When I am reunited with my father in heaven, one of the the first questions I’m going to ask is this: Why the heck did you get me a pair of used, brown hockey skates when I was twelve?
Frankly, I know the answer. It was the only pair of skates K&L had in my size.
Every small town had a store like K&L. Diamonds in the front that morphed into trophies and engraving in the middle of the store that spilled into cleats and the ball of the season in the back. And a few odd pairs of ice skates. There was a convenient alley entry where the men could stub out their cigars before they entered, and avoid the entire jewelry section.
If you grew up in a northern snowy state, you had dreams of the Winter Olympics, right? It may have started when you were seven and you got a flying saucer for Christmas. Maybe you grew to appreciate the cold winter months by age ten making Olympic villages (snow forts) from the huge chunks of snow and ice unearthed by the plow.
My Winter Olympics started with the luge hill across the street from our house. It was actually a one-story hill the Catholic Church was built on. My dreams soared as my friends and I flew down the hill on our sleds, laughing and rolling in the snow as we were dumped off in the parking lot. When we were done competing, we’d waddle to my house where Mom would have hot chocolate with marshmallows, our rosy cheeks a healthy sign of an afternoon of outdoor fun.
But I was ready to graduate from a world of snow pants and sleds.
I didn’t have the confidence to haul my toboggan (bobsled) to the ginormous hill at the park. There were too many trees, and it was mostly older boys, like my brother and his friends. Nope, I’d leave the bobsled to those reckless kids. Instead, the skating rink at the bottom of the hill was calling.
We were just beginning to hear about Peggy Fleming, and figure skating was the winter sport of girls and young women. With my mother at the ready to turn out a skater’s skirt on her sewing machine, I saw myself on the medal stand in just a few years. Except for one thing – I didn’t own skates.
I imagine I begged enough, so one cold winter Saturday morning, my dad made the trip to K&L, and returned with… The memory still brings back shocks of horror. Used. Boys. Brown. Hockey skates. I convinced myself no one would notice, or I wouldn’t care if they did, so that afternoon, I entered the warming house at the rink, sat on the bench and laced on the skates. I had two goals. Not to fall, and play crack the whip with the Susie’s, Debbie’s, Timmy’s and Johnny’s. Simple. Was that too much?
Instead, I clung to the wooden fence that shaped the rink, and gingerly placed one skate in front of the other, ankles bending near the ground. I didn’t fall, but I also never got to be part of the whip. Before I knew it, I was back in the warming house, zipping up my boots and headed back home. I convinced myself it was the skates.
I returned to the rink in the evening a couple of other times when there weren’t very many other kids, just to try again. My dreams of becoming the next Peggy Fleming however, were dashed.
Life would go on for me, but I retired the brown hockey skates shortly thereafter. Instead, I went for the gold in sewing. Now that was my sport.
What winter sports did you love as a kid? Were you ever influenced by the Olympics? I’d love to hear from you.