Most people won’t give it a second look, but it brought good memories to me. Today is National U.S. Bowling League Day. An indirect connection. You see, Sundays were a big dang day for us while I was growing up. We were two parents, and seven children strong. Early Sunday morning, we all would “Rise and Shine,” whether we wanted to, or not. We’d wash our little faces, and comb our hair, as we put on our Sunday best dresses, coats, and ties.
All nine of us would pile into our modest Chevrolet station wagon and drive directly to my Grandparents house on Rugby Road. We’d scurry about with little jars of jam, sticks of butter, the salt and pepper shakers, as we set the table in preparation for breakfast. My Mom and her parents, worked in the kitchen, frying up large, large quantities of eggs and bacon and buttered white toast. The house would fill with the smell of that delight, and our stomachs would simultaneously growl in longing. A little glass of orange juice stood still, waiting, at the top of each plate. When it all was ready, the people and food would come together at that table. And in moments, after a buzzing whirr of activity and consumption, the food having vanished, eleven bodies sat in various semi-conscious states around the table. With egg on our face.
We’d have to wait an hour before Mass. Sort of like swimming. That was the Catholic Rule for taking Communion by that time in History — a one hour wait after eating. So the plates were cleared and all cleaned away. We’d pile again, into the car, and head off to sing our praises and thank God for the goodness. Kneel. Sit. Stand. Rise. Rinse, and Repeat.
The after church routine would vary. But on many of those Sundays, we’d hurry home, and hang up our Sunday best clothes, trading them for blue jeans, and t-shirts. Back to the station wagon, again, we’d go. Our next destination?
Oh the Bowling Alley was a glorious thing. It was one of my favorite places to be when I was growing up. There was something about bursting through those double-glass doors, and seeing the majesty of 35 lanes open up before you. I’d always run straight for the ball racks, to ensure I’d get the best ball for me. Normally, I’d have it picked out and slung under my little 7 year-old arm, before Dad even got to the counter to get the lanes, and rent our shoes.
Oh, the shoes. I loved to walk around the alley in those little bowling shoes. I’d slide on the carpet with them, pretending to work on my hook, my little arm flinging an imaginary bowl toward the head pin.
Back then, bowling was all business. There was none of this “Little Kid” bowling with the pansy blow-up things in the gutters. No. You bowled with the big dawgs back then, whether you were 7 or 77. My Dad LOVED to bowl, and he taught us kids everything there was to know about the game. Throwing Brooklyns. Shooting a Turkey. Picking up Spares. Dropping the Ten Pin.
There were a lot of us, and we always bowled three games. So the amount of time we spent at the alleys would take us into late in the day. I used to try so hard. But I was the worst bowler, being much younger, and smaller, than everyone else. On occasion, I would roll a really good game, and beat a few of my siblings. Dad always let me take home the scorecard to mark the miracle. Yes, we’d go home with tired arms. We’d sit down around the kitchen table, eat bologna sandwiches on white bread, with mustard, and retell the glory of our time on those lanes.
It was sheer joy.
A memory so golden, I wish I could step back in it, for a few short minutes, and tell my Dad how much it meant to me. How much it means to me.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”
― Marianne Williamson
“Life is more fun if you play games.”
― Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald