I was two the first time I took to the ice. All these years later, I can still visualize the day. My Dad took me to a place called Meadowbrook. It was a frozen pond. He strapped my double runner ice skates over my boots. I took one look around me and started to wail. All the other kids wore single runner skates, or at least double runners that looked like single runners. Mine were the big blocky kind with the blades separated by the width of the platform that held them. Kind of like roller skates with the rollers replaced with a single blade. I wanted no part of them.
I didn’t know there was a hierarchy of ice skates based on age and experience. First, you got the blocky double runners, then the close together double runners, until finally, you graduated to the glorious single runners. Black leather boots for hockey, white for figure skates. I’m sure my blocky things were stable, and, thinking back, I was the youngest kid at the pond. But to me, that wasn’t the point. I wanted single runner skates. I would not get on the pond. He took me by the hand and tried to lead me to the pond, picked me up and carried me to the ice, pleaded, cajoled, and bought me hot chocolate. No matter what he tried, I would not budge.
Completely embarrassed and at a loss for what else to do, my father took me to a hobby shop and bought me child sized, white leather booted, single runner, figure skates. He told me years later that he expected to bring me home to my mother with, at the least, a broken arm. Somehow, he said, facing my mother’s wrath was easier in his mind than facing my outrage.
We got to the pond, he took off my snow boots and put on my glorious, wonderful, single runner figure skates and led me to the ice. I carefully walked alongside on my points the way the salesman said. There I was, a tiny child tiptoeing on skates, my hand firmly held by my six foot four Dad. He picked me up when we got to the edge of the pond and he carried me to the smoother ice of the middle where he carefully set me on my feet. I remember wobbling when he set me down. Trying to find balance. He let go of one hand, and turned from facing me to next to me. My left hand held firmly in his grip. He took a step. I glided mine just like the children all around me. He took another step. I glided again, my blades straight on the ice. Together, we circled the ice hand in hand. At some point, he let go of my hand and I cruised over the ice like a professional. I don’t remember falling. I’m sure I did, although my Dad claims I didn’t. That was my first trip to the ice.
A few years later, I got my first two-wheeler bike. We had a similar discussion over training wheels. I won, and after an initial circuit of the playground with my father running alongside supporting the bike, I soloed and never looked back.
The well-remembered incident with the ice skates defined my character in some ways. Whenever I face an obstacle. One I can’t see a way around. I remember the two year old who wanted, and got, and successfully used, single runner skates. Like the well-loved book of my childhood, if I think I can, I can. It doesn’t matter if I succeed. What matters is that I reach deep inside below the fear and pull up the courage to try.
What childhood incidents do you remember that set your character in ice?