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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

It’s Easy – You Can Do It

By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

Growing up, roller skating was not part of my world. On the farm, there were not paved roads or parking lots and roller skating was not thought of or talked about. We ran, rode bikes or horses.

Time went by, I grew up, married and moved away from home and moved many times. My son learned to roller skate as natural as breathing and so did all his friends. I watched and thought, “I can do that, it can’t be that hard, just some coordination and balance.” After all, I was physically agile, had played all the sports growing up and my body could do whatever I asked.

But I never tried skating until one day my friend Dorothy said, “Come skating with me Saturday night at the rink near the high school. My kids are going and I’d like company.”

I said, “I can’t skate.”

She said, “I know, but it’s easy - I’m sure you can do it.”

It didn’t take much persuasion – I was ready to try my ability. I was about 40 years old and knew that if I was ever going to do it, it better be now. I remembered when I was a kid and the field workers would come in for the night with the mules and wagons and I’d run to the front yard to get a ride on the wagon to the barn. I could ride in the wagon, standing up without holding on. If I could do that, surely I could skate.

Saturday night came and off we went. The two boys were on the rink and skating in no time. Dorothy patiently helped me choose the right skates and put them on. Then she guided me to the rink and showed me the rail that went around the rink. She left me holding on as she joined the kids skating like a breeze around the rink.

Okay, I said to myself – hold on, get the feel of this, don’t panic. And I started trying to walk to the end of the rink. I held on tight – my legs were not under my control, one would scoot out in the lane and trip somebody up, or they would wrap around each other like pretzels, or even cause me to do the split (which I didn’t know I could do).

Dorothy would skate by and say, “You’re doing fine”. I gritted my teeth.

I didn’t understand this problem, it ought to be easy. Take a deep breath, calm down and let your body find its way. Good thoughts but no improvement. Then I decided that the problem was that I was holding on – I needed to let go of the rail and it ought to be fine.

I took a big breath, gave myself a little push, let go and glided until I needed to do something – I tried, I fell right there in the middle of the lane with a rush of skaters right behind me. They all fell over me. I looked up from the bottom of twisted and tangled legs, bodies and faces. At that moment, I knew that I was not the most popular person at the rink.

They all untangled themselves and went on their way. Dorothy gently helped me up – what a scene, arms, legs and torso all going different directions. When that was finally accomplished, she led me to the rail and then took off to join the boys.

I’m sure she was thinking, she’ll keep trying and be fine. I held onto the rail tight and inched my way to the gate to exit the rink. My whole body ached.

I got to the gate, got off the rink, went to the nearest bench, put my face in my hands in frustration and embarrassment and thought, “That’s the last time I’ll ever try that. I just have to go through life not knowing how to skate. That’s ridiculous but that’s how it is!”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Yea, but at least you didn't go out and buy a pair of roller skates and matching outfit like some people I know who shall remain nameless, who sold said skates and matching outfit at a recent garage sale!

Mary - Delightfully funny story!

It seems to me that Dorothy should have been more helpful to you. When I was very young, my elderly grandmother taught me to ice skate by having me hold onto and push an old wooden chair. Soon, I was holding her hand, clumsily skating beside her. - Sandy

Good story, Mary--it stirs up memories. I loved roller skating and was good at it on sidewalks or on "the slab" as we in Illinois called the unfrequented road, but was intimidated by a professional rink the only time I tried it. I was always sad I never got to ice skate--we didn't have many ponds or lakes near us, as you had no paved areas for roller skating.

A shame that your friend didn't give you a bit of help or some useful advice.
I loved roller skating. Did it all over the sidewalks in my Brooklyn neighborhood. When I was in elementary school I wore two keys around my neck - our house key and my skate key. (The skates were not shoe skates but adjusted to fit over your shoes).

Deciding to learn to roller-skate was one of the better choices I made in life. I took pride in the fact that I was able to learn without falling a lot.
While in the Army, serving in Baumholder, Germany 1960-1962, I spent two or three nights per week at the rink located on base. I loved it! I taught myself to do tricks. Skating backward was a favorite practice of mine. I participated in all kinds of races too. Yes! I went over the rail a few times at high speed but never had any serious injuries as a result.
After my discharge, I bought myself a professional pair of full-precision skates (used) and a bit small but used various means to stretch them enough to make them bearable to wear. I used them constantly for many years, learning to dance with any one skillful enough to keep up with me.
I'm almost seventy years old now and my balance is not what it once was. Still, I'd be willing to give it one more try for old times sake. Sure! I could break a hip or tailbone but I'd still try it. I've never regretted one minute I spent on wheels. You may say I'm bragging... but I once was very good. I've got pictures!

Mary, thanks for bringing back memories. I wonder when it was that I skated last.

Mary, thanks for bringing back memories. I wonder when it was that I skated last.

Thank you, Mary, for your step-by-step word picture that had me gasping for air.

I couldn't ice skate and had the same results that you did on roller skates, but I was a whiz on roller skates. Like Clarence, I could skate backwards, waltz, fox trot and do other steps.

I visited my Dad in California and they took me to a rink in Culver City. I was one of the few on the rink and I was trying out a new step and watching my feet instead of where I was going. I looked up in time to see a face inches away from mine. It was too late to maneuver and I smashed into the poor guy so hard we both ended up on the floor. I had a fat lip, as I'm sure he did, and I never went back to that rink again.

Friends, sorry to be so late with a thank you for your comments and memories. I've been traveling - driving from NY to SC. Just stopped for the night and read your comments. I love that my memories bring about your memories. Thank you.

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