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Putting the family on ice

As I slid my foot into a warm, sweaty skate on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I regretted refusing, because of the shoes, to go bowling. My ploy to beg off the skating gig, questioning, "Do you think we have good enough health insurance," didn't work as successfully.

Surprisingly, my 4 year old daughter quickly developed an effective skating technique. With arms stretched wide, she completed lap after lap, without so much as a wobble, in a thousand or more carefully placed baby steps. I could do that too, I told myself, if my mom held my overall straps.

Peering through darkness intermittently parted by a strobe light flashing in time with thunderous, thumping music, I spotted my 8 year old son on his back like an upturned beetle, orange, glow-in-the-dark skates waving uselessly above his head. Mere seconds before, he propelled himself along the wall by fingernail nubs, his feet spinning circles, like the Road Runner's; an impression that ended in a clump of coyote cuisine.

Unable to think clearly due to a recent sprawl of my own, I broke into fits of enthusiastically nagging my oldest, most cautious, child, "Come on, you can go faster. Hey, let's skate backwards. Want to race?" The boy fixedly scrutinized his feet, lest they do some dance he didn't intend, and hoped like Hades the disco ball dots of light circling the skating rink floor, or the getting-down-to-funky-town skaters skimming past both my elbows, would challenge my equilibrium.

As I fought off dizziness, wails of frustration rose nearby. I turned to see my 6 year old progress a half foot, fall down, cry, get up, go another half foot, fall down and cry. I couldn't help but pity a child who skated over his own fingers in the struggle to right himself; particularly after I, in a feeble effort to assist, rolled across his knuckles first.

Fear of my emergency aid eventually motivated the child to run a wompy-jawed orbit around the oval, looking as if he might fall forward . . . or backward . . . ooh . . . forward . . . ugh . . . backward . . . ouch . . . on his face. Before I could recklessly skate to his side, however, he scrambled to his wheels like a newborn fawn.

Then, my daughter said she needed to use the restroom, located 1,645 baby steps away, downhill. To keep my balance in the bathroom stall, I braced my knees against the walls, squatted into a plie, then lifted my child, plus 20 lb. skates, onto the toilet.

After that, to my exasperation, she insisted that we wash hands. So, leaning against the wet counter for stability, I held her high enough to see the reflection of our faces disappearing in the mirror.


Hobbling uphill again, we plopped next to my defeated sons sitting on a low bench, from where we watched their father making another loop, at a galloping snail's pace. He waved at us, or caught his balance, one, yelling, "Ya'll aren't quitting yet, are you," at which time the oldest boy covered his eyes and dropped his head. The second child put his hands over his ears. And I popped my palm over the smallest lad's mouth. I knew he might cry . . . again.

Afterwards, in the car, my husband relived his glory moment. He felt exhilarated. He claimed, triumphantly, that he got his rhythm on one cycle. He promised to take us again.

The children and I positioned our hands appropriately - on all the places that hurt.

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Web posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006

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