Mom Takes On Curling Adventure
– March 17, 2014 9:00 am
Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter
I was in the moment I opened the flyer attachment that Jamie sent me: “Curling Experience: Curious about curling? Want to see if you can throw a stone or sweep one through the house? Here’s your chance to get out on the ice here in Richmond! Our members will show you the curling basics so you can get on the ice, throw a rock, and sweep the stone!”
Yeah, so the Curling Experience ran until 10 p.m. Yeah, so I had a whole two-plus hour drive back afterward. Yeah, so I’m old, and not exactly flexible anymore. Who cares? It’s curling! Sport of brooms – with which I am vaguely acquainted – and loud pants! Terrific! “Of course!” I emailed Jamie back immediately, a month ago. “Sign me up!”
Jamie and I waited impatiently in and out of the weeks since. My best friend since we met the first day of high school, Jamie and I haven’t lived in the same city in decades, and she has a toddler now while my kids are in and through college, but still we share an unbreakable bond and, apparently, taste for odd adventure.
We had a lot of back-and-forth discussions before the big night. My son plays ice hockey so I’ve spent a lot of time in ice rinks, and I was concerned about shoes, and not falling. Jamie was more worried about the weight of the stone, and the coordination of legs and arms for “throwing” it. Between us and our online research, we satisfied no concerns at all, and showed up for the big night in jeans, sneakers, and jackets. “I want to sweep,” Jamie said. “Heck with that,” I said. “I want to throw.” So, as usual, we made a perfect team.
The Curling Club of Virginia, as it turns out, is the only curling club in the Commonwealth. Headquartered in Richmond, they fundraised heavily before getting started – a new set of 16 stones runs $25,000 and up – and are eager to bring on new members. Each stone weighs 42 pounds, and every stone in the sport, for every team in every country, comes from the same island off the coast of Scotland where the sport originated. One of the Curling Club team members passed around a stone so each member of our Experience group of six could heft it, and tilted the stone back to show us the narrow, rough ring that skims the ice. He showed us his curling shoes with the special slick Teflon pads on the bottom of the left foot (since he is right-handed), and the wooden hack that is set in the ice as a brace for takeoff.
Our on-ice lesson starts with “stone delivery.” Jamie and I wisely position ourselves at the end of our line of six intro curlers. Ben is at the front, and he and his wife – whose name tag I never can see, her hair covers it the whole time – turn out to be fairly natural athletes. On his first time out, Ben pushes off with his right foot and eases into a lunge, his left knee up and his right leg positioned gracefully behind him. But when he goes to release the stone – splat! Yeah. Our group nods in understanding. We expected that. Jamie and I, arms crossed, the oldest of the six by at least 20 years, don’t chuckle as loudly as the rest. We are thinking about outstretched legs, about hamstrings and quadriceps not used to sudden exertion, about jeans reacting to stress.
Shane and Kiley are up after Ben and his covered-nametag wife. They are not natural athletes, and have more difficulty than Ben. Shane is long and thin, and his bones almost seem to tangle. His wife Kiley is heavier, rounder, and bellyflops onto the ice. Jamie and I look at each other knowingly. This, is what we expect for ourselves. Definitely.
And then it’s my turn. Jamie, bringing up the rear of our line, watches me intently. I position my right foot firmly in the hack. I grip the stabilizer bar – a bunch of glued-together PVC pipe – with my left hand and the red handle of the stone in my right. My left foot on the temporary sliding piece, I try to focus on the movement of the lunge, try to imagine it in my mind, to make sure my left knee goes up and my right leg goes back. Finally I push off, and … I slide, I release the stone, and I don’t fall!
Whoo! I can curl! I pump the air with my fist. Take that, age 47!