Ever since he tore through The Hunger Games, Sam has been extremely intrigued by archery. Right after he finsihed the book, I read an article in the Tribune about an archery range in the Humboldt Park neighborhood that was getting a major spike in business due to the book and the movie -- especially with young female students. I told Sam about the article and the range and well, he practically leapt out of his chair. (Which he never really sits still in anyway.) And so, for the past two months, Sam's been asking repeatedly if I'd had a chance to contact the archery place and get him signed up for a lesson. And for 60-something days I said,"No, sorry, Sam, I haven't gotten around to it." I couldn't even use the excuse that I haven't had enough time because that would have been a lie. Sam was being such a good sport but I could tell he was starting to wonder whether I was ever going to make good on the offer and get him signed up. And I was starting feel that not so great pang of guilt for not following through. So when Ted asked me what I wanted to do for Mother's Day, I immediately sent him a link to Archery Bow Range Chicago's website. It turned out that they were having a Mother and Child Special Class just for Mother's Day and that Dads and other siblings could also attend. So that was that, Ted signed all four of us up.
Let me be clear, I am no avid fan of archery, in fact, I'd never done it before, not even at Camp Merrimac back in the day. I have terrible eye/hand coordination, spindly arms and while I dig that the main character of The Hunger Games is named after an aqautic plant, (Katniss) I had neither read the book nor seen the movie. But I knew I did not want to go out to brunch somewhere staring into a Mimosa for Mother's Day. And I knew I wanted to make my kids happy. I mean, why not have fun with your children on the day that's all about being a mother, right? So I didn't walk into Archery Bow Range Chicago dragging my feet, I just went in thinking that it was an urban adventure for our whole clan and that I was probably going to pretty much stink at it.
The range is housed inside the Kimball Arts Center and it sits right on the Bloomingdale Trail -- they even had a map of the trail's future access points taped to the door, which made me smile. It appears to be run by archery enthusiasts who do this when they aren't doing their Other Jobs. A good thing because it means everyone that's there wants to be there. Our teacher Bill (an engineer by day) was soft spoken but very clear in showing us how to safely handle the bow and how to position our shoulders, arms, fingers and even up to our faces where you can choose to hold the string to your nose or your jawbone. (I chose the jawbone.) We had three arrows each in PVC pipe "quivers" and we placed the arrows on our bows (easier said than done for total rookies) and began shooting at our targets. Even little Ben got in on the action, not caring if his arrow thwacked into the hay bale instead of the target. You can learn a lot about joy and process by watching a 5 year-old.
About 5 minutes into it, Bill came up behind me, put his hand on my back and said, "If you relax, it's going to feel much better." Trying to relax while also trying to tap into physical strength (especially in my arms) isn't an easy thing for me -- but he was so right. I took a breath, relaxed my hunching shoulders and my arrow shot out nicely. Then Bill told us that there are two ways to aim your arrow at the target: either look at the little notch on the center of the bow or simply look directly at the tip of your arrow and point that at your target. So I focused on the metal tip, took a breath, counted "one, two" and let the arrow fly. Guess who got a bullseye?
You should have seen me, I was actually jumping up and down, whooping and hollering. I cannot think of a more satisfying, electrifying Mother's Day gift! We kept shooting for about 45 minutes. I loved how I had to focus so it got me out of all the "noise in my head." And here I thought I was doing Sam a bit of a favor by taking him to do archery, when in fact I was totally digging it. (Sam was pretty happy as well.)
Towards the end we played a game -- Sam and I teamed up and tried to hit as many hearts as we could. By then, my arms were actually trembling and Sam said his were feeling rather noodle-y as well. So we didn't hit that many hearts but it was a lot of fun to just be working towards something together.
What a memorable and super satisfying Mother's Day. I'll take shooting some arrows over a mimosa any day. And I don't think that was my last appearance at Archery Bow Range Chicago. Not by a long shot.