Wednesday, March 05, 2008

You've got a brand new pair of rollerskates; I've got a brand new key!

When I was a young teen, a brand new, high-tech skating rink opened up on the west side of town. That's where all the townie rednecks lived in their trailers in tight little groups right on the edge of town. It was with great excitement and great trepidation that I first darkened the rink's hallowed doors.

Up until then, roller skating meant someone's driveway, the street, or the wooden floorboards of the Armory on the then north side (and now nearly downtown) of town. Our skates were those metal things with four wheels that clamped onto your shoes and were adjusted with a key. In those days, you could get three or four years out of your skates before you had to move up to the next size.

My friend Stef, having come from a bigger place with better skating facilities wasn't fazed a bit, and she half-led, half-dragged me to the door and pushed me inside.

It was DARK. There was a big disco ball hanging down in the middle, looming over a gleaming light blue polyurethane floor, gleaming and smooth as brand new snowfall. There was a low concrete wall around most of the rink, and black lights swayed silently above.

There was a low rumble of voices, with the occasional shriek as the first skaters of the night put on those fancy new boot skates with the rubbery wheels that rolled silently over every surface, be it carpet, concrete or the rink. Lacing mine up as tightly as I could, I wished I'd brought another pair of socks. I hadn't even started and I knew the blisters would be bad. We sat back on the benches, all of us, waiting in the dark.

With a blast of loud music, the lights came up and people jumped onto the slick surface and took off, gliding in circles until the mass of skaters looked like a vulture convention homing in on a particularly tasty death. Stef flew out there, speeding around the rink - forwards, backwards, sideways. Twisting and jumping. She made it look easy.

Holding onto the cement wall, I gingerly took my first couple of experimental steps and promptly fell on my behind. There was a lot of that that night. I didn't have the nerve to look when it was all over, but I'm sure I was black and blue.

Skating never really became a part of my life. My ankles didn't like it; I wasn't nearly balanced or graceful enough to make it worth the effort.


Zboy and Jesse hadn't seen each other for a couple of weekends. Jesse's mom called and said they were going skating Sunday afternoon - would we like to join them? ZBoy's enthusiastic nod when I asked decided me, and Sunday afternoon, I found myself darkening the same door 30 years later.

It was like stepping into a time machine, but one that took out most of the people. It was quiet. There were maybe 10 skaters on the rink at any given time. Plenty of room to fall and not worry about being run over. The music was still loud, the floor still smooth. The concrete wall was still there looking well-used.

ZBoy unsteady

I didn't skate, but ZBoy did. He brought his rarely used roller blades and a helmet, and took to the surface as hesitantly as I did all those years ago. He clung to the wall as he made his way around and around. He sat down to rest often and became very interested in the dead video game machines in the corner. But he skated.

Zboy rests

Two hours of this. Watching my boy go round and round, getting better with each pass until he was hardly ever touching the wall to keep his balance. I sat with Jesse's mom, who was grading papers as we chatted. See, Jesse's mom is 16 years younger than I am. She was maybe a twinkle in someone's eye when I was here last. She'd never heard of metal skates or skate keys and thought the boot skates were downright quaint. Suddenly I found myself sitting there in the older generation.

Jesse and ZBoy made their final passes, then came off the rink at the end of the last song - smiling and glowing with perspiration and joy.

Jesse & Zboy

They chattered happily as I sat there in my "older generation" seat and asked if they could come back next weekend.

And looking out over the now empty and darkened rink, I nodded. In fact, next week, I might just join them out there.


Liane Michel said...

I have a picture of you and me (about 10 years old) skating down my driveway in our metal key skates. Remember that day? The driveway consisted of 2 skinny lanes of broken concrete, making for a very bumpy ride to the street. I will try to find it.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Hell yes.

Ps. I miss my old metal skates. You can't find those anymore.

nikki said...

Oh, I miss roller skating! I loved it! Now I know where the kids and I are going this weekend!

Me said...

I think maybe this is something I will try that I live in this lovely, sunny state :)

lisa marie said...

Cool! I don't remember keys and I thought I was older than you. I used to love to skate and I think I would break something if I tried now. :) The boys look like they had fun!