Learning to Skate

My older daughter dragged me. That is the simple fact of it. She was six and had been nagging me to take her skating for about a year. I wasn’t too sure of my ability to stay vertical and hold her up too, but I finally hauled my 20 year old skates out of the back of my closet.

Toronto Skating 1910

I’d skated as a kid, occasionally, on lumpy outdoor rinks, bashfully, embarrassed because everyone else seemed to zoom around and I was far from zooming. I had worn those 20 year old skates once and once only after I bought them.

The skates were made of moulded plastic and a size too small. Need I describe the discomfort and pain that I tried to hide from my excited daughter who had unlimited confidence in me? Fortunately they were figure skates and the extended blade kept me from falling over. I shuffled, holding my daughter up somehow. She was determined to learn to skate and did her own shuffling and falling, lots of cheerful falling. I asked everyone I met at the rink whether skates should hurt your feet.

Old Orchard Speed Skaters early 1920's
Old Orchard Speed Skaters early 1920's

Everyone assured me that they do until your feet get used to them. I am here to tell you it ain’t so.

The next fall I bought CCM recreational skates that were the right size and wide enough for my duck-ish feet. Heaven! I signed up for adult skating lessons. That was a good thing because the new skates were on hockey blades, which do not allow for shuffling in a kind of ice-walk. I didn’t know how to move my feet and the first day of lessons, had to pull myself along the boards to the adult class, waving at my daughter, who was excitedly joining the kids’ class. It turned out that my instructor had learned to skate as an adult, too. So I wasn’t the only one! By the end of the lesson, I knew how to move my feet, and to my surprise, by the end of the session, I could skate.

Since then, skating has become a family passion. We go skating at the arena every Sunday and we skate outdoors in winter when weather permits, too.

Women's Hockey Toronto 1912
Women's Hockey Toronto 1912

I love to see the variety of people skating: the woman in her eighties (yes 80’s!) who is still wearing the same skates she used in high school; the middle aged man with a pot belly who still skates with grace from his hockey playing days; new immigrants taking up our winter pastime with determination–their bravery awesome; people like I was not long ago, just learning how to really skate as adults; kids toddling around on the ice; zoomers like my daughters who fly. There is a sense of welcome and shared pleasure on the ice for people of all levels of skill. This is how life should be: offering space to learn and space to enjoy for newbies and experts of all ages, together in joy. And whenever I see another adult shuffling along on skates, I stop to tell them about the adult lessons at the arena and how I learned to skate.

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