Are you looking to have a crashin’ good time? Well then, join me the next time my son, Snags, is invited to a birthday party at our local bowling alley. Seriously, join me. I could have used the company and witnesses last weekend when, for those of you keeping track, we had ANOTHER birthday party, the 3rd in as many weeks, to attend. As you can see, this kid’s social schedule is rockin’!
The party invitation was basic, simple black text printed on a sheet of computer paper, “…come to Jason’s Birthday party at the bowling alley on Sunday at 1:30 pm…” The invitation was placed in my son’s preschool cubby on Thursday afternoon, just 3 days before the party. Not much time to shop for a present I thought. Also, since it was so close to the party date, I considered if we’d been on the “B list” of invitees. As if to confirm this, when I called on Friday to RSVP and say that yes, Snags would be able to attend, the person on the other end of the phone said in her most bored teenager voice, “Oh. Okay…. Then she audibly sighed before she went on to explain, “But the thing is? You have to be at the bowling alley by 1:15 because they open the lanes at 1:30.” She sounded a little hopeful then, like maybe I’d say, “Oh, 1:15, that’s not going to work after all.” Instead I replied brightly, “Okay! We’ll be there! “Oh, okay then. Bye,” she replied, not sounding enthused AT ALL.
I wondered again, as I hung up the phone, if perhaps Snags had been invited to this party by mistake. Maybe the invitation ended up in the wrong cubby? After all, we don’t really know Jason; I think he’s pretty new to my son’s class. Nevertheless, Snags was eager to attend. He even knew, when we asked, what Jason was interested in: “Power Rangers!” he declared. And that’s the kind of insider information that a 5 year old only knows when he’s been playing with another kid for a while. Clearly he’d been hanging out with Jason at school.
Sunday rolled around and Snags and I arrived at the bowling alley. At 1:30. Not 1:15 like we’d been advised. Yes, I know. My bad; get over it. When we went inside, the place was nearly empty, and I struggled to find a group that looked large enough to be a party. Thankfully, I heard someone calling my name. “Hi, Belle!” It was Lena, the mother of Derek, another child at the party. She stood at a lane in front of me and pointed across the room, “The party’s over there,” she informed us. “But I’m bowling over here until they are finished.” She had her older child with her and I guess they decided to bowl a few games themselves while Derek was celebrating across the alley.
I thanked her and we traded in Snags’ SuperBall sneakers which he thinks make him jump really high (I don’t have the heart to tell him they don’t) for a pair of funky smelling multi-colored bowling shoes, size 12. Only Snags complained they were too small; he couldn’t “wiggle his toes”. So we took them back to get the next size up. “He says these are too small,” I shrugged in explanation, as I plopped the shoes on the counter. “You need a size 13 then?” the shoe control lady asked me. “Uh, yeah, I guess. Is that the next size up?” Size 13 IS the next size up from a size 12, in case you didn’t know. I didn’t. I did know that at some point the shoe sizes change from double digits back to 1 and you have to start over. It’s a confounding system if there ever was one. I mean, just imagine if women’s clothing did that… Wouldn’t it be something if our clothes only went up to a size 10 say, and then they started over? So if you wore a 10, but gained enough weight to need a 12, (and who hasn’t done that before?) then you’d find you’re back to a size zero, just not THAT zero. And by the way, if you are waving your hand in a “Me! Me! I haven’t gained weight” kind of way, then you’re not my friend. Okay, I’m joking. You can be my friend, but you can’t borrow my clothes because they’ll be too big for you. Seriously though, if women’s clothing sizes did this, wouldn’t that be cool?
Anyway, back to the size 13 bowling shoes… “These feel GREAT!” Snags roared once he’d put them on. “I can wiggle ALL my toes in them.”
We walked in the direction that Derek’s mom had pointed, and a bored looking teenager I assumed was a bowling alley employee took the gift from Snags’ hand, set it atop a small pile, and asked me “What’s his name?” with a nod in Snags’ direction. “Snags” I replied. And she turned and typed it into the bowling alley computer without saying another word.
The party was a small affair (hence the reason I didn’t spot a party crowd when we arrived). Of the preschool class, Jason, the birthday boy, had apparently invited just 2 friends: Snags and another pal, Derek. And in some kind of creepy 5 year old telepathic exchange, Snags and Derek had both worn orange Power Ranger t-shirts, blue shorts, and white socks. With the bowling shoes on their feet, one might have confused the boys for twins. Except for the small fact of Derek’s athletic ability — he did a round-off back handspring on the bowling alley floor, from a standing position, after one particular good turn. Also, Derek’s hair is a shade darker than Snags’.
