My kids are on winter break, which is two weeks in duration but feels like it’s not a day less than 57. We are currently on day 7 and have another week to go. We’ve made gingerbread houses, gone to the playground, shot Nerf guns, constructed Legos. And then it was December 26th and we ran out of things to do. So we bowled, one day. Finn’s preferred method of bowling is to heave the bowling ball as hard as he can into the ground right at his feet, but he got the job done with the help of some bumpers. Tate played with a ramp and doubled my score.
Flush with success from the bowling, the next day, I suggested roller skating. Tom cringed and gave me one of those looks that indicates that he wants to say no but is powerless to do so in the face of my enthusiasm, which can morph very quickly into rage when challenged. Still, he tried: “I think maybe we should go ice skating instead? It’s easier.”
I humphed. Easier for whom, exactly? Tom grew up in Michigan where everyone ice skates from an early age. I ice skated for the first time when I was 24 and almost broke both ankles, which was an unpleasant surprise given that Koreans are historically very good at Olympic short track. Roller skating, however—now that was the stuff. I grew up skating at the Skate World out in Hillsboro, and I was really, really good. I mean, not to brag, but I was shooting the duck and skating backwards and I hokey pokey’ed on wheels even better than I did in regular shoes.
In spite of all that, in the face of Tom’s doubt, I wavered. The ice skating rink was much closer, and also inside this mall, which I love. But no. I’m not in the business of doing things I suck at in my leisure time. “The ice is cold when you fall,” I said, with an edge of steel in my voice. “I think we should go roller skating.” So we went roller skating. Not just us and our hapless children, but with poor Aunt Susan, Uncle Matt, and Grandma in tow.
The first sign of trouble at the rink came when we were handed our skates at the rental counter. It was comforting, in a way, to realize that roller skates had evolved not at all in the twenty years since I’d last skated. Tate’s pair weighed like ten pounds, which is approximately a third of his body weight. I shrugged off the first seeds of doubt and strapped them on. And Tate seemed excited. All three of the men in my family have the trait where they can picture themselves doing something before they actually do it, and they are AWESOME in their mind’s eye. Once he had his wheels on, Tate was ready to roll.
Until he moved his legs. He fell like eighty times and we were still on the carpet in the rental area. I started to sweat a bit, but laughed and soldiered on. I’d chosen roller skating when everyone else wanted to ice skate, and what that meant was that by God, these boys were going to skate if it killed me. I grabbed Tate under his armpits and skated him to the rink between my legs.
We gingerly rolled onto the rink and attempted to merge into traffic. If you’ve not had the pleasure of skating or skiing with a kid between your legs, it’s a fascinating lesson in physics. Your kid will put all of his torso weight backwards and lean into you, which propels their bottom half forward, so that the skis or wheels shoot forward at a faster speed than either of your bodies. Too complicated? Picture Tate, laying almost on his back, being held up solely by my hands under his armpits. From a distance it probably looked like I was pushing a wheelbarrow. We made it one lap around and my quads were on fire. I was sweatier than I’ve ever gotten in hot yoga.
I looked around for Tom and Finn. Surely they were having better luck. I spotted them across the rink. Finn was between Tom and Aunt Susan, pulling on both sets of grown-up arms in an effort to avoid falling down. Tom shot me a look that said “Welcome to the hell you have created.” Yikes. I left Tate with Grandma and skated over to them. I took Finn’s hands from the front and skated backwards while pulling him forward. He was skating! At least for a few seconds. And the look he gave me from those amazing brown eyes—hope, elation—is what will stick with me from our otherwise traumatic roller skating experience. Not my back, which I’m pretty sure I threw out, or the image of Tom, powerless to stop, running a kid into the wall and shouting “I’m sorry!!” over his shoulder.
Ok, maybe I’ll have two images that stick with me.