As a boy in Muncie, I was surrounded by bowlers. Not my immediate family so much as my extended family, especially my Aunt Joan and her two twin boys. My first experiences rolling that heavy ball down that slick little hardwood floor was with them. I think I might have bowled a 52 that day….and I felt good about it too. In fact, the first time the gutter didn’t come into play I was riding cloud nine! I wasn’t a league bowler like Randy and Sandy (Sandy’s name now is Gator), but I did enjoy the game from time to time as a youth. I have a few stories that involve those heavy little pins. I’ll share a few here…Starting from the most recent…
As a young man, I was dating the woman who was destined to become my wife, but to my chagrin she had moved to Indianapolis and we were dating “long-distance.” Now, keep in mind that this was before the days of cell phones and Skype. Calling Indianapolis and talking for more than 30 seconds was expensive….plus, she wasn’t too coherent after 11pm when you could actually afford to talk. As a result, we mostly got to spend time with one another on the weekends, and that was kind of tough.
One time, we were out on a date with some other college-age couples and we were bowling. It could have been the annual New Year’s event, but I’m not sure now. Anyway, I was rolling my usual set which generally meant one or two strikes and one or two spares and a lot of pins left standing across several games. It was fun, but I was in no way competitively skilled as a bowler. However, I could once in a while rise to the occasion, and just an opportunity was given me. Just as I stood to roll my next ball…after a particularly poor series of balls…she said to me:“Mike, I’ll move back to Muncie if you roll a strike.”
I smiled. Turned to the lane. Laid down a smooth roll. STRIKE!Continuing to smile, I turned back to see her reaction.
She looked a bit perplexed, then said: “I never said when.”Ahhhhhh. There’s always an out for the girls!
Another event that always brought bowling into my life on an annual basis was the annual New Year’s Eve Sing at my church. The Fairlawn Church of Christ, being averse to the usual community celebrations that involved much consumption of alcohol on the holiday, always planned a church-wide singing devotional from 9pm to midnight on New Year’s Eve. We would sing in the New Year. Then, when everyone was just about sung out, we’d head to the Village Bowl…just about the entire congregation…to bowl from 1am to 3am. While everyone else in Muncie was getting plastered, we were laughing, joking, rolling gutter balls, and knocking down a few pins. I remember those nights with great fondness…and unlike so many of my friends….I can actually remember those nights.Now, my folks weren’t part of the church celebrations. They weren’t part of the church. Neither were my sister and her often not so nice husband (that’s another story). One year, my nephew (my sister’s boy) and I did the New Year’s Eve Sing and Bowling party while my sister introduced my mom to Kahlua.
Apparently, my mom liked it. She liked it a lot.David and I bowled until 3am, then we made our way through the icy streets from the Village Bowl on North Wheeling back to the south side of Muncie. We may have stopped at the Big Wheel for some breakfast, but I can’t recall that detail for sure. I dropped him at his house and then drove the additional four blocks to my house. I knew something was up when at about 4:30am every light in our house was lit up.
David told me that when he walked into his house, his stepfather was passed out on the sofa and his mom had passed out on the bathroom floor. The scary part was that they had actually driven home from my house! How they managed that, I’ll never know.At my place, I parked the car as I contemplated the possible scenarios of why all those lights would be on. Did someone die in the family? Was there an accident somewhere? What could it be? That was all settled when I stepped inside and found my mom asleep on the couch with her head propped at a ninety degree angle on the armrest…no pillow…just cocked up sideways. I had never seen her drunk before, and even then I didn’t really experience it…just saw the aftermath. Dad was sound asleep in the bed, but still…every light in the house was blazing….and I mean every one…lights we never used were on. It probably took me fifteen minutes to turn them all off.
The last bowling-related memory I’ll share did not even involve my visiting a bowling alley. Nope. I was just strolling through an open field behind my cousins’ house.My Aunt Joan and Uncle Ralph had connections in bowling circles. They were in leagues and I think my aunt even worked at a few different alleys. Anyway, they ended up with a bunch of used bowling pins that were piled up out in a field behind their house out on highway 28. I think the plan was to burn them in their fireplace. When I got wind of that, I decided I wanted one for my bedroom. Don’t ask me why….I don’t have an answer. Why does any kid want any weird thing to display in his bedroom? I just wanted one, and my Aunt Joan said I could have one.
Off we marched….Randy, Sandy (Gator), Jeff, Chuck, and myself. I picked out my pin. Boy, was I excited about it! I couldn’t wait to show my mom! I couldn’t wait to show my friends! No one else in my neighborhood had a bowling pin in their bedroom! I was sure of it! I was thinking that maybe I could make a lamp out of it. I was so proud of it that I was tromping through the field with that pin propped right up on the top of my head like a tall, hard, weirdly balanced crown. I was holding it lightly in between my hands and walking ahead of the twins.For some reason, Randy had carried a basketball with him on this mission, and as he bounced that ball back and forth in his hands he was struck with a brilliant idea.
It would be funny to knock that pin off of Mike’s head!So, he threw the basketball and hit the pin toward the top end. It flips out of my grip, but it doesn’t simply fly off and fall to the ground. No….that probably would have been funny. Nope, that crazily balanced piece of iron-hard wood flipped. The balance of the weight was in the bottom and that flipped completely over and slammed into my forehead….and I went down.
The next thing I can really remember is reclining on my Aunt’s sofa with a packet of ice on my head. I had a knot that was about as big around as a half dollar that stood out from my forehead about a half an inch. I moaned. I ached. I was mad at Randy. (I think I’m over that now….I think.) And I no longer cared about making a bowling pin lamp.I never saw that bowling pin again, but now, as I write this, I can see my reflection in the mirror and I can still see the place where that evil piece of wood nailed me. There is still a little knot right where it impacted.
I guess that means I’m still a bit of a pinhead.