Learning to Skate

5 years ago

I do not skate well.  Let's just get that out of the way.

I'm kind of a point A to point B kind of athlete, with a mild to moderate team-sport allergy, and a synapse failure in the part of my brain where other people store player statistics.  Don't get me wrong.  I'll watch a good hockey game.  (I am Canadian, after all.)  The World Series of Baseball can hold my interest for a few nights, and I like to know how our Eskies are doing (but only in the same way I like to know what the weather is predicted to be like tomorrow).  Kids' sports are hilarious, and watching my Stickbug play soccer is the most fun ever.  But skating?  For me?

Not really, no.

My mum comes from hockey people.  She and her brothers all played - as well as most of their uncles, cousins, friends, neighbours - and even one or two of their sisters, once in awhile.  Mum played on an all boys' team before people thought to worry about whether girls can handle contact sports (puh-leease).  Shortened both her name and her hair, and played harder than the boys in the first line on a team coached by her dad.

Hockey was their thing, you know?  Before he got the cancer that killed him before her teens, hockey was their thing.

She played hockey in rec leagues wherever we moved.  With knees blasted out from years of baseball and skating and living full out, she was lighter on her feet in the rink than anywhere else.  I remember a letter from Hockey Canada that came after the car accident that finally finished off her knees....  My mum is a hockey person, but she never, ever pushed my brother or sister or I to play.

There are old Owl 8mm reels of me lurching and falling gliding so gracefully along the ice at our local rink, back when we lived in the low rentals.  I had bob-skates before I was steady on my feet, and there was always a pair to match my size, growing up.  Always.  Even when friends and neighbours brought us extra food, and Mum saved her share for me.

The trouble is, I was never all that good at it.  Going fast in a straight line?  For sure!  I can't actually stop without dragging one blade or a toe-pick, but I can go like SNOT until the boards get in my way!  Skating backwards is accomplished in an awkward series of hip shifts between muttered prayers to whatever god governs tail-bone injuries.  I do no stunts.  Twirling, spinning, cross-overs, jumps of any kind....  Um, no.  (In hindsight, I should have tried speed skating.  Those ladies know how to fly!)  I also don't like to be cold.  Which severely limits my desire to play pond hockey, the greatest of winter traditions.  I like having hot chocolate in the heated skate shack.  Preferably accompanied by a good book.

Anyway, my husband loves hockey, has played inline off-and-on for a few years, watches the games, follows the stats, participates in virtual leagues, and gets us to as many pro-level contests as he can in a season.  My daughter had her first Hockey Night in Canada onesie before she was born.  She and Mike would watch the World Juniors together over Christmas break, both of them in Team Canada jerseys.  Both of them cheering with all they've got.

So, when we took her out skating, I was optimistic, you know?  That maybe one day she and her brother and her grandma could have a little game together, out on the lake like Grandma used to do, with sticks and pucks and neighbourhood kids taking turns being goalie.  I wasn't going to push my daughter, or anything (okay, well, maybe a little).  But I hoped, you know?

And of course, she hated it.

With skate tags dutifully attached, a few times each winter, we would go down to the community league rink, skate around for maybe five minutes, and then pack it in for another day.  For four years, we did this.

And then, last year, two-year-old Shelton decided he wanted to skate.  And so, he did.

And then, this year, Danica chose skating lessons over dance or art classes.

And then, yesterday, when Shelton and I were on the second level of the Mall, on our way to check one more thing off of our Christmas shopping list, I looked down to see my baby girl skating backwards, and then forwards.  I saw her skating around the other kids in her class with a look of pure joy on her face.  I saw her skating, and was just... overwhelmed.

I hope she loves it, forever.  I hope she wants to play hockey like her grandma, or ringette like my sister, or get into figure skating, or just goes down to the rink for the fun of it like all of us from small towns in frozen places always did.  Even though we live in a city and community is sometimes hard to find, I hope she loves it.

(Photos, here.)


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