Birthdays, in our family, are celebrated in many ways. One thing we do is the celebrant is allowed to pick how we spend a weekend day. Junior, newly 14, decided we should go bowling.
Bowling is a fantastic activity for families with kids, as evidenced by the clientele in our local alley today. It’s relatively cheap and unlike years past, the facilities tend to be clean (thank God Jersey is largely smoke-free!). Okay, so due to the presence of bars in some places and the graphics on some of the pinball machines, I wouldn’t call the alleys completely wholesome, but they’re still a prime place to spend a summer afternoon. And, lucky for us, we have three facilities within 30 minutes of our home.
Since I’m not a fan of the sport, I chose not to bowl, but rather watched my son, daughter, and husband play. I did, however, get to enjoy one of my favorite activities: people-watching. As I mentioned, families were out in full force today, enjoying each others’ company while escaping the muggy heat outside. Most were clad in the state’s summer “uniform” of shorts and t-shirts which advertised local sports teams and camps. The most competitive players, by far, were the kids who jumped up and down, cheering for and jeering at each other after a ball was thrown. I was reminded that my area of New Jersey is ripe with ethnicity as a few Hassidic Jewish men, dressed in white shirts, black pants, and yarmulkes dispensed advice on bowling technique to their progeny while women and girls in long skirts and stockings cheered each other on. A group of Asian teenagers laughed as they helped younger siblings avoid the bumpers; at the same time, their grandparents smiled lovingly, happy to be out and about. I heard Indian dialects, Spanish, French, and Jamaican accents as I took a little stroll around the facility. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.
In the alley in front of me, my daughter was giddy with delight. A glitch in the computer system meant that every time she took a turn, no matter how many pins went down, the screen showing scores indicated a strike. She was killing her brother and father in the game! Junior did not take to this well and, shedding his normal shyness, marched up to the desk and calmly asked that someone do something about this injustice. The mistakes were corrected and he accepted defeat at the hands of his father who won one game by one pin.
I was proud of the fact that although Junior could have invited a friend to play today, he chose to spend the day with just the three of us. Bowling is something that engages us all, in different ways. It gets us away from the compulsive video screens we all seem to be hypnotized by and allows us to play and enjoy each others company. It’s New Jersey family time at its best.