Saturday, January 12, 2013

Skating on thin ice

This pond on Neck Road in Tiverton reminds me of the one I skated on as a teen.
This morning I drove along a road in my childhood neighborhood, and I wondered if it was still there, hidden behind all those trees.

When I was a teen, I spent a lot of time in those woods.

If you knew where to look, you came to a clearing where there was a shallow pond; and in January, it became a sheet of ice.

I still remember the excitement of slinging my skates over my shoulder and hiking with my friends to the natural ice rink.

Sitting on a very cold rock, I would lace them up quickly, take those first few strides and glide.

“Even now I can’t describe why I love skating so much,” said New England native Nancy Kerrigan, the 1994 Olympic Silver Medalist.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being airborne, the sharpened blades skimming the ice, the frosty wind at your back – propelled down the runway and almost taking flight.

Created by runoff from a nearby water tower, the pond was about a foot deep in most places so we never had to worry about falling through the cracks, although I suppose getting wet was a worse fate.  

Yet sometimes, the ice was downright dangerous. Rocks, vegetation and tree limbs froze near the surface; and we all took some nasty falls. Later we would limp our way home.

“In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.

As a youngster, I had some professional training. I was a member of a Junior Girl Scout troop, and we took roller skating lessons at a rink in Warren, R.I.

I cannot remember much about the instruction, but I do recall one incident.

I was outside the rink practicing skating backwards when I collided with an object – a basket. Unfortunately, my ten-year-old self fell into it, where I was stuck with my wheels spinning overhead. Hearing the laughter around me, I longed to stay put.

Despite my clumsiness, I did learn to skate backwards on ice and on hardwood; and I clocked miles in my parka and in the short, blue-and-white plaid skating skirt my mother made me.

Indoors, I felt that same excitement lacing up my skates and taking that first rotation around the rink – the feeling of being free.

Then one day when I was 16, I went roller skating to Lincoln Amusement Park in Dartmouth, Mass., and a boy asked me to skate with him. I held him up as he stumbled and fell.

I like to think it was my mad skating skills that attracted my husband, but it was probably the skirt.   

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