Snags, however, might one day be really excellent at shot put, should he ever take up track and field; because, as it turns out, he bowls the same way he plays Skee Ball. That is to say, he’s an over hand bowler! And I’m willing to bet THAT is not something you see very often. Or um, EVER. He hoists the bowling ball OVER his head and thrusts it forward from there. A position that is, if you measured it, some 45 inches off the ground — nearly 4 feet high. Luckily, the ball has enough forward motion to miss his toes as it crashes to the floor (otherwise it would surely break them) and rolls down the alley lane. He puts some kind of spin on the ball too, because it weaves its way back and forth across the lane, ricocheting from bumper rail to bumper rail, like a drunk trying to walk the line at a roadside sobriety test. And no matter how many times I offered Snags some of my helpful suggestions, like “Why don’t you trying bowling like a NORMAL PERSON?” he wasn’t going for it. This worked for him and he was sticking with it! Even when all the adults in the entire bowling alley ducked their heads and covered their ears against the deafening explosion of the ball’s attempt at forming a crater in the wooden floor, Snags was not changing his modus operandi.
In his first game Snags scored a 91, which isn’t so great, I suppose. But, I think it might actually be a record for the overhand bowlers! Especially those in the 5 year old league. He even got a strike at one point to which he danced around then dropped to the floor and slithered around like a snake, all smiles. I believe it was Snags’ equivalent of a touchdown dance. Then moments later he landed a gutter ball to which someone turned to me and said, I’ve never seen anyone get a gutter ball with the rails up! “Well, until now” I thought, but didn’t say. Instead, I nodded, proudly, knowingly. Because hey, that’s something then, isn’t it?
Did I mention the party was small? Three kids and a handful of adults, none of which seemed inclined to talk. In fact, it was only near the end of the party that I discovered the very young woman I’d assumed was a teenager working at the bowling alley for the summer, was actually the birthday boy’s mother! Aside from asking me who Snags was, she didn’t say another word to me. Although to be honest, I didn’t exactly try to strike up a conversation with her either. She stood aside, mostly removed from the action. She watched the overhand bowling, guarded the gifts, and sipped on a soda without saying much of anything to anybody.
Before we left it was time for Jason to open his presents. He received two
Power Rangers toys; one from Derek and one from Snags. Snags, who had seen a transformer toy on TV that was a truck that turned into a gun, decided at the last second that we should have gotten that for Jason instead. “Sorry kiddo,” I said. “No time to go the toy store now.”
The other present that Jason received was his VERY. OWN. PERSONAL. TV. OH. MY! If you had seen the look on Snags’ and Derek’s faces when the TV was unwrapped! They turned to me with the biggest smiles ever, and a shine in their eyes that flashed “Holy Cow! DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? If Jason can have a TV for his 6th birthday, then we can too!” I was just about to say something mean like, “Wow boys, neat huh? Too bad for you; you two won’t be getting TVs until you’re teenagers!” But before I could finish the sentence in my mind, Derek shouted, loud enough for alien life forms on other planets to hear “I ALREADY HAVE MY OWN TV! IN MY ROOM!” And then the look was only on Snags’ face. Little darts were shooting from his eyes, each one wrapped with a tiny message, like you’d find in a fortune cookie, and directed at me. Because now Snags was the only 5 (almost 6) year old in the entire bowling alley, and quite possibly, from the look on his face, the entire world, who didn’t have his own TV. In his room. Tiny violins started to float and play in the air all around Snags’ head. Still, his smile barely dimmed. He continued to search my face, hopeful, looking I imagine, for a
nod of agreement that yes, one day soon he too would get his very own TV.
But I held fast. I pretended my face had been shot full of Botox and I couldn’t move a muscle. Not a twitch, not a blink. No nod of encouragement, and definitely, most definitely, no shake of the head indicating NO WAY! YOU MUST BE JOKING! SIX YEAR OLDS WILL NOT HAVE THEIR OWN TV IN MY HOUSE! Because that would have provoked crying on the spot and proclamations of “You’re a mean mommy!” and I didn’t want to leave the party on a sour note like that. So we wished Jason a Happy Birthday, thanked his mom who wasn’t a bowling alley employee for inviting us to the party, and we went home. I’m still not certain that party invitation was ever actually meant for us.