Curling started on Tuesday night. My Dad is our skip, I'm third, Garth is second and James is playing lead. Ruth is babysitting for some other curlers. They live near the rink, so you might think that we would just drop her off on our way, but she accepted their offer of a ride. A shrewd move, that was, because she figured that going with us might mean walking. Actually she needn't have worried. Garth wants to curl for the exercise, but he wants to get there in his car. So he phoned and offered to drop Ruth off, and I loaded the brooms and sliders into the car. Then I walked, and they drove. I got to the rink first, but of course they had an extra stop.
I was amazed how curling lifted my spirits. Earlier that evening I had to ask Garth to finish making supper while I stormed out and up the street in the teeth of a bitter wind, trying to shake an inexplicable rage. The wind did blow most of it away, and I came back to the meal quietly. As soon as I neared the rink, though, I felt the happiness coming. By the middle of the game, I was remembering Jacob's excellent Remembrance Day address about peace coming from within, and noticing my Dad's easy enjoyment of the sport, and gently choosing not to worry so much about imparting all the rules of etiquette to Garth or keeping James playing up to the pace. The rules and the game itself are only there for the fun.
It was a great feeling just to step back into my little ritual: rock in front of the hack, broom down on the ice to my left; right foot in the hack, left toe up, pull the slider under it, toe down and pull the strap up around the heel; squat and tip the rock, clean the bottom, sweep the cleanings aside, tip the rock gently down and spin it once. Then and only then, lift my head to look down the ice for the skip's instructions. Vital step: point the hack foot's toe at the broom. Dad's advice coming back to mind: keep reaching for the broom.
I was a little shaky at first, but delighted to find myself gradually settling back in to the form I had found last year, with my sliding leg deeply bent so the foot is right under my centre, balancing my weight. A few ends in, I was ready to try to do better, not just do. Kick off a little harder, hold a little longer. Near the end of the game there was one delivery that felt really good.
Something - perhaps the push from the hack - reminded me of the lunges we've been doing at dance class, and made me grateful for that training over the last two months. While sweeping, too, I felt the tug of my abdominal muscles and enjoyed my newfound strength. Last year I built up to that first night of curling with stretches mimicking the delivery pose, but this year I hadn't done any. I trusted the hip stretches from dance class, and sure enough, the flex was there.
We lost the game, but it didn't matter a bit. James was throwing with steady form, using a slider, and getting rocks in the house. More importantly, he was cheery and chatty, open to suggestions, and resilient when his shots didn't go so well. Garth was trying a slider too, and even hinting that he'd take advice about my technique. And Dad was having fun. Coming home with last rock, he was going to try a draw to the button to keep their near-centre rock from counting. As I stood holding the broom and waiting while he went back down the ice to throw, I could hear the murmurs from the other team behind me: "I thought he would have tried that!" There was a narrow hole between the front guard rocks. Sure enough, Dad looked down the ice and called to me to move the broom: he would throw right down the centreline. I had to chuckle at that. He made the shot, too.
After the game, Garth invited Dad to come by our place for hot chocolate. We didn't have to pick Ruth up, because she wouldn't be finished babysitting yet - the other curlers were lingering over drinks. Again I walked, and the others drove. As I came around the corner of the house, they were closing the garage door and coming towards the house as well. "See," I said, "those car things are just a hassle."