Bowled Over!

The next date night took a bit of research. My prince has made no secret of the fact that he enjoys bowling, but it really hasn’t been a viable option because of the cigarette smoke (which makes both of us sick)…and my experience of bowling was grade school gutterballs and cigarette smoke–not terribly appealing. Now that our state has just banned smoking in indoor public places, the possibility opened up again (convenient timing for me, I must say!). But…I didn’t know where the bowling alleys were, nor did I know enough about bowling to know what sort of arrangements would have to be made. I had seen an ad (years ago) for “moonlight bowling” that sounded like it could be romantic.

Now, you have to understand that I am not a phone person. I’d much rather send people an email they can check when they have a chance than barge into their hectic schedule with a raucous bell. But there are some things one just can’t do via email (more’s the pity). At least I could start online–Google very kindly marked all the bowling alleys within an hour’s drive & gave me contact information. So far, so good. There were several more–and closer–than I’d dreamed.

Then I needed the phone. I called the closest place first, explaining that I’m almost entirely ignorant of bowling, but am trying to plan a date for my husband who very much likes bowling. The lady who answered thought that was sweet and was very patient in telling me what I needed to know. That helped. I called several other places, none of which started moonlight bowling (if they had it at all) until October, at which point I’d have to work around bowling leagues. Never thought of that. At any rate, the first place turned out to be not only the closest but the cheapest by far (with their summer Tuesday special, it was $1/game, including balls & shoes–hard to beat that!). They didn’t take reservations, but at least I had a time & location.

The rest was more fun :). I went looking for ways I could “get into” the event of the evening. I remembered running across a reference to bowling (“nine pins”) in writings about St. Therese of Lisieux (the “Little Flower”), so I went looking for that:

(written by one of Therese’ novices)
Being somewhat of a child in my ways, the Holy Child –
to help me in the practice of virtue –
inspired me with the thought of amusing myself with Him,
and I chose the game ninepins.
I imagined them of all sizes and colors,
representing the souls I wished to reach.
The ball was – love…Soeur Therese was quietly watching us,
and on Christmas night, after midnight Mass, I found in our cell…
a delightful letter addressed as follows.

To My Beloved Little Spouse
Player of Ninepins on the Mountain of Carmel
Christmas Night, 1896.
MY BELOVED LITTLE SPOUSE, – I am well pleased with thee!
All the year round thou hast amused Me by playing ninepins.
I was so overjoyed that the whole court of Angels
was surprised and charmed.
Several little cherubs have asked Me
why I did not make them children.
Others wanted to know if the melody of their instruments
were not more pleasing to Me than thy joyous laugh
when a ninepin fell at the strike of thy love-ball.
My answer to them was, that they must not regret
they are not children, since one day they would play with thee
in the meadows of Heaven… -Thy little Brother, Jesus

And while I was at it, I did a search for bowling terms to use in puns (my prince is rather fond of those!). Much to my surprise, I discovered that there are names for the various configurations of pins left standing! There’s even a flower reference–“lily”–and I love flowers 🙂 –and a Catholic reference–“cathedral.” I can get into that!

Now I was ready to put together the invitation (outside & inside–it was folded into a card):

The circles on the back are the pin configurations & their names. The quote inside is the one about St. Therese.

I found the image of the lady bowling on our “Cosmi” clipart cd, and changed the color of her dress to red because it was the feast of St. Lawrence (a martyr), making red the liturgical color of the day (I dress in liturgical colors to make morning decisions easier).

This was coming together better than I’d hoped!

The day before the date, as we were coming home from daily Mass, my prince was musing about what sorts of things we could do together, saying he couldn’t drag me out to a bowling alley, since I’d only be tolerating the experience & that wouldn’t be any fun. I’m afraid I didn’t keep a straight face! But, of course, he didn’t know what I found so funny & couldn’t fathom my secret, so that was ok!

Now for the meal…last-minute inspiration struck. Meatballs became “bowling balls” going down a lane of lentil-chard dip toward “pins” of steamed potato.

