Yesterday, I finished the ice skating class I took at the university. My final included me performing a routine to “Shut Up and Dance With Me” (best song ever, by the way). Yes, I know, you wish you could have been there. But let me tell you that I was the worst one in the class. Don’t think I’m being humble. I’m just being honest. I’m a terrible ice skater. My final routine included mainly skating forward, doing one turn, and stopping while skating. The teacher told me to skip the other stuff. I did fall down in the first two seconds, but then I got up and did the rest pretty well.
Once a year growing up, my cousin and I would be dropped off at the mall to go ice skating. Every year, we got our rental skates all tied up and we inched onto the ice. Our first lap around the rink was spent clinging to the wall. By the second lap, we were only touching the wall, and by the third time around, we were pros again. Every year we had to relearn how to ice skate. We would stay for hours and by the end of our time on the ice, we would be jumping and twirling. We watched the kids practicing in the center of the rink and we tried to mimic their moves. Since we had just recently moved from clinging to the wall, these attempts were not without risk. Many falls occurred. Once, my cousin fell so hard she just stayed down crying. The teenage rink attendant, in an attempt to make her laugh (I can only assume), yelled: “Are you okay? Are you constipated?” Within minutes of each fall, we were back up and attempting to jump again.
Fast forward 20 years and that same me gets out on the ice. A lot has happened since those mall days. I’ve had three kids which has changed me personally and physically. When I get back out on that ice, I realize how much I’ve changed. Though I don’t cling to the wall on my first lap, I also never attempt to jump. I’ve landed permanently somewhere in the middle. Life has given me confidence to step onto the ice and move forward without needing a safety. I’ve accomplished a lot and am proud of many things I’ve been able to do. But life has also given me enough falls to know how much falling hurts. And knowing how much it hurts keeps me from jumping at all.
When my kids step onto the ice, I see that magic return of getting onto the ice with my cousin as a kid. When one of my daughters was two, we headed to Potter’s Marsh before the first snowfall. My oldest got on her skates and headed out. She was wobbly but there was no wall, so she just stood up and skated. My two-year-old didn’t have skates, but she quickly figured out the capabilities of boots on ice and was exploding herself all over the marsh. She ran and slid and fell. Then she giggled, got up, and did it all again. By taking the risk of getting on the ice at all, we get the opportunity to see things we can’t see from the boardwalk. We saw ice bubbles frozen in formation and fish swimming under our feet.
Ice Skating is a part of life for my children. My oldest ice skates at school for recess. On Christmas Eve, we join throngs at a local lake with Christmas music on boom boxes and fire in the burn barrels and skate around as a family. My son rides in the sled. I still may not jump, but I’m more confident in moving forward. I still remember how much it hurts to fall, but I also remember that I’ve done hard things and the falls don’t happen every time. If I skate in constant memory of the pain of falling, I fall. I have to remember the falls, but focus instead on moving forward remembering the magic of skating. If I focus on falling, I miss the fish beneath my feet and the magic of seeing my daughter discover how fast she can slide with just her boots. I miss my son’s giggle riding behind his ice skating dad in a sled. That slight boost of confidence has given me back some of the magic of my childhood mall skating sessions. I know now that I’m not Olympic material like I thought then, but I can try things that are hard and not fall… most of the time.