Story of Perseverance
I lugged my eight-pound ball to the line—a pound for every year of my life. With two hands I lobbed it towards the pins. I watched as the ball crept in a curve towards the gutter, plonked in and then crawled to the end of the lane to another uneventful end. The automatic pin-machine, lifted all ten pins, and then wiped my ball to the rear.
With shoulders hunched, I shuffled back to my seat, daring not to look at the score on the overhead screen; mine a row of dashes, and a big fat zero.
‘Good try,’ Dad said.
‘It’s not fair!’ I whined. ‘Why can’t I hit the pins?’
‘Now, now, stop complaining. We won’t take you bowling ever again if you keep on being a bad sport.’
I stomped my foot. ‘Naw? But I have to come!’ How could I give up and allow the ball, the pull of the gutters, and those smug little untouched pins win? ‘I must keep on trying. You told me Dad, when you have a challenge you don’t give up. I’m not giving up until I knock down at least one pin.’
‘But you knocked down three on your first go,’ my brother chimed in. ‘So better to quit while you’re ahead. Ha! Ha!’
‘Shut your mouth, Richard.’ I lifted my foot to kick my brother.
‘Lee-Anne! Right!’ Dad snapped.
I lowered my foot. ‘It’s just that since that first roll, I’ve never knocked down any more pins. It’s the same every Saturday. I get gutter after gutter. It’s like the gutters are a magnet for my ball.’
‘Now, now, a bad workman blames his tools.’
More of Dad’s condescending remarks. I puffed up my cheeks, and with arms hugging my chest, I slouched down on the cold plastic seat.
My turn again, and again the ball resorted to the gutter. Again Dad trotted out his less-than-helpful comments: “Good try. You almost got the pins.”
Then his “helpful” hands joined the “advice”. Standing behind me, Dad held my arm and said, ‘Swing the ball. Follow through. Keep your wrist straight.’ He then took over my roll of the ball and, with his arm attached to my arm, swung the ball, following through with the wrist straight. With Dad breathing over my shoulder, we witnessed the ball seek the solace of the gutter once again.
‘Ah, well, you’re getting better,’ Dad said.
I bit my lip to prevent any utterance that may be misconstrued as “bad sportsmanship” and warranting excommunication from Glenelg’s Bayside Bowling alley. In silence, I slipped through the gap in the seats, and then filed through the shelves of balls in an effort to find one less inclined to heed the pull of the gutter. In the back of my mind, I acknowledged this was a futile endeavour, as I’d been through all the eight-pound hire balls in the centre, and all of them failed to stay on the lane long enough to hit the pins.
The weeks dragged by with each Saturday morning, the same routine, gutter-balls, untouched pins and my Dad’s platitudes. I was sure that my brother’s team-mates had nicknamed me “The Gutter-ball Girl”.
No one wanted me on their team. What point was that? No point. I never made any points to be of value on a team. And as the number of gutter-balls mounted up to Guinness Book Record level, I began to think my existence in the realm of ten-pin bowling was pointless. No one ever said it to my face, not even my brother, but I sensed the bowling community’s attitude; I was hopeless, no talent. I should just pack away the hire ball, return the rent shoes, walk out the centre and never come back.
But for me, it wasn’t about talent. I’d keep on going until I hit one pin rolling the ball down the lane. Just one pin, I ask you. That’s all I wanted.
I refused to give up. More weeks. More gutters. Must’ve reached the quota for some world record. I rolled the gutter-balls without complaint, most of the time. Dad allowed me to keep on coming. Probably gave Mum a break.
Then one Saturday…
The morning began like all the others, except Dad had another appointment that day. Richard and I rode our bikes to Glenelg to Bayside Bowling Centre.
Richard’s team had been allocated the ninth and tenth lanes, right down the end of the centre. As the added extra junior of no consequence, the manager took my dollar for the two games, and allowed me to join my brother’s team. The lads permitted me to throw my gutter-balls after the competitors had done their turns each frame. My pointless punts at the pins gave the teams a breather, and the pins a rest, I guess.
The first frame my ball did its usual thing, patronising the gutters both sides. None of my brother’s mates said a word. I assumed they were used to Richard’s little sister throwing gutter-balls, and the occasional tantrum.
Then the second frame rolled around. As usual, I plugged my fingers in the holes, tottered up to the line, swung the ball a couple of times, and then threw it down the aisle. I turned and sauntered back to my seat. No use watching the ball. I heard some slow clinking sounds but assumed the machine was doing its thing.
My brother cheered and clapped. ‘Well, done, Lee-Anne!’
‘What?’ Now my brother’s started with the patronising comments, I thought.
‘Look!’ Richard said and pointed.
Three pins stood to attention.
‘You hit seven pins!’
One of Richard’s team mates patted me on the back. ‘Well done, Lee-Anne!’
I stood staring at the gap-toothed smile of the three pins, savouring the reality. I’d hit the pins. I’d hit the pins! Then I jumped up and down and squealed, ‘I hit the pins!’
‘Pity Dad wasn’t here to see you do that,’ Richard said.
I kept on with tenpin bowling. Each week the pin-tally increased and the gutters lost control over my ball as I mastered the skill of rolling the ball straight down the middle to hit the pins. The junior league management found me a team and I persuaded Dad to take me bowling once or twice during the week to practise. I bowled in the junior league, and in my mid-teens with a respectable average in the 140’s, I joined my brother’s team. At sixteen, the pressures of study caused me to give up bowling in competition.
For a number of years, old Mr Monk, a tenpin bowling expert, volunteered his time to coach us after junior league competitions had finished for the morning. He gave us tips to improve our technique and game. But the best advice he gave, which confirmed what I’d already learnt, was that it’s not talent that makes a good tenpin bowler, but practise, practise, practise…and perseverance.
I have carried this advice in whatever I need to learn; teaching, art, writing, learning a language and so on. Practise, not talent makes perfect. And never give up.
In the Bible, James 1:2-4 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo Image: My Bowling Ball (c) Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016