The last time I bowled with people who were taller than three feet, and whose attention span lasted until their ball reached the end of the alley, I was eighteen. I was in Japan, the honored guest of a Lions Club hosting family, and — unbeknownst to me — temporary repository of their family’s dignity.
This did not go well. I am not athletic. I lacked experience. Because of the language barrier, there could be no easy, “You’ll get ’em next time, Jan ” to diffuse the tension of my recurrent gutterballs.
I could see the way my host family’s gazes slid from mine, hear the half-hearted nature of their cheering. I felt their shame.
So imagine my surprise when I bowled this weekend and found my scores solidly in the upper end. I think what happened was this: Having gone in expecting exactly nothing, I was freed to screw up and experiment.
It also gave me a chance to observe how other people approach “the lane” and “failure,” and provided take-home writing lessons.
I saw several kinds of bowlers:
- Those with gusto: When they connected, boy did they! They were practically guaranteed a strike. When they were off, though, well, let’s just say that people in the nearby lanes had cause to object.
- Analysts: They tended to hit center pins, then have to cope with a gap-toothed lane. Their score trended average and consistent, but never wow-o-wow.
- Some took setbacks personally: A strike meant temporary euphoria; a low score sent them slouching to their chairs, where their Coke tasted warm and dilute.
The person who won my heart, though, did this: She started off the lowest of all. No score for three entire turns because she delivered the ball consistently too far right. She still laughed, cheered for others, boogied to K$sha. (For this article’s sake, we’ll assume that indicates open-mindedness rather than dubious taste. 😉 )
When I had the gall to offer unschooled solutions, she gave them a try. Let me tell you, that woman might have begun the evening in the lowest bracket, but she improved consistently and more than all players.
Oh, a few characteristics you might care to know about my role model?
- Her balance is off, making an issue of the two-inch transition from seating area to alley.
- She can see only from one eye at a time.
- She’s an educator, sought by principals all over this city when they have a particularly challenging class and need someone with hope.
- She’s almost seventy.
Yep, if you haven’t guessed it already, my heroine-bowler is my mom. 🙂
Next time you sit down to write, if you get stuck in a pity-party, if you begin to believe you have failed, think of her. An almost-seventy-year-old, monocular-ed wonder. One who learned to do a knuckle-bump this weekend, and who’s probably exchanging one with her students as you read this.
I plan to “bowl” for her this morning as I strive to make my word count.
How about you? Who serves as your model of life-long learning? What did they teach you? Where do you stand on the matter of rented bowling shoes, anyway?