One more day to get it right. The return of the pins has been a mixed blessing for me. We learned spare-shooting techniques today, and I did find myself making my spares. This, of course, feels good, and I know that if I can make a good percentage of my spares, my 122 average will quickly improve. But I still can’t bowl strikes. No one promised me they’d make me a strike bowler. Strikes are flashy, cheap attractions compared to the bread-and-butter spare. They’re fickle and you can’t count on them showing up when you need them. But, like many other shiny objects I shouldn’t want, they attract me. My mother, of course, seems not to want for strikes. Her new-honed skills are paying off left and right, 7-pin to 10-pin, and her new swing and delivery are yielding strikes that promise to make her the toast of her senior-citizen league back in Jersey. It’s not that I can’t see improvement in my game. I was a terror at the right-side spares today, knocking off the 10-pin as if it were the headpin. But that damned strike haunts me. I can’t seem to find the right line, the right path to the pocket. That I worry about this annoys me. Does it put me in a category with the 12-year-old boys I’ve been watching? I see them walk away while the coaches are trying to talk to them, see them reset the pins to try again for a strike rather than aim for a lone pin. They don’t want to learn to convert spares, to clean up after themselves. They want to roll the Perfect Game. They want to do what all 12-year-old boys who go to sports camp want to do—to get good enough to Go Pro. That would be a study—to look at the differences between adolescent boys who aspire to the NBA or the NFL and those who aspire to the PBA. What would be the differences? Bowling, in the United States, is culturally associated with the working class. Yet aspiring basketball players are certainly not all middle class. Is the difference race? Working-class and low-income African-American boys may aspire to the NBA, but so do working-class and low-income white and Latino boys, surely. Bowling camp is not the place to work this all out, as it self-selects for boys whose parents can afford to send them to overnight camp. But these boys seem to operate like boys I see on blacktop basketball courts. They want to impress each other with bowling’s equivalent of the slam dunk. I guess that’s why it took the pins so long to come back from Syracuse. All of us, 12-year-old boys and 44-year-old women, were forced to work on the basics first. The strikes will come later, my mother keeps telling me. I’m sure she’s right. But it’s easy for her to say—she’s making them already. Tomorrow is our last day, and I’m trying not to worry about what will happen when I go back to my leagues in Providence and have to bowl without a coach on my lane. Mom and I have vowed to stay in close contact, doing our best to reinforce over the phone what we’ve learned in camp. She’s going to join a new league in September, with my sister, so she can get a sanctioned average that will enable her to bowl in tournaments with me. My sister is already making noises about coming to camp next year, so Mom and I don’t get too far ahead of her. Me, I’m worried about my teammates at home expecting too much of me now that I’m a bowling camp grad. The abuse will start with the first ball I roll that isn’t a strike, I’m sure. Still, I’m so glad we came. Most of my friends were horrified at the idea of taking a week’s vacation with one’s mother. But, perhaps because we’ve had little unstructured time, it’s worked out great. She’s exercised motherly restraint by not telling me when I’m driving her crazy, and I’ve exercised daughterly privilege by forbidding her to talk to me a few times on the lanes (“Just let me figure it out myself!”). She’s taken it good-naturedly enough. We were the only mother-daughter pair who were middle-age and senior citizen rather than middle-age and teen-age. But I think the camp is missing a huge potential market here: bowling camp as a way to reconnect with your parent once you’re both of drinking age (but not at camp, of course).