Curling was going to be my shot at Olympic glory. Growing up as a kid in a small northern town, your talent on ice was always seen as your ticket out of there. Since I was born a girl (and remain one to this day), my parents put me in figure skating. Back in the day, girls didn’t play hockey. They stalked hockey players. Unfortunately, my Nordic roots did nothing for me and I was a dismal failure on ice. My parents kept hoping that I would be a late bloomer but, after 4 years of lessons, a ton of money in skates and one disastrous fall where I took out the set of the local ice show, they resigned to the fact that their heavy set daughter was not going to get an Olympic medal in figure skating…or probably any other sport for that matter. Instead, they rightly concluded that my ticket out was going to be via scholarships and education. So they gave me books and I spent my days and nights studying, note-taking, and reading.
One night, the babysitter failed to show up and so my parents were forced to take me along on their outing. And where did we go? To my town’s version of the Olympics. Yes. The Sixth Annual Bavarian Meat Bonspiel. My dad, being the local banker, was involved in all the town’s activities. We walked into the rink and it was magical. One side was set up as a German meat buffet. The other side was the rink. Suddenly my mom’s outfit – a Bavarian short skirt, peasant top and ribbon head-dress – made sense underneath her parka. All the curling wives were on duty as Bavarian serving wenches. Their job was to add a classy, cultural element to the evening… and to bring meat and beer to the curlers and fans. My mom, who had secret ambitions to be a B movie actress, loved the part – although her over the top Marlene Dietrich impersonation, along with too much meat innuendo, made the United Church Minster blush and made the other husbands stand in long lines for what she was dishing out.
But that night was not about drinking beer and eating meat. No. It was about local victory, pride and the winning of more meat. Did I forget to say that the winning team got a freezer full of meat? Oh. Well they did…so the stakes were high…in every meaning of the word.
I had never seen curling before. And, once I did, I was mesmerized. While figure skating was a sport of athleticism, grace and co-ordination, I watched my dad’s team (and their opponents) engage in truly hard core competition. And they played the match while smoking cigarettes, eating meat and drinking beer. This was my kind of sport. I instantly perked up. These were true athletes. Sure, Elvis Stojko and Patrick Chan can land jumps sober…but can they do it after eating five pounds of meat, drinking a flat of Molson’s and chain smoking a pack of Rothmans? I don’t think so.
Watching the tournament, I could see myself doing this. As a Virgo and a granddaughter of a maid, I was really good at sweeping and I could chuck snowballs with the precision of a seagull over a freshly washed car. I was enthralled. Even when all the teams were so obviously hammered that half the stones started going into the wrong lanes, the competition was exciting. I clapped. I cheered. And I cried when my dad’s team won the freezer full of meat. I believed that I, a nerdy, shy, unathletic gal, could finally become a world class athlete at something!
On the ride home, I begged my parents to let me become a professional curler. But they were firm. “No. Your future lies in your education,” they responded. And with that decision, my Olympic medal hopes evaporated. To this day, I still have a soft spot for curling….and, of course, for meat and beer. They are three of my favourite things…and I am world class at two of them.