Sometimes when you leave the house in a hurry, you forget something really important – like your bowling ball. This is the story of Veronica.
In 1993, I made a bold move that would change the trajectory of my life forever. Young, inexperienced and in love, I packed up my bags, left the Twin Cities, and moved to Milwaukee. When people today ask how I ended up in Milwaukee, I always explain: “I moved here for love that has long since passed.” At the time, the plan was to move here for a year – maybe two – and then head back to the Twin Cities. Twenty-one years later, I am pretty sure Milwaukee is home. Today, there is a finite list of reasons I would consider moving: 1) Scott Walker is elected President (in which case it is compulsory that I move to Canada); 2) I am inspired and propelled by love again; or 3) Milwaukee is destroyed by a zombie apocalypse.
Anyway, if you have ever moved to a new city, you are probably aware as I was that it is really hard to make new friends. It can take seemingly forever. I am so lucky now to have an incredible group of friends, but I am very aware that this has required over 20 years of interviewing, nurturing, harvesting and weeding out a few clunkers. Good friends are worth their weight in gold. Once you have them, you should never let them go. I’m not sure if I would have the wisdom to value friends the way I do now, had I not had a period of time where I didn’t really have any nearby.
But when you are in a new city and devoid of any meaningful friendships, you have to find things to do that don’t require friends. There are only so many movies you can see or festivals you can attend. In my case, I decided to engage in something fun that I could add as a skill. For the first two years I was in Milwaukee, Mr. Jennifer Wittwer and I went bowling on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week. I actually got pretty good over time, and could consistently bowl an average of 200 or higher. I really grew to love it.
One day, Mr. Jennifer Wittwer came home and said he had been at the closing-out sale of a local sporting goods store. While there, he found a bowling ball that was the right weight, had finger holes exactly the right size, and – get this – already had his name engraved on it. He had invested a grand total of $5.00 on this purchase, and was beaming with pride at this almost unbelievable turn of events.
At the insistence of Mr. Jennifer Wittwer, I too went to the sporting goods store to see if I could find a bowling ball. The store was in its final close-out, so it was dirty and disheveled. People were everywhere, frantically trying to get the deal of a lifetime. I made my way to the bowling ball section and took a quick inventory: the pickins’, as they say, were slim. But then, tucked away in the back of the shelf, I caught a glimpse of her – the bowling ball of my dreams. Perfectly marbled in an array of purple tones, she was eleven pounds of pure beauty. I picked her up and felt her smooth surface in my hands. I held her up to my face and instantly fell in love. I tried the finger holes and they were a perfect fit. “I’ve found her!” I exclaimed. I then looked at the name on the ball, and had a good, hearty laugh. Engraved on the ball was the name “Veronica.”
From that day forward, my bowling alter-ego became Veronica. I embodied the cool, casual spunk of a Veronica the minute I would step foot into a bowling alley. While Jen is fun and sassy in her own right, Veronica had a little spring in her step that let the world know she was in charge. Veronica was also fiercely competitive and could have a little temper flare if things weren’t going so hot. The bottom line is this: Veronica was the kind of girl everyone wants to befriend, but nobody dares to mess with. Veronica meant business.
Years later, when Mr. Jennifer Wittwer and I ended our relationship , I left the house in a hurry. After 12 years together, my sister and brother-in-law helped me pack up and move out of the house in about a 3 hour period of time. The circumstances necessitated my haste. It was the most emotionally tumultuous and difficult time of my life, a time I don’t care to re-live or ever repeat. Somehow, someway, I made it through. As I settled into my new life, and then into my new home, my stomach dropped when I one day suddenly realized: Oh my God, I forgot Veronica. In the midst of all of the chaos and the sudden, abrupt changes, Veronica got left behind.
I try not to think about it too much and I push it to the recesses of my mind. I don’t know where Veronica is today. For all I know, she is in a landfill. Maybe she got donated somewhere and a young girl in a junior bowling league has taken to her. I shudder at the thought, but it is possible that the new wife of the former Mr. Jennifer Wittwer is using Veronica on a regular basis. I simply don’t know where Veronica is, what she is doing, and who is loving her. It breaks my heart.
Is it normal to have regrets in life? I think so. I certainly have a few. It has become a joke, a metaphor of sorts, when I reflect on my broken marriage. “I want my damn bowling ball back!” And I say it in jest, but truly, I do. I’ve offered $100 to the person who is brave enough to go ring the doorbell of the former Mr. Jennifer Wittwer and demand Veronica back. So far, no one has taken me up on it. Until then, I will patiently wait. Someday, maybe someday, we will be reunited. Until then, I will just continue being Jen – the best Jen I know how to be. Even when I go bowling.