Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Your Earliest Memory

It's probably a good thing that I started this series early, because I am already predicting that I will miss at least a few days in this challenge. Rules aren't exactly my thing anyway. Here's the list: The Writer Circle's 30 day writing challenge.

My memories of my childhood aren't actually very plentiful. I have exceptionally vivid memories of specific days or events, places and times, but beyond that, it's mostly fuzzy and unclear. I wasn't a particularly happy child and my childhood wasn't exactly a calm one that would encourage the development of ample memories worth remembering.

The funny thing about my childhood is that whenever I write about it, someone always seems to take issue with my version of events, tries to tell me that I'm wrong or that I'm not being fair or whatever.

Meh. This is my experience. My narrative might not fit with your worldview, but that's not anything within my control.

Tell your stories, people.

Anyway, the earliest memory I have. God. Most of them are bad.

There are a few that I remember fondly, though, and I'd rather write about one of those, not because I believe in historical revisionism even on the individual level, but because I've been through enough therapy that I don't need to drag old things back up just to have someone tell me that I'm wrong again.

I was almost born in a bowling alley. My Mom went into labor on a night that my Dad was bowling a perfect game. She didn't want to jinx him and ruin the game, so she didn't tell him the contractions had started. He ended up throwing the game in the 10th frame, missing out on his chance at a league sanctioned 300, but by the time he spun that last ball down the lane, no one really cared about the game anymore. By then, everyone else in the alley knew she was in labor.

Bowling was a big part of his life, and by extension mine as well. Some of my earliest memories are of walking through the clear glass doors, the ones with the aluminum frames that never quite shut all the way, to the brown patterned carpet lining the top of the alley. The wood paneled bar, the linoleum floors down near the lanes, the seats that were never quite sturdy enough and always rocked back and forth with the same squeak, the smoke filled arena filled with warriors ready for their weekly battle.

Maybe it was not the best place to take a kid on the regular, but I never minded. I never knew any different anyway. Plus, it was the late 70s and early 80s, and people didn't yet care about second hand smoke or overscheduling kids activities. Back then, our parents lived however they lived and we went wherever they did. Now, it seems like most families work the opposite...lives, social groups, weekends center around the activities of the kids.

It wasn't like that back then.

My Dad would put me up on the counter at the back of the lanes, sit me up on top of it, and teach me every tiny nuance of how to throw a curve like his. He had a routine he went through before every frame, before every ball that went sailing down the lane. His arm would hang there high in the air after his release, as if he was willing it to comply with his wishes as the ball sailed down the oil slicked wood. His curve was so tight that the spinning orb would hug the lip of the lane, daring gravity to pull it into the gutter, before it grabbed and made the final sharp right turn.

He was left handed, and had a hell of a time picking up a 7 pin spare, but there was nothing like the sound of his ball hitting the sweet spot on a full rack. It really was a beautiful thing to watch.

The guys on his team were always kind to me. They teased each other almost constantly, told wildly inappropriate stories and jokes to one another. Back then, the single ones told of their latest romantic interludes in a level of detail that would shock the conscience of most parents these days. The rest of them, hanging on the words of whoever was the last to get lucky.

They drank hard, they chain smoked, they had special towels to clean their ball that no one else was ever allowed to touch. This was my childhood.

Into my teenage years, I'd tag along with my Dad to the bowling alley on league nights. By then, they weren't allowed to smoke inside anymore, but little else changed, not even the kid still sitting on the back counter.

What's your earliest memory?

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