Last weekend my cousin’s son (my first cousin once removed?) Charlie, invited me to go curling with him. It was ‘Bring your Parent to Curling Day’ at his curling club, and both of his parents sadly had other plans. I was pleased and surprised that he had thought of me, since I have the athletic prowess of a sea cucumber.
When he invited me I thought, ‘Why not? How hard could it be?’ Hadn’t my grandparents played while drinking? The English teacher in me immediately popped up: did I play curling? Or did I curl?
I had watched the Canadian curling teams win gold in both Olympic and Paralympic curling, and I felt that made me a bit of a curling expert. Curling seemed to involve lots of standing around looking at rocks, followed by someone sliding a rock down the ice while everyone yelled, followed by more standing around looking at rocks. It seemed fairly straightforward.
We arrived at the curling rink bright and early, and it was soon very clear that I was the only non-parent there. Charlie took off to commune with the other boys, leaving me to introduce myself to the other parents, most of whom inexplicably identified themselves in relation to their child.
“Hi, I’m Bob’s Dad.”
“Hi, I’m Suzie’s Mom.”
If only I knew who Bob and Susie were.
I made up my own names for the people on my team. There was Hot Dad, French Mom, Bald Dad, Mom-who-clearly-wished-she-was-anywhere-else-in-the-world, and Kind Dad. Kind Dad was my partner, and he helpfully explained all the rules as we went along.
Our first lesson was on throwing the rock. I was handed a broom (which looked like a lint brush on a long handle), and a slider (wasn’t that some sort of hamburger?). I suspect my broom may have been made for children, while my slider was made for giants.
The slider was a shoe-shaped thing with a large elastic on one side, and a very, very, very slippery surface on the other. It was also 18 times too big. I wrapped the elastic around my shoe, then around my ankle a few times, and stood up. And immediately found myself flat on my back.
“New to curling, eh?” Kind Dad asked, chuckling. “First rule of curling: Never step onto the ice slider-first.”
I would definitely remember that. He helped me up, and we slithered our way down the ice to where Charlie waited impatiently. I wondered about curling etiquette: could I rub my bruised bottom or was that a curling no-no?
“Watch me,” he told me with the confidence of an 11-year old boy who knows exactly what he’s doing. “This is called Ready, Set, Curl. It’s easy.”
Right. I shuffled over, put my foot in the rubber thing, and once again found myself ass-over-tea kettle on the ice. Again, and again, and again.
“Don’t put all your weight on your slider, Carrie!” Charlie told me, exasperated. “It’s not hard, why do you keep falling?”
“Try using your broom for balance,” Kind Dad suggested, swatting his giggling son who clearly thought I was well worth the price of admission.
I clutched my broom but privately thought that I was more likely to impale myself on it than do anything useful with it. I tried again.
Ready! Crouch down, with the rock in one hand, and the broom in the other. I could do that.
Set! Lift my bum inelegantly into the air while bringing slider-foot back. I wobbled precariously.
Curl! Push off gently while swinging my slider-foot forward. The combined momentum should carry me gracefully to the red line where I would release the rock, and send it smoothly down to the other end of the rink.
Only what I did was fall flat on my face, sending my large, granite rock directly at Hot Dad, and French Mom. They sadly weren’t at the other end of the rink, they were right beside me.
Finally I managed to send a rock in the right direction. It didn’t go very far but I figured that since I neither fell over nor took anyone else out, I could count it as a victory.
“Now let’s learn to sweep!” Charlie exclaimed excitedly. “C’mon Carrie, hurry!”
And down I went. Hurry? On the ice? With a slider? It was beyond my meagre abilities.
Let me mention here that a curling rink is cold. I knew it would be cold, it’s supposed to be. But I hadn’t realized just how cold it would be. Especially since my inner layers were now damp. Insidious slivers of ice had worked their way in every time I had fallen; I even had ice under the waistband of my pants, and inside my socks. Clearly when I fell, I fell with style.
I watched Charlie and his friends demonstrate sweeping, and hoped my medical insurance card was in my wallet. Sweeping involved hurrying down the ice in front of a moving rock while quickly rubbing your broom over the ice while everyone else on your team yelled. The idea was to stay close to the rock but to not touch either it or the other sweeper’s broom. It looked like a recipe for a broken bone to me. Bald Dad and Kind Dad must have agreed because they told me to watch them for a few minutes.
My one attempt at sweeping ended when I tripped over the moving rock, and took Kind Dad down with me, our brooms tangled, and the rock on a whole new course. I also managed to cut my finger through my mitten. The coach decided it was time for hot chocolate.
As we left, I thanked the coach and the other parents for their help, and patience.
“See you next time?” asked Kind Dad.
I will invest in knee pads and wrist guards first though.