|Howie's curling trophies, 1950s to 1970s, Liverpool CC (Photo Jean Mills)
I'm at our cottage in Nova Scotia, chatting with a lovely elderly Chinese woman who is visiting her daughter and Canadian husband (our cousin). She is interested in my job.
Me: I write about curling for the Canadian Curling Association website.
Me: (with actions) The sport on ice. You slide a large stone down the ice. Other players sweep it. (Okay, not a great description, but her English was limited.)
Her: Ah. I don't know it.
Me: The Chinese team is good. They've won medals at international competitions.
Her: (after thinking for a moment). No one plays it. Just the professionals.
A few days later, I'm visiting another cousin. He and his wife have been cleaning out his elderly mother's house before selling it. He's brought his late father's curling trophy collection to the cottage and has set it up along the deck railing so I can have a look.
I'm fascinated. Howie's trophies are a grassroots curling life captured in miniature, each award commemorating a season or bonspiel or game that required effort and skill and thought. Years of throwing rocks for fun or in competition. Hours on the ice, with friends and rivals. Hours off the ice, too - watching, talking about, and celebrating the sport and the people who play it.
In Canada, our world-class "professional" curlers have lots of trophies and medals. But I bet they also have a truckload of bonspiel prizes and tiny cups and shiny metal curlers captured mid-delivery on a wooden base with a plaque reading something along the lines of "Club Champion 1999."
Two moments, two kinds of curling life. Maybe with the success of the Chinese curling teams on the world stage, the sport in that country will work backwards - building a grassroots curling movement from the top down so that more Chinese curlers have a chance to enjoy the sport for fun and recreation, not just for high-level competition...
...and along the way, build up their own precious collection of trophies, like Howie's.