My Thirty Year Old Gift

by Lisa Douglas

I knew the bowling balls were stored away in a box somewhere, I just didn’t exactly remember where we’d put them when we redid the garage. With the way the kids have trashed the garage playing in it this summer, I had little faith that my husband would emerge from the depths of “garage hell” with them in-hand, but he did. My bag looked a little worn for wear, dusty and droopy from two years rest within packing paper, stored in a hot garage.

He handed both balls to me, his and mine, and the weight of my ball came back to me in an instant memory, like a reflex. Ah, yes. I’ve had this ball since I was a kid, a gift from my father when I was small. Bowling was something we did together, one of his hobbies he introduced to us kids, to me. One of those family outings we’d have, together.

When he first gave it to me, my ball was an eight-pounder. My father would get it filled and get the finger holes drilled to fit my ever-growing child body, until he rounded it off at fourteen pounds when I became a teenager. The finger holes have remained the same size since, even though there were a few years there where I struggled to fit in them. (Ahem.)

This is the longest I’d been without bowling in all my life. We always lived close to a bowling alley, especially living on post; there was always one practically within walking distance. But this time, there wasn’t. Our first time owning a house, and living off-post, and while there are a few within driving distance (sorta), they aren’t as close as we were used to. “Out of sight, out of mind” (as they say). We always had other things happening, and so my ball stayed in a box, sheltered, unused. Almost forgotten.

my bowling ballI never thought I’d so happy to see a bowling ball, but I’ll admit it. Today, I totally was. I’d missed her.

It wasn’t just how well she’d kept up all these years, or how many memories she brought back to me as I unearthed her from her bag, it was the fact that it was once my childhood ball, around when I was my kids’ age; the fact that she was still there for me, how she remained steady, like a rock in the river, no matter what ridges in the water line weaved their way in my life, or how strong the current, this thirty-something year old gift was still here, no matter where I went.

This gift from my dad.
A gift from my childhood.
With my name engraved on it, making it permanently mine.
That “thing” we did together as father and child,
is now that “thing” I do with my kids.
How many gifts from your childhood could you say were permanently yours forever?
Gifts that are around long enough to see your children? Or your children’s children?

bowlingAs I shined her up in the see saw (another gift from my dad), polishing all the scratches in ‘er from the years of use, I desperately tried to remember even half of the alleys she’s traveled with me to in these thirty years, thinking back to the people, not just the family, that have been there, too. It occurred to me how much she’s seen – the bowling birthday parties I once had as a child (and attended), the boys I dated, the game nights I went on. She celebrated our first night bowling as a couple, and first time bowling once we married. She was there during get-togethers, parties, and deployments. She’s seen every one of my kids bowl for the first time, and now, here, today, she was seeing my youngest try it for the first time, too.

first time bowling“Mom? Can I have a bowling ball of my own someday, too?” My son asked.

Without even hesitating, I responded, “Yes. Absolutely.”

I secretly cried inside, imagining what this future gift might see him through in his life as my dad’s gift lived through in mine. How many games do we really have left, bowling together as mother and son (under the same roof), before he grows up and moves out?

It was hard to leave the bowling alley without buying each of my children a ball that very instant, but the mere idea of giving them each one in the near future, imagining all those memories to be made… I suddenly couldn’t think of anything better.

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