I’m a fiftysomething woman whose hourglass has morphed into one of those classic egg timers: round with plenty of lines. Which is to say, I’m no athlete, and never have been.
My husband, Bob, is good at every sport, and curling in particular. He coaches my youngest son, Graham, on a U18 curling team that will be competing for British Columbia in the 2023 Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island. My eldest son, Ben, curls with his brother in a fun league along with some other Gen Zeds at our local club in Courtenay on Vancouver Island.
Up til the most recent curling season, that was me in my cheerleader sweater up in the club bar, making nose prints on the glass above the rink. (I leave my air horn and cowbell home for league play most days).
I always used the I-don’t-have-time-to-curl excuse, but that evaporated when I retired last summer.
“Look, Mom, there’s a Learn to Curl Clinic in October!”
Gulp. Wobble along the ice on a Teflon shoe while clutching the handle of a hunk of high-end kitchen counter? Surely there lies madness.
To make sure I went through with the clinic, last summer Bob and I hornswoggled the parents of the U18 team’s skip to curl with us in the Monday fun league. We invited them for a barbeque and popped the question. Mr. and Mrs. Hornswoggle were powerless in the face of my milk-chocolate-pecan-coconut-oatmeal cookies.
Day one of the Learn to Curl Clinic: I laced up Graham’s old Canadian Tire curling shoes, grippers firmly adhered to my soles. Bob diplomatically suggested that I wear my bike helmet (DayGlo yellow, thanks very much). He said the Learn to Curl introductory email recommended helmets, so probably everyone would have one.
You know how this turns out, right? Not a single other person had a helmet.
The Learn to Curl instructors were the diminutive Mickey, with a charismatic smile as wide as a dental emoji’s, and her husband, Dennis, who endearingly called her “the Boss”. Patience doesn’t begin to describe how tolerant they were of our herd of Bambis flopping about between the hack and hogline. We practiced our slides with death grips on both crutch and rock for balance. We all used that slider you tuck under your shoe and then discard as soon as possible so you don’t have to actually stand on that treacherous foot-shaped slip n’ slide.
Embarrassing moments were legion. Like when I positioned myself in the hack with the rock in my left hand, and crutch in my right. My fellow student asked me if I was left-handed. Ahem. Nope.
My rocks meandered chaotically from side to side into what would have been the gutter in a bowling lane until I understood that you’re supposed to line up your body with the broom. I was quite taken aback, since I’m pretty sure this whole aiming business was not mentioned in the Learn to Curl promotional materials.
As in any class, there was that one guy who slid out like a pro first time, and seemed to understand concepts like weight and hitting the broom right from the get-go. Last I heard he was being scouted as a fifth man for Team Gushue.
Armed with a few tips from Mickey, I showed up for my first Monday night league game. There was Mrs. Hornswoggle, in all her Shirley Partridge-haired glory, sporting a Dubble Bubble pink bike helmet. “Who cares what people think?” she said. I immediately scheduled an “I Heart Mrs. Hornswoggle” tattoo appointment.
My teammates and the opposition dropped into the hack for pre-game practice slides, so I did the same. But once I got in the hack, I realized I didn’t know how to slide unless I was holding a rock. So I just crouched, and then stood up and stretched, with all the I-meant-to-do-that attitude I could muster. I fooled no one.
For that first game, my wheelhouse was hog one, throw one through the house. But in my second Monday night game I had a breakthrough. For real. The skip (that would be Bob) called a draw into the house. Again with this aiming business…
No lie: my rock made it absolutely precisely to almost that very vicinity.
And then, just when I thought I was crushing this whole sliding without tipping over thing, I had to throw my first takeout. Get those cowbells ringing, people: I missed it by less than a foot! Oh yeah! High fives all around!
Since then I’d like to say I’ve had a meteoric rise in skill (I thought most meteors crashed, or broke up in space, which is a more apt metaphor here). Refer to paragraph one: I’m no athlete and never will be. I leave talents like remaining upright and knowing the difference between “whoa” and “go” to my boys.
Hourglass or egg timer, I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about my curling prowess. If we only ever do things we’re good at, we won’t do very many things.
Besides, aren’t real friends the people you can be uncool with? I’ll keep on hogging and flashing and doing fist pumps when that rock makes it anywhere in the rings (on my sheet, not the neighbouring one). I still wear that fluorescent yellow helmet. Mrs. Hornswoggle wears her pink one. No one laughs.
Actually, mostly, we all laugh.
P.S. Do you think Team Gushue would sign my helmet at the Brier? #SendTheHelmet
Submitted by Catherine Crockett