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.
Cindee Parker says
My first memory of watching the Olympics was the Sarajevo games in 1984. I was 10. From Opening Ceremony to Closing night I was captivated by all the different sports and who didn’t love Scottie Hamilton? From then on I was hooked on the events, the stars, the amazing landings and feats of athleticism and crushing defeats in the midst of it all. We were living in England when it was announced the 2012 summer games would be in London. The whole country was on fire! It was a great time to be there for sure. I enjoy the winter games more I think. The skiing and snowboarding events and the freestyle stuff they do now? Crazy! But I think my favorite has always been the jump. Watching those skiiers go down that hill and fly (literally!) and the landings! Yeah, that one is still my favorite.
Pam Sievers says
Thanks Cindee, for taking me along on your olympic journey. I’ll think of you when I wince every time I see the freestyle and the ski jumping.
Lovely, as always. Thanks for sharing.
Pam Sievers says
Thank you, Leslie…for taking time to read and the kind comment.
This is wonderful, I too wanted to be Peggy Flemming and begged for skates. In a family of 12 kids that was a big ask, but for Christmas that year I got a beautiful pair of white skates, with white fur around the top and silver and white laces. I was a chubby little girl, but was determined to skate. Everyday I carried them to school and at recess when out to the tennis courts that they had flooded for skating, put them on and chugged around the rink. I never glided and my feet always hurt — stuffing those chubby “D” widths into those cute skates. I went everyday all winter and I don’t ever remember that I got better. I loved it and still love those skates.
Pam Sievers says
You had exactly the skates I wanted! Is it too late to be jealous? Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Mary. Happy skating.
I learned to skate wearing my brothers’ hand-me-down brown skates before graduating to a pair of white pleather girls’ skates. My event of choice was the 50-yard cattail hurdle, as the town skating rink was a swampy area they added a little extra water to in the winter. Oh, but it was FUN! Thanks for bringing back memories!
Pam Sievers says
So glad you enjoyed the trip. Cattail hurdles – bet those were fun. Thanks for commenting.
Bethany Mosshart says
While I also remember the grace and charm of Peggy Fleming I knew I was never going to be that skater…physical grace was not in my vocabulary!!
I did like to skate, though and in jr high went to the flooded school playground rink w my friend Tracy often. She was a gifted athlete in every way, had been skating since she was the height of a road cone and was fast and strong and brave. I was sure she would get to the Olympics one day as a speed skater or a swimmer…no idea if she thought so, too, or not. I better write her and find out!
As an adult I have enjoyed hockey skates and the lack of toe picks, bought my first pair in my late 30s. I better get them sharpened!!
Pam Sievers says
Thanks for the comment. You’re making me wonder if I should have hung onto those old skate? Who would have thought…