Martha and I have been friends since 1985. Sometime around 2005 we made a commitment that when our sons were grown and we retired we would form our own bowling league and meet weekly. Which we did.
It is still great fun.
Today the place is packed. The schools are on winter break and we are lucky there is an open lane. We’re on 15, right in the thick of things.
Usually we chat in-between frames, but now the blaring music videos, the cacophony of voices and thudding of heavy balls bouncing off metal bumpers make conversation all but impossible.
The air is thick with the smell of pizza, nachos and french fries. Martha and I always eat a granola bar during our third game to tide us over until lunchtime. I unwrap my no fat/high protein bar and take a bite. It tastes like bird seed. I stare at the boys next to us, their table overflowing with foods forbidden on my low cholesterol, low calorie diet. I can feel my stomach growling and have to restrain myself from asking, “Are you going to eat that last piece of pizza?”
I need a distraction and become mesmerized by what I assume to be a mother and daughter on lane 18.
The mom is maybe twenty-eight, neither fat nor thin, but comfortably soft, just like my mother was. She’s wearing jeans and a snug fitting white top, a tattoo peeking out from her short sleeves. Her blond hair is swept up into a cute ponytail. There is an over-all impression of a relaxed, confidant person.
The daughter is probably ten years old, short and diminutive. She has thick glasses and chin length hair. I remember that hair. Some elementary school girls have hairdos that cooperate, some girls have hair with a mind of it’s own. Her blond hair is sticking out willy nilly, forming a halo around her face. Remove the glasses, darken the hair to a light brown and that little girl could have been me.
It is the mom’s turn and she sends her ball careening down the slick wood floor. I can’t tell how many pins she gets, but when she turns back toward her daughter they are both smiling.
The mom only takes her eyes off the little girl when she has to and the daughter is following her mom’s every move. For mother and daughter, they are a community of two.
The mom throws the ball, completing her frame when the music blares “WE WILL, WE WILL ROCK YOU.” The blond woman turns on her heel, spinning until she’s facing her daughter, and she starts stamping her feet and clapping on cue.
The little girl is thrilled, clapping with her mom, bouncing in her chair and laughing. That laughter. I can’t hear it but I can feel it resonate in my bones. I share in the girls exhilaration, grinning and touching my fingertips together, keeping time with the music. We know what it’s like to be loved by someone that is so much fun, so magnetic, so wonderful. A love so fierce it can both shield and soothe. For a moment I am that little girl.
“Alice, it’s your turn.” My friend touches my arm.
Startled back to reality, I stand up and position myself on the middle dot and pitch the ball towards the head pin.
I’m not sure how many I got.
Today I really miss my mother.