The Hall­man League

The Covington News - - Living - Beth Mcafee-hall­man lives in Cov­ing­ton and can be emailed at mam­abee@ one­fab­u­lous­mama. com.

I never said the Hall­mans were cool, but we sure know how to have fun to­gether. We kicked off sum­mer 2011 with some Old School bowl­ing. Some­thing, be­sides prov­ing I have no hand­eye co­or­di­na­tion, hap­pened over those twenty frames. I mean, I bet we looked like we were just bowl­ing, but that’s not what was re­ally go­ing on over on Lane 1. We were be­com­ing a stronger fam­ily. We were adding an­other mem­ory to the Hall­man col­lec­tive. We were forg­ing an even stronger bond be­tween the five of us.

Wow, you're think­ing, sign my fam­ily up for some of that hap­pi­ness, right? It's all a mat­ter of per­spec­tive. My fam­ily wanted to have a good time to­gether. I think the Hall­mans could have been at home with yet an­other board game or in our back­yard with yet an­other movie. The magic in­gre­di­ent is that we re­ally like be­ing a fam­ily. Bowl­ing is an op­por­tu­nity to en­joy one an­other in a new place do­ing some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Well, it’s a new place for the Lit­tles at least.

Johnny and I have a bowl­ing back­ground. His is a lit­tle more in­volved than mine. He grew up in the bowl­ing al­ley around the cor­ner from his grand­mother's house in Mo­bile, Ala. I mean, lit­er­ally, he grew up there. When he wasn't eat­ing his meals at the neigh­bor­hood bar, he was grab­bing snacks at the bowl­ing al­ley in be­tween games with one of his un­cles. I know how sad and lonely that sounds, but he had a lit­tle safe haven there and he was a smart kid who took to the game. Johnny's a pretty good bowler even now, but it's not some­thing we ever en­joyed as a cou­ple or a fam­ily.

My own bowl­ing al­ley ex­pe­ri­ences left me a lit­tle bit­ter about the place. See, my mom liked to bowl when I was very lit­tle and I was of­ten left in the bowl­ing al­ley nurs­ery. No kid­ding. Such a place ex­isted - a nurs­ery in a bowl­ing al­ley. Yeah. That mer­its its own col­umn just for the ther­a­peu­tic/ en­ter­tain­ment fac­tor.

From where I sat in the "nurs­ery," bowl­ing al­leys were dirty, smoke filled places where women wore too much makeup and polyester and men weren’t any­one’s fa­ther. You know what I mean? Even the few times Johnny and I went bowl­ing as a young cou­ple, the bowl­ing al­ley was kind of a gritty place reek­ing of medi­ocrity and stale beer. The bowl­ing al­ley in Cony­ers was com­pletely not what I ex­pected. It’s clean for one thing. The peo­ple there smile and wel­come ev­ery­one. And it was filled with fam­i­lies! My child­hood bowl­ing al­ley file folder has been up­dated and re­or­ga­nized to in­clude my new ex­pe­ri­ences, friends.

I watched Johnny stand be­side each of the Lit­tles and give them tips on not fall­ing down and not dis­lo­cat­ing their el­bows. Look, our co­pay has gone up to $250 for an emer­gency room visit, so we have to be ex­tra, EX­TRA care­ful now. Johnny is in his el­e­ment at the bowl­ing al­ley. I look at him like a guide for us, a Davy Crock­ett in funny shoes and a Braves cap. I take all this in per usual, ab­sorb­ing these mo­ments through teary eyes when our daugh­ters are be­ing par­ented and loved by their fa­ther. Their Dada. (Even the teenager still calls Johnny this at al­most 17. How sweet is that?) They all look up to him so much and he re­ally grows from that love and light. It's like some cos­mic mu­tual agree­ment that he would love and nur­ture these chil­dren and, in re­turn, he will grow into this bet­ter ver­sion of him­self.

Once, just as we pulled into the park­ing lot of the bowl­ing al­ley, one of those fast and fu­ri­ous sum­mer storms rolled in and trapped us in our car. The thun­der boomed and the light­en­ing cracked. A few of us were scared, so we all climbed into the back­seat to wait out the rain. We ended up laugh­ing, singing and bear­ing wit­ness to that storm as a beau­ti­ful act of na­ture. It hit me then, friends. That's how my fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ences this jour­ney. We em­brace each mo­ment as a chance to grow, learn and sim­ply be to­gether. Sim­ply put, we're the Hall­man League. We may not be cool. We may not all be spec­tac­u­lar bowlers, but we sure know how to love one an­other and we know how to have a hell of a good time to­gether too.

BETH MCAFEE HALL­MAN

COLUM­NIST

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