Grace Quote of The Day …on skating.

I hate ice skating. I never wanted to take lessons, much preferring the warm horse barn to the smells of cold, hockey-sweat arenas.

Grace getting her skates on for the first time.
Grace puts on skates for the first time.

It was, however, the “Canadian girl thing to do” and I obliged my mother and father by doing the Canadian girl thing. I haven’t skated since Grade Two, anyhow. I remember the whole figure-skating gig, the frozen toes, the hard reality of soft warm flesh meeting frozen hard ice on a moment’s notice and the lingering smell of old hockey equipment, spilt hot chocolate and sponge toffee ground into the sweating cement halls and changerooms. Ick.

If the memory of that isn’t enough, then the ugly four inch gash on the inside of my left calf should be enough to remind me to steer clear of any ice rink for eternity.

It like it was yesterday – skating with all my friends from Brownies in my new lily white figure skates, round and round while we waited to start our lessons. It only took three seconds for Zita Dropka, Elizabeth Hubble and I to land in a pile after colliding in what would make an Autobahn freeway crash look tame. Far before the days of CSA certified helmets and wrist-guards that now protect our precious progeny, the razor-sharp picks at the end of Zita’s skates slashed through my cordoroy pants, leaving a mark on me forever, but I didn’t know it at the time.

We all got up, a bit shaken, and sore. As kids will, we all started to skate again. I felt sore and stiff and cold in a couple of places, but was mostly numb from the cold. I got about three quarters the way around the North Oshawa rink before the blood-curdling screams of friends behind me rang through the arena. They were so high-pitched, Julia Andrews would have been envious. I turned to see what had frightened them so, and saw a long swath of red blood….leading directly to my left leg.

In a whirlwind, skating instructors and parents were beside me. Honestly? I didn’t feel a thing. Someone carried me off the rink to my Dad, waiting in his plaid jacket. Quickly, my leg was wrapped, and I recall my little brother’s wide eyes and white faces. I remember thinking, “What is the BIG deal, anyhow?” I still couldn’t feel a thing, just the freakin’ cold and Zita Dropka saying, “I didn’t do it. It was an accident!”

We went off in the car to the clinic where my Mom was working that day. It was her Saturday to work. I watched the navy blue of my pants turn darker and wetter and then as Dr. Glazier cut dramatically through the material with his shiny medical scissors to reveal the butchered mess below. Behind him, my mother, in her white uniform and nurses’s hat clenched her teeth and did that “thing” that said, “THIS is serious.” She had a needle with freezing in her hand and passed it to the Doc.

I DO remember that long, long needle going in – several times. Hurt like a bugger. After that, it was rather interesting to watch as he sewed me back together, stitch by stitch, pulling the flesh back together in a jagged line. Curiously, I enjoyed seeing how it was done – as if it was happening to someone who was not me. I even got to see what my Mom did at work, first hand. Wow. Cool job, Mom!

That’s about all I remember – other than Elizabeth Hubble and Zita Dropka coming to visit me in my bedroom at home while my leg healed. They brought a card signed by everyone in Mrs. Lynch’s class at Adelaide McLaughlin School.

I didn’t have to go back to figure skating lessons….ever. I did get to go to the barn and join The Pony Club, for which my lifelong injuries are somewhat less severe, but include broken ribs, concussions from the various tumbles, kicks and mishaps when tussling with 2000 lb. animals. What the heck. Those somehow seem pleasant memories.

With these memories mostly buried in 40 odd years of life, I wasn’t reminded of them again until Grace brought home the dreaded Green Sheet, indicating a “class activity”.

SKATING LESSONS.

(Insert Hitchcock’s “PSYCHO” soundtrack during the shower scