Around the House: Opening Night!

It’s a mild October morning, and I’m scrambling through the daily routine. Lunches, last-minute chores, getting my head around the various tasks awaiting me at work – I’m in the moment and not looking too far ahead. But there’s a little thought just burbling away in the back of my mind, and periodically, a few bubbles burst to the surface. Tonight is Opening Night! No, I’m not an actor, singer or performer of any kind.  But I am a curler, and if you think about it, stepping out on the ice is a bit like making an entrance on stage – at an improvisational theatre, perhaps. This is especially true on the first night of the season, when you have to rely on your training (you have been training, haven’t you?) to carry you through those first eight ends.  No matter how many times you’ve stepped out on the ice, it’s all new tonight. In my case, it feels really, really new. First of all, I’m playing for a new team.  This team is so new, I haven’t even met them yet.  I don’t know the names of my vice and lead.  All I know is that I should find Betty-Anne, my skip.  So walking through the doors of the curling club tonight doesn’t have that comfortable “Let’s go, Team!” feeling.  It feels a bit as if I’m going to a job interview.  Will I fit in with the other players? Will the skip pick up on my tendency to throw narrow on the out-turn and patiently wait for me to correct my line? I’ve been curling for many years, but looking ahead to tonight’s game, I feel very much like a beginner.  I know from experience that once the game actually starts, once I get throwing, sweeping, thinking, those curling habits will kick in and all will be well. Right now, however, with the first end hours away, it feels new all over again. Another aspect of Opening Night that bridges the curling club and other kinds of performing is the need to be prepared.  If you’ve ever stepped out on a stage in front of a lot of people to sing, dance or simply speak (and yes, I’ve done this), you want to have hours of practice behind you. It’s not enough to think it through – you have to work it through, too.  In curling, that means devoting time to getting your body ready for the surprising amount of abuse it’s going to take out on the ice.  No matter how old or young you are, eight ends of settling yourself down and pushing out of the hack, sweeping end to end, sliding or shuffling or running (pick your style) up and down the ice is going to catch up with you and your quads (and shoulders, and back, and elbows, and…). That first game may feel great, but be prepared for the morning when your muscles remind you that curling is most definitely a physical game. Opening Night of the season is like performing in another way, too. It’s a huge relief once it’s underway.  Tonight, I’ll gather my gear, drive to the club, join my colleagues as we stretch and chatter in preparation for the game – and feel both nervousness and anticipation.  Come on! Let’s get going! And before I know it, my first game of the 2010-2011 season will be a score on the bulletin board outside the dressing room downstairs.  Finally, the curtain goes up on Opening Night. And just think: it’s only about 24 more weeks till “the show” closes – but that’s a thought for another day.