Pinning down the joys of family and birthday cake


This month I thought I’d be writing about flowers bursting into bloom, the return of our feathered friends, or an inspirational Easter message. Instead, I find myself telling a story about birthdays and candlepin bowling.

In our household at this time of year, birthdays tumble into each other like circus clowns, and I do quite a juggling act to ensure all birthday boys and girls feel well-celebrated. Besides, I’m always up for an excuse to eat cake.

We’ve had a long-standing tradition of honoring whatever the birthday celebrant requests, and the past five weeks have been no exception. I’ve taken part in loud, crazy family dinners consisting of everything from roast chicken and mashed potatoes to Thai peanut noodles and sushi. Celebrations have included a drizzly, yet soulful walk on the beach, a late-night knitting marathon, a Saturday shopping spree, lunch overlooking the Sheepscot River, and supper at an eatery that serves everything from corned beef sandwiches to tacos. I’ve enjoyed an Italian dinner with friends in Cundy’s Harbor and consumed more cake smothered in chocolate frosting than I should admit.

The highlight of these latest cake-eating episodes took place at an out-of-the-way establishment in Brunswick. As I crossed the threshold of The Bowling Bowl with my family, I was prepared to make a total fool of myself in honor of son-in-law Chris’ birthday. I hadn’t bowled in 17 years – and I wasn’t good at it then either. But, hey, who says you have to be “good” to have fun? Perhaps you have to be “not good” at something to REALLY have fun.

The two proprietors reluctantly paused their cribbage game to assign us attractive shoes. I had forgotten about those. And we broke up into boy-girl teams. Never mind that there was a fourth female to the competing team’s three males. We knew who would win, especially after a few practice frames.

Early on, it was apparent we all had our own styles in knocking down the skinny pins with the little holeless balls. My daughter Rachel held the ball to her right shoulder and frowned just like a professional on television. Her boyfriend, Stephen, exhibited the most power, and coupled with his bocce experience, racked up points quickly. Chris definitely was hot on his approach as he slid gracefully to the foul line. His brother Matt showed a similar technique. Hmmm, these Maine boys have played before …

Regan, Matt’s girlfriend, had a cute skip, causing the ball to bounce on the polished floor before it made its way down the lane. For a woman with a baby on the way, my daughter Shannon had great form, even though she sometimes lobbed wildly, sending the ball booming down the gutter. She made up for it by randomly goosing her husband, Chris, when it was his turn. Unfortunately, it didn’t distract him as much as we would’ve liked.

And I did OK. The problem was that after I got a high score, I choked, causing the next frame to not be so good. In the end, Chris had the most points, as it should be. After all, it was his birthday.

After Chris blew out the candles, Shannon served cake all around, including the two appreciative cribbage-playing gentlemen at the front counter. We all had a very good laugh over breaking Lane 5’s pinsetter and the fact that Rachel confused the abbreviation for Knights of Columbus (K of C) with that of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). The night ended with our expectant mother craving a hotdog, which she wolfed down unceremoniously before we all walked to our vehicles together in the rain and hugged one another on the sidewalk.

This Easter morning, our family will celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the advent of warmer weather as we anticipate another fun-filled season ahead, one that includes the arrivals of two new little ones. This morning there will be an egg hunt for the grandchildren, followed by a yummy brunch. Franny, the family puppy will probably be under the table, hoping someone tosses her a piece of bacon or two.

My heart is full, yet it somehow keeps expanding. There’s always room for more – more people and ways to celebrate them, more new adventures, more babies, more cake, and even more candlepin bowling.

Karen Schneider is a freelance writer living in West Bath. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]