Christmas Bowl #Tuesday Tidbit, #Essay

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.As a kid, I was forced to try a variety of sports in school. Due in part to my visual impairment, I wasn’t successful at any of them. I either fell on my face or was hit in the nose with a ball. But in college, I found a sport I could do pretty well, despite the visual impairment, and without injury.

In 1981, I was entering my second year at Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyoming. I was required to take at least two semesters of physical education. I signed up for bowling because to me, that seemed to require the least amount of athletic ability, and the chance of injury was slim.

The first few days of class were humiliating. I found that no matter what I did, the ball always ended up in the gutter. Fortunately, nobody laughed at me, which they would have done in elementary school. But between frames, I watched other students bowl strikes and spares and heard them cheering for one another and was depressed by the realization that no one was cheering for me.

The instructor saw that I was floundering and tossed me a lifeline. She arranged for me to have a lane all to myself, so I  would have an opportunity to practice continually without having to wait my turn. She also worked with me to perfect my arm movement, so I could aim the ball right down the center of the lane.

Gradually, I improved. My gutter balls became less and less frequent, and I hit more and more pins. One day, I finally bowled a strike, and the alley reverberated with the cheers of my classmates.

By the time the holidays rolled around, my average score was seventy-six. I loved bowling and wanted to practice in order to improve my game. I even watched the professional tour on television.

I was living at home at the time. Since I couldn’t drive, it was impossible for me to borrow the car and drive out to the bowling alley whenever I wanted. So, I constantly begged my parents to take me bowling, which they readily agreed to do most of the time. We would often go as a family, with my younger brother Andy tagging along. At Thanksgiving, when my uncle, aunt, and cousins from out of town were visiting, I even talked them into bowling with us, and we all had a wonderful time!

As Christmas grew closer, I became somewhat depressed, as I realized that the bowling class wouldn’t continue the second semester. I had really come to enjoy it and wondered if I would ever bowl again once the term ended. Then, to my wondering eyes on Christmas morning, there appeared a bowling ball, a pair of shoes, and a bag in which to carry them. Santa Claus even brought me an electronic bowling game. My parents realized that I was serious about this sport, just as Andy had been serious about tennis a few years earlier.

Through the years, I continued to bowl, although not as frequently, due to having other interests and obligations. One year, I joined a team on a ladies’ bowling league. We only bowled a few times, and the team finally broke up due to lack of interest. I offered my services to another team captain I knew, but I was never called. Perhaps my seventy-six average didn’t make me league material.

Now, although I still have the bag with the ball and shoes, I haven’t bowled in years. But I still have the memory of that seventy-six bowling average. That was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.

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The above essay is in response to Dr. Crystal Grimes’ holiday blogging party, in which you can participate here. This essay was published years ago in Christmas in the Country, an anthology of work by disabled authors. It has since been revised.

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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My Career as a Bowler

As a kid, I was forced to try a variety of sports in school physical education classes. Unfortunately, due to my visual impairment, I was not successful at any of them. I either fell on my face or was hit in the face with a ball. When throwing, my aim was terrible. When I was in college however, I discovered a sport I could do pretty well.

In 1981, I was entering my second year at Sheridan College in my Wyoming home town. I was required to take at least two semesters of P.E. It was time for me to quit procrastinating and do it. I signed up for bowling because to me, that seemed to require the least athletic ability and the chance of injury was slim.

The first few days of class were humiliating. No matter what I did, the ball always ended up in the gutter. Fortunately, nobody laughed at me, which they would have done in elementary school. However, in between frames, I watched other students bowl strikes and spares and heard them cheering for one another and was depressed by the realization that no one was cheering for me. I took comfort in the fact that at least I wasn’t getting hurt.

The instructor saw that I was floundering and tossed me a lifeline. She arranged for me to have a lane all to myself so I would have an opportunity to practice continually without having to wait for others to bowl. She also worked with me to perfect my arm movement so I could aim the ball right down the center of the lane.

Gradually, I improved. My gutter balls became less and less frequent and I began hitting more and more pins each time I bowled. One day, I finally bowled a strike, and the alley reverberated with the cheers of my classmates.

By the time the holidays rolled around, my average score was seventy-six. I loved the sport and wanted to practice in order to improve my game. I even watched the professional bowling tour on TV. I was living at home at the time.

The problem was that since I couldn’t drive, it was impossible for me to borrow the car and drive to the bowling alley whenever I wanted. So I constantly begged my parents to take me bowling, which they readily agreed to do most of the time. We often went as a family with my younger brother Andy tagging along. At Thanksgiving, when my uncle, aunt, and cousins from out of town were visiting, I even talked them into bowling with us, and we all had a wonderful time.

AsChristmas grew closer, I became somewhat depressed when I realized that the bowling class would not continue the second semester. I had really come to enjoy it and wondered if I would ever bowl again. Then, to my wondering eyes on Christmas morning, there appeared a bowling ball, a pair of shoes, and a bag in which to carry them. My parents even gave me an electronic bowling game. They had realized that I was serious about this sport, just as Andy had been serious about tennis a few years earlier.

Through the years, I continued to bowl. When I was studying music therapy at Montana State University in Billings, I occasionally bowled with a group of students from the residence hall where I lived. While completing a six-month music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota, I often bowled with a couple of organizations for the blind and visually impaired.

When I started working at the nursing home in Sheridan after my internship, one of the activities we offered residents was bowling. We set up a makeshift alley in the recreation room, and my job was to set the pins. They had to be arranged on the floor just so, and when a resident knocked them down, I had to pick them up. I grew to appreciate the automatic pin setters at the bowling alley.

At one time during my fifteen-year stint working with seniors in nursing homes and other facilities, I got involved in a women’s bowling league. I was on one team, and we met once a week and played against other teams. This was short-lived because the team broke up after a few weeks due to lack of interest. None of the other teams in the league had an opening, so that was that.

Since then, I’ve been married and widowed and moved twice. I have no idea where my bowling ball and shoes are and don’t know if I’ll ever have an opportunity to bowl again. That doesn’t matter. I can still remember standing at the edge of the lane, my feet behind the black line, my knees bent, a bowling ball in my right hand, swinging my right arm back and forth to gain momentum, then letting fly as my arm swung forward, watching the ball roll away, out of my line of vision, and hearing the satisfying clatter of pins being knocked down.

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Note: A slightly different version of the above was published years ago in an anthology of Christmas stories written by authors with disabilities. After reading Mike Staton’s post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors, I was inspired to rewrite and post it here.

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How about you? What sport, if any, were you good at when you were a kid? Did your parents take your interest in this sport seriously, buying clothes and equipment you needed in order to participate, driving you to and from practice, even practicing with you? Please share your memories, either in the comment field below or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to reading about your sporting adventures.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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