I take to the rink.
I went skating with a friend on Tuesday. It was a Meetup event that I’d planned and although five people signed up, only two of us showed. I suspect that had a lot to do with the weather, which was rainy and cool all day.
This was the first time I’d been skating in at least 15 years. I think the last time might have been at Rockefeller Center in New York back when I lived there. It might have been when I was in college, which was a lot more than 15 years ago.
Skating is offered at The Rink at Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee. It’s a huge, well-maintained skating rink for hockey, skating lessons, and even curling events. Most weekdays there are open hours for public skating. I planned our event for midweek, to avoid weekend crowds.
Tim was my companion for skating. We paid the $5 fee and the extra $2 for rental skates. The skates were in good condition but were figure skate style, which included a toe pick: the little teeth at the toe that skaters use when performing certain maneuvers. Although this is the kind of skate I always wore, it would come back to bite me later.
We laced up and got out on the ice. I was terrible: stiff and wobbly at the same time. I got the hang of it again slowly, picking up speed. When the stiffness in my legs and hips started to go away, I realized it was all coming back to me.
Tim, on the other hand, looked as if he’d been skating for years. Nothing fancy, but none of the stiff wobbling, either.
I’d started skating back when I was very young — too young to actually remember my start. Back in my home town of Cresskill, NJ, there was a skating rink near the high school. It was a big, shallow pond that, in later years, had a concrete curb around it. In the summer, it was mostly empty, sometimes puddled in places with rain runoff. I remember catching tadpoles in it as a kid. But in the winter, they’d use a fire hydrant to fill it with water and let it freeze. It was never more than a foot deep anywhere and it usually froze pretty well, although I do remember one side that was never quite as smooth as the rest. There was enough space for small hockey games on one end and family skating at the other. Sometimes someone would build a big bonfire and we’d get warm around it after coming off the ice.
I skated with the Girl Scouts, too. There was an indoor rink somewhere in Tenafly or Englewood that the Girl Scouts used to rent time on once in a while. It was good quality ice, smoothed over with a Zamboni. It was there that I started skating rather well. No figure skating, of course, but good control and maneuverability and I was even starting to skate backwards, which was a pretty big deal for me.
Of course, I did have a nasty fall there. I fell on my right side with my right arm up. My arm popped out of its shoulder socket. If you’ve ever had that happen to you, you know how painful it is. I screamed good and loud. They rushed me off the ice, but not before my arm popped back in where it belonged. When they took the x-rays, convinced I had a broken collarbone, they found nothing.
It wasn’t the fall that made me stop skating. It was growing up. Having other things to do. Going to school, building a life, having a relationship. Skating was a sport that didn’t appear on my list of activities. Although I did take up roller skating in college and did some in the early 80s, even that didn’t last.
So on Tuesday, I was quite rusty when I started off. It felt good to relax and pick up speed as I made my way around the rink. It felt really good to see that I skated better than a lot of young people struggling just to stay vertical.
Of course, I expected to fall and I didn’t disappoint myself. It was kind of funny when I did. I’d been moving along at a good clip when that damn toe pick caught unexpectedly in the ice and threw me off balance. I made a spectacular fall, hitting the ice with my left knee and sliding forward. A little girl skating with her mom asked me if I was okay and two of the guys that worked there skated right over. I guess seeing a middle-aged woman sprawled on on ice set off alarms. But I was okay. I did accept a hand up to my feet. Then I took a break on the bench and watched Tim skate.
I bashed my knee pretty good, but I could still walk. That was a plus.
Later, after a rest, I got back out on the ice and did a few more laps. Tim skated up to me. “You know what they say about falling off horses,” I told him. I wanted to end the skating session on a positive note. I didn’t fall again.
Would I do it again? I’d like to! It’s a great winter exercise and quite pleasant on an uncrowded ice rink. I was just getting to the point where I felt as if I were getting real exercise when I fell. I’ll be back — but I’ll also be wearing kneepads. My bones aren’t quite as resilient as they used to be.
Oh, and next time, I’ll rent hockey skates.