Curling, really ?

Last night I was dragged, pretty much moaning and groaning (as I’m far too old for kicking and screaming) to the local curling rink. My mother Kate and step-dad Don decided to sign Angus and I up for “Learn to Curl Fun” from 7:30 ’til 9:00, so that we might all join a league together. “Seriously ?”, thought I. “This is going to be fun? In the cold, at night, doing athletic type things?” Once it’s dark outside in the fall, I’m in full on PJ hibernation mode by the time dark settles in, cuddled up with one or two dogs, a book or a TV show and hopefully with a stemmed glass close by. I have a rotten back and my knees aren’t much to brag about either and I actually have nightmares on occasion about falling on ice ( I know, there must be something Freudian in that).

The first challenge, at least pour moi, was putting the ugly ” grippers” on my shoes. Kate and Don, the 70’ish-year-old Keeners that they are, came fully equipped with shiny new curling shoes, spandex pants and pretty new brooms with foam wedges on the bottom that looked like pot scrubbers. I felt like the poor kid who gets picked last before I’d even begun. Incidentally, the last time I saw a curling broom, it was like,well, an actual broom, with bristles and such. I came equipped with an old pair of jeans with only one stain on the knee, running shoes I had inherited from one of my girls five years ago and no broom in sight. The instructor indicated a bucket of ugly rubber grip guards for shoes that I was supposed to stretch over my beat up Keds. I was huffing and heaving and rolling on the floor wrestling with the thick, rubber outer-soles that looked as if they’d ben torn off the feet of Les Nesmond 25 years ago, exhausted before the session started.

We started with the basics of curling for those of us who had never spent time on a rink or watched a riveting world cup of curling tournament on the television. Apparently out of our group  of eight, I was the lone real newbie to the wonderful world of “throwing rocks.” There’s a sheet of ice, a house where you want to throw your rock, rocks that are really granite discs attached to handles, brooms and the most important person is apparently the Skip, who basically seems to do nothing but scream at you from the other end of the rink to put your rock where he or she deems it to be so. “Good luck buddy”, I smirked to myself, “if I manage to slide and stay upright and move this baby 5 feet, we will all break into the Alleluia chorus”. I’m getting ahead of myself though…

Before we were allowed to throw anything we had a stern lecture about the dangers of falls and it was explained to us that “real” curlers wore only one gripper on their dominant foot  (who knew one foot  was boss I silently mused) and had a slider on the other. We newbies were strongly advised to not attempt sliding at all. “All good”, thought I, ” no need to tempt fate”, whilst’ Angus, being a Man and all, instantly ripped the offending gripper off his shoe and defiantly hit the ice to prove his manhood or whatever… ” Oh not yet”, she insisted, ” we stay on the carpet for stretches”. ” Stretches?”, I mused. “What the hell, this isn’t real exercise is it? Gawd, I could be in bed right now !” We were first deftly shown the instructor exhibiting a slide. Feet in position in the “hack”, stone in one hand, balance thingee’ in the other ( apparently using your broom for balance is now passe’ ), she deftly pushed off, released her granite and floated to the line of release. “Now” she said, ” before you try, lets stretch out those quads. Everyone grab your ankles, while standing on one foot, pull it up behind you and stretch.” I managed to grab a shoestring that quickly snapped with the tension and prayed that I wouldn’t pee while grabbing the back of the nearest chair for balance. Don looked like a freaking ballerina as he deftly pulled his foot up behind him, Mom wobbled a little and chuckled ” isn’t this fun ? “and all I could hear was Angus sniggering behind me while I concentrated on not falling over.

Eventually we got to actually step on the ice and throw some rocks. Imagine as I huddled up in position, knees tucked in to my chest. I am prepared, stoked as they say, I haven’t yet pee’d myself, I still have oxygen in the top quadrant of my lungs where my boobs are not impeding air flow and I’m ready to glide. I have a rock in my left hand and a balance contraption in my right. At that moment she says, ” oh, you have to lift your left foot and put this slider under your shoe now.” “What the hell”, I think, ” you want me, in this squatted up, Chinese acrobat  position to lift my foot? Fail, epic fail…” I think it sucked out my athleticism, that failed start, because my first glide was more like a 2 ft forward momentum followed by a heavy crash to the left. On the plus side, I can still walk. Down side, my eight compatriots watched me list like the Titanic.

I’ll spare you the rest of my experience. Suffice to say I required more than one drink when I eventually got home. Mom is super excited for us to join the Friday night league now. Angus thought he was the Skip of us all by nights end. Don was throwing rocks like a pro and I survived sweeping. I never liked cleaning, now I know why. One of my Scottish ancestors must have been forced to curl.



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