I completed six weeks of ice skating lessons today—a Christmas gift from my daughters. The adult group had dwindled from two wobbly adults to just me. It was like having private lessons in the company of a crowd. The rink was abuzz with several groups of soon-to-be figure skaters and hockey players. I was the only adult walking into the center without a kid towing a wheelie athletic bag filled with gear. The place was noisy and packed with children, parents, grandparents, gear, and skates. Except for the adult group lesson in ice area N, no student was above fourteen years of age.
My instructor, the patient soul, encouraged me to correctly push from the side of the blade, keep my eyes up, and arms steady. Apparently, my toe tipping propulsion method and wild arm swings had been wrong all these years.
To be truthful, I was never an athlete. I did not have the drive or coordination to compete in sports. However, I had and still do enjoy active recreation, like ice skating, biking, sailing, and swimming. These ice skating lessons made me realize that the skills I had acquired in my youth without the benefit of lessons are also completely wrong in execution and form. I can say that I swim and do enjoy swimming in the bay and a tumbling ocean. When my daughter was on the swim team, she was coached to cut through the water with fluid grace and measured efficiency. What a beautiful sight. I think my only swim instruction was the doggie paddle when I was a toddler. Later, I imitated swimming with long arms and flutter kicks. The fun was easy. I always loved water skiing, but that was acquired after relentless attempts and plenty of falling. I eventually learned to jumped the wake, kick off one ski to slalom, and even skied behind a speeding boat with no hands. My only measure of success was not plummeting out of my skis and the exhilaration. It was crazy fun.
Back on the ice, I worked at coordinating my knees and feet to swizzle, skate backward, and glide. I think my instructor was afraid of the way I quickly twirled to a stop, catching my balance. She tried very hard to teach me to stop by scraping the sides of the blades of both skates at the same time. I managed only to slow down enough not to crash into the wall.
“Bend your knees. Push on your whole foot. Tighten your core,” she instructed.
I use feet muscles that had never been called upon in such a way. I am not going to discuss the state of my core.
To my credit, I fell only once during the six weeks period. My skates slipped from under me and smacked the backboard reverberating the crash throughout the rink. It sounded like I was hip-checked. I quickly scampered up more embarrassed than hurt. Well, I did bloom an incredible bruise on my thigh the next day—a reminder that the Stage IV cancer makes me more delicate than I actually believe. But I won’t let this cancer dictate what I can and cannot do. I just need to be careful not to put so much crazy in the fun.
The children twirled, swizzled, and marched without fear. How could they be afraid with such a short distant to the ice and wearing waterproof pants, padding on all major joints, and helmets? The helmet décor was indicative of the ice skating lessons’ purpose. Future figure skaters with a flair for ballet wore Princess Elsa helmets sporting sparkling blue reflectors. The miniature hockey players had on strong bubble helmets protecting the whole head and a face cage guarding noses and orthodontic investments.
Parents and grandparents watched from behind the plexiglass flashing thumbs up to their child’s fleeting eye contact and recording the event on their phones. Frequently I would look up from my glide to see expressions of morbid anticipation towards me. It must be the rubbernecking syndrome—one cannot look away from an impending disaster. When the lesson was finished, a few adults cheered my progress as I walked off the ice.
“You did great this week! Better you than me out there!”
My best fans, however, were my cousins and their two young children, Giuliana and Joey, who took lessons in the B area of the rink. After our sessions, Joey always asked if I fell. Giuliana would like to go skating with me.
“We could hold hands, so you won’t fall,” she said. What a sweetie.
I got my skating report card today—A-1, meaning I accomplished the skills for the Adult Level 1 class. I earned a patch! I may sew it on a jacket or somehow glue it on to my skates.
The temperature is rising here after a major snow storm and Artic blast. There is little hope for any canal or pond to freeze over. Nevertheless, I have a tentative ice skating date at the rink with my cousins during the winter school break. It would be fun to skate with a sweetie holding my hand.