California Bowling Writers

March 2, 2010

Are The Tears Worth It?
By Pat Helwig

It was the beginning of a new bowling season. I had just finished bowling the first night of league play when I felt an overwhelming desire to cry. I took off for the ladies room and managed to settle into a stall before the tears started flowing. I completely lost control of my emotions. I was crying like a baby, I was a mess! What was the cause of my emotional upset? It can be found in the following events that lead up to the first night of league play.

It was August, 1969. With husband and two children we moved to San Diego from Chicago. My parents and sister with her family had already preceded our arrival. We all made the move to California for the health reasons of my dad. It was a good time to relocate as our children were young and our employment included job transfers from Chicago to San Diego.

All members of our families were avid bowlers. Settling in the North Park area of San Diego dad had already checked out the nearest bowling alley named Aztec Bowl. With the new bowling season soon to begin I was anxious to get signed into a league. I met with the Aztec Bowl manager and expressed my desire to be on a team in a ladies scratch league. I got lucky, there was one opening and my impressive 189 book average was helpful in my placement. The 7 PM ladies scratch league would begin the week after Labor Day. I expressed my thanks for the league spot and left with a wonderful feeling of belonging.

The day finally came and I was ready. With my shoes freshly polished, ball nice and clean, and wearing my favorite bowling outfit I felt good. As I entered the bowling alley the butterflies started fluttering in my stomach. I thought – oh no – please - not tonight. My name was on my shirt so my teammates found me as soon as I approached the control desk. They were so friendly and made me feel so much at ease that the butterflies settled down. We discussed the team line up. Having the highest average on the team the anchor spot was mine – if I wanted it. No problem, I bowled the anchor position for my previous teams and felt very confident I could handle it.

As the alley lights came on there was an announcement over the loud speaker stating there would be five minutes of shadow balls. I thought to myself – shadow balls! How in the world does one make a shadow ball? The bowlers quickly lined up and took turns throwing their balls at make believe pins. Well, I never saw such foolishness. One of my teammates said “come on, get in line, this is our warm up session.” That made sense, so I got in line and when my turn came I threw my ball at the pins that weren’t there. Then I spotted my dad standing on the concourse smiling at me and nodding his head in approval. He knew exactly what was going through my mind. The bowling leagues in the Chicago land area do not have shadow balls. They begin their league play cold turkey – a warm up session was definitely not allowed. I am a California gal now so decided I best pay attention and do what everyone else does.

Shadow balls are over and we finally begin bowling with real pins. Dad managed to give me a few words of encouragement before he left. He emphasized not to be nervous, just relax. He never hangs around to watch me bowl unless we are having a practice session. I was ready, felt relaxed and confident that I was going to bowl well. I had to bowl well. After requesting a ladies scratch league and taking the anchor spot I better bowl well.

It never happened! I bowled like a beginner. My ball couldn’t find the pocket. I am a good spare shooter but sure missed a lot of spares. My teammates were gracious, told me I probably had first night jitters, no big deal, just relax. When the second game started I began counting my steps to myself. That didn’t help. My hands were cold, a cup of hot coffee helped a little.

My second game was a little better but considerably below my average. I wanted to go home – told the girls they would do better by taking my average less ten pins. They wouldn’t hear of it. So with tongue in cheek I stuck it out. We managed to win the last game in spite of my low score. As soon as I finished the last frame of that last game I made a dash for the ladies room. I could feel the tears coming. I was so embarrassed I just had to get away. I didn’t think the tears would ever stop.

One of my teammates came looking for me. “Feel better honey?”, she asked. I showed myself with my red eyes, and a red nose that I was still blowing. “I guess so” was my reply. She gave me a hug, and let me know that my tears showed I had a good heart. The team still wanted me and hoped the next tear session would be for high scoring. Are the tears worth it? Yes, indeed they are!