had high hopes for an overall win.
The bowling alley was buzzing with people ready to enjoy a night of fun and relaxation after a long week. Little kids ran back and forth behind the tables, begging change from their parents for the vending machines. Mark and some of the guys were swapping bets as to who would bowl the best games. At Jim’s insistence, I pulled out the naughty cards and began to shuffle, setting up our now routine poker game. I placed the cards up on the wall that separates the lanes from the tables in order to keep them inconspicuous from young eyes or those who would be easily offended.
Game one came and went without much excitement. Jim and I both bowled under our averages, but Mark did better than average, and Jackie had a great game! We won that one.
Then came game two. I am the first bowler in our line-up, so I always start off the games, and I started this one with a bang. STRIKE! My team clapped and cheered. As each took their turn, they did well too. We were off to a good start.
Then came the second frame and I was up again. STRIKE! More cheers from my team, and from our opponents as well, for although we are competing against one another, bowlers are a good lot, and they cheer for each other’s successes, even if they are not on the same team. My team mates each took their turns, and again, we had a good round. A win in this game began to seem promising.
Third frame. I was up again. STRIKE! My team cheered louder and our opponents offered smiles and congratulations for my “turkey”! Megan called over from the next lane, “Way to go, Terri!” I smiled in return and joked, “I think I’m gonna bowl a 300 tonight!”
The noise of the bowling alley filled my ears as I made my way back to our table, a huge smile plastered across my face. I love to bowl, but it’s obviously SO much more fun when I’m doing it well.
Now the fourth frame rolled around. I picked up my ball and approached the lane, relaxed. I had done well in the first three, but didn’t expect to continue as I had. That was okay. I had a nice cushion to push me on to a good game, one way or the other. I threw my ball down the lane.
I slapped my hands against my cheeks and with wide eyes, looked up at my team, cheering me on. As I returned to the table, I exclaimed, “Oh my god! I can’t believe I got four in a row!”
“Keep it up,” Jackie encouraged. It was a nice thought, but I didn’t hold out hope that I would. After all, I’d just bowled below my average in the previous game. All around us, people were bowling and talking and laughing. I arranged my cards while my team mates took their turns and I watched our opponents take their turns. Soon we were in the fifth frame and it was my turn again. I found my usual starting spot, eyed my mark on the lane, made my approach and threw the ball. I watched it roll down the lane, as if in slow motion. It followed the exact path I’d hoped it would, hitting the pocket and knocking the head pin exactly as I’d pictured it in my mind. The rest of the pins began to tumble one by one and I watched as every single one of them exploded to the outskirts of the lane.
Never in my life have I bowled five strikes in a row and I was ecstatic! I was being cheered on by my own team and by others. It was such a phenomenal feeling. I was walking on air. Meanwhile, Jim was doing pretty well himself, and while he didn’t have the succession of strikes that I did, he was picking up spares and closing his frames. We had a nice, solid lead.
Now we were in the sixth frame. I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or not, but it seemed to grow quieter. Kenny had wandered over from a few lanes down and made a point of standing and watching. I picked up my ball. I found my starting point. My mind was buzzing with thoughts. “Remember exactly where you’ve been starting. Don’t forget how to hold the ball. Bend your knees. Extend your arm when you release the ball. Don’t pop up.”
I let the ball go and I watched with intensity. The ball began to hook hard to the left. Oh no! I was going to miss the pocket by a long shot! My ball rolled, down, down, down the lane… and knocked down one, single pin – the seven pin. I heard a collective “awww!” Oh, well. I could still pick up my spare. My ball came back up the ball return and I took my second throw… and that was that. I knocked down two more pins, taking my first open frame of the game. It occurred to me that I hadn’t remembered the lesson I’d recently learned. Stop thinking so much and just throw the ball. I’d put too much thought into it. I’d let the pressure get to me and I’d blown it.
The buzz picked up again in the bowling alley as everyone returned their attention to their own games. I was happily disappointed. I had a good run going, but considering my experience with this game, hadn’t really expected to keep throwing strikes. I’d just done something bigger than I’d ever done before in the game of bowling and it was over now. The rest of the game played out and we beat Jorja’s team solidly. Jim bowled a 202 – his first 200 game ever! I bowled another lousy frame or two before picking up steam again, but not before it was too late. I ended with a 192, my best score ever in a league game. I was really hoping for a 200, but it was not to be. Another time. I’ll get there. I know I will.
We ended up just losing the third game, but won overall, so we should advance to an even higher position in the standings. But more importantly, we had fun. I saw proof of my own improvement in the game and I won a hand in the poker game. And as I always say, fun is what bowling is all about.