Once upon a time, my mom was a bowler.
I have no recollection of her time at the lanes. Apparently it came either before I showed up, or early in my development in this thing called life.
I have no photographic evidence of such a thing — the Mother Bowler thing, I mean; there’s plenty of evidence of my infantile moments, none of which any of you will see anytime soon — but I know it happened.
As a young only child, I found plenty of time to go through drawers of old dressers or plunge into the depths of dark closets in any room that wasn’t my parents’ bedroom. My family moved around a lot when I was a kid, and so boxes of packed items sometimes stayed that way, left undeterred because they contained little of what might be considered useful.
Tucked away in one of these forgotten zones was in fact the hard evidence of Mom’s time as a competitive bowler. Gleaming white bowling shoes — size 5 — side-by-side, with barely a blemish on them. The laces showed no signs of wear or fraying, the aglets at the tips still firm.
But the shoes weren’t exactly interesting. Not to the 4- or 5-year-old me. I didn’t have any clue really what they were beyond the fact that they were shoes. Certainly there was no consideration that they were some form of athletic footwear. White shoes. OK then.
Down in the bottom of the box, though, was something sure to interest a kid like me. Tipped onto its side but sparkling from having seen light for the first time in God knows how long, was a gold trophy.
A bowling trophy.
Little boys want trophies. Lots of them. Where this notion comes from isn’t exactly clear. Maybe we see it on TV or read about it in our first books. Maybe some of us see an older sibling’s shelf. All we know is that we want them.
This trophy wasn’t huge, maybe 5-to-7 inches tall. But it was solid. Metal. Not plastic. Definitely not plastic. And in the middle, up the shaft to the pedestal that held the miniature bowler frozen in midswing, it had some shiny blue metallic indentation.
Cool. Very cool.
I can remember showing the shoes and the trophy to my mom, hoping against hope that she would let me keep the trophy in my room. I’m not kidding — I can remember the nervous feeling rising in my chest as I raced into the living room to show her and ask her. Same nervous feeling I have now whenever I fear something.
Of course, she let me keep the trophy. But not before taking both items into her hands, cackling that little giggle I can still hear, and smiling to herself. She told me that they were from her short time spent in a bowling league in California. She probably told me more after that, but the words faded away around me as I held the trophy in my hands, knowing it was mine.
I wish I could’ve seen her bowl. She would’ve been in her early 20s, surrounded by my dad and friends of hers, probably having a couple of beers and joking about the gutter balls and random strikes. She would’ve worn that crisp smile of hers I still see occasionally in my dreams — unless she had the ball in hand. Then she would’ve had that look of hard determination I would see in later years whenever she addressed the ball on the golf course.
The trophy stayed with me until I started to win a few of my own. I never had many — these were still the days before those plastic participation trophies the kids now get for gutting out a whole recreation soccer season. And after a while, I think I remember stashing mom’s trophy into the bottom junk drawer of my own dresser. I was older, and I didn’t need to play imaginary games anymore and award myself a championship trophy.
Where it is now, I don’t know. Probably long gone. Something inside of me hopes it’s stuffed away again in a box in the attic of my dad’s house now, that maybe after I grew up and graduated to a time where I actually needed all of my dresser drawers, that mom found it and kept it.
I doubt it, though. It was in that original box I pillaged for a reason. It wasn’t important to her and had no impact on her life. She had moved on and was the matriarch of a small family.
Still, I wonder. When she came in to clean my room and saw that trophy, did she think back to those old days? When she saw me play with it as boy, did she relive memories of late nights out with friends and no restrictions? Did she miss that time of her life, longing for the period before I came around and changed everything?
That, I most assuredly, don’t know. And I have no reason to think she ever did wonder any of those things.
Which confirms what I already know. Mom was a helluva mom. And I miss her every day, especially on this one.
Not long after the trophy discovery, I found the wooden tennis rackets.
She let me keep those, too.