Take the toddlers bowling, take them bowling

We took the kids bowling on Saturday morning, part of an ongoing quest to quell cabin fever and fill the yawning chasm formerly known as the weekend with wholesome activity. I’ve taken to mentally dividing up the weekends into quadrants — Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon; Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon — and things seem to go smoothest when at least three of the four have some kind of activity booked.

And this past Saturday morning was bowling.

Every so often, on a whim, you do something you don’t usually do and you realize that there exists an entire world of people who live to do that thing, who have created entire communities and languages and art forms and T-shirts devoted to that thing. For me, bowling is one of those things. Naïvely, I expected Mario’s Bowl to be fairly quiet on a Saturday morning in Thunder Bay. As we pulled into the only vacant space in the parking lot, I realized I would have to rethink my assumptions.

We managed to snag the only available five-pin lane left in the entire, buzzing, place. Children’s bowling leagues were practicing in the first twenty-odd lanes, while adult leagues took up the bulk of the ten-pin alleys. We came with a school friend of Rowan’s, and his little sister, who is the same age as Isaac, and their mom. The two older boys played (and, let me tell you, little is sweeter than a four-year-old boy in bowling shoes) while the toddlers ate Goldfish crackers and stuck their hands up the gumball machine chutes and then, in Isaac’s case, discovered the bowling balls.

While Rachel bowled with Rowan (who was, I must say, a model of turn taking and cooperation), I was in charge of ensuring that Isaac harmed no one — himself included — by, say, lobbing a five-pin bowling ball into the path of an innocent junior bowler, or dropping a ball on someone’s foot. In essence, we formed a miniature assembly line: he picked up a ball, and I immediately relieved him of it. Repeat a million times.

In an effort to distract him for at least a little while, I took him on a forced march throughout the rest of the bowlerama, placating him with said gumball machines and the exploration of the bowling ball lockers. (Again, who knew? Who knew that dozens and dozens and dozens of dedicated bowlers would need lockers to store their balls and shoes and gloves and the like? Of course, now it all seems obvious in retrospect.)

We sat for a while at a table above the lanes with two women and a boy who looked to be around ten years old. I guess that they were grandmother, mother, and son, watching what I guessed were grandfather and father roll a series of strikes and spares oh so casually down their lane in wide, graceful arcs. Isaac climbed into a chair and smiled at the women, who obliged him by cooing. “Are you a busy boy?” asked the mother. “Are you? Yes?”

“Yeah,” said Isaac, laughing, as I rolled my eyes and nodded in agreement.

The mother laughed too, and pointed at her son. “Oh! He was all the time, back, forth, back, forth," she said in accented English, her index finger swinging left, then right, then left again to illustrate. “I never sit down. Oh! When he was year, year and a half” — and here she drew an imaginary knife across her neck — “I want to cut off my head.”

I love it when people say things like that.

But I’m glad that I didn’t cut off my head, because then I wouldn’t have seen a tiny, tiny boy in grey sweatpants gets to pick up his own bowling ball — finally! — toddle up to the foul line (under Rachel’s careful tutelage), gently set the ball down, and push it with all his might towards the pins. It rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled toward its destination. For all I know, it’s rolling still.