Potato salad, sliced cucumber (to go with the dip) & squash seed “milk” rounded out the main meal, followed by oat crackers (homemade) spread with almond butter to hold up a miniature plastic bowling set I got years ago as an extra in a box from a rummage sale.

Again, the meal went over very well!

In the meantime, my prince was baffled by the invitation. He’d said he doesn’t like the “take directions as you go” sort of surprise, and he’s the driver, so I just gave him the address. “But there’s no bowling alley in ___”. I just smiled!

On the way there, I referenced the quote on the invitation about “bowling over souls” with the “love ball”, asking who he’d like to reach. We each came up with a list of people we’ve been praying for.

The arrival at the alley itself was a little awkward. I hadn’t realized that it was a bar (I suppose I should’ve known). Several people were smoking just outside the door, forming something of a gauntlet and making our “date night attire” rather conspicuous. The background music was what might be expected at a midwestern bar (not to our taste). Well, so be it. Once we got back to the bowling alley part, it was sort of a “world of its own,” so that was ok (although we may’ve unwittingly provided the night’s entertainment for the customers, to whom we were easily visible).

The lady running the place turned on the lights & scoreboards for the lanes for us (there were only four lanes!) and showed us where to find the shoes & balls. After that, we were on our own. My prince gave me pointers on picking a ball (the choices were limited) & then on what to do with it. I was way out of my depth! Holding the ball properly, swinging it straight, all while walking & following through was more than my processor could handle all at once. I felt like I was blindly flailing, and was amazed that I knocked down as many pins as I did (47) between gutterballs. But I had quite the cheerleading squad! My prince celebrated every little improvement, whether the ball stayed on the lane or not!

Next to me, my prince looked downright stellar :). I think he got a strike with his first ball & he got quite a few thereafter, making his spares more often than not. I applauded them all–I might be outdone in bowling, but not in cheering ;)!

We never did get to use the names of pins left standing. I found it hard to tell which pins they were (the machine that lit up the appropriate circles looked like it hadn’t worked in a long time) & when we could tell, they didn’t match my pictures. Oh well. It was a good idea, anyway!

Largely, it was an evening of cheering each other on. That felt good :).

Yes, that’s the whole alley!

By the end of the first game, my arm was sore. I held out for the last few turns, but then really needed to stop (I’d picked the lightest ball I could find that fit, but it really was too heavy for me). My prince wanted to keep going, so I switched to being a full-time cheerleader–and now that I wasn’t struggling to focus on what I as doing, I remembered the souls we wanted to reach, so I either asked or suggested for each ball. The way the scoreboard worked, my prince was bowling every other turn in “proxy” for me, so those were “my” souls. “His” turns were for “his” souls (of course, there’s quite a bit of overlap!). Lord, let our “prayer in motion” be heard in Your Presence!

By the end of that game, even my prince was tired. We put the balls away, had the lady in charge photograph us together, got back into street shoes, paid the $4 for the games (!) and headed home.

The night was still young. I hadn’t expected that…

I’m not sure what brought it to mind (unless it was my guardian angel!), but on the drive home I asked my prince what outfits he’d ever worn that he liked best. He named 3-piece suits he used to have, his “Sir Harry” costume from a musical, his wedding tux, his cassock & dressing head to toe in black (especially soft sweaters). Hmm…too bad his “Sir Harry” costume is polyester (polyester gives me a rash). Otherwise we could have fun with that…

My top three were my wedding dress (more polyester), prom dress (long gone) & the yellow dress I wore to my uncle’s wedding (I might’ve been all of 12). I got out my photo album to show my prince pictures of the prom dress & we ended up talking about the photos & who was in them (I hadn’t expected that either–it was very nice!). We learned more about each other & about our respective preferences in a quiet wind-down from the excitement of the evening.

It was a fun date :). Mostly it was our attitudes–cheering each other on–that made the difference.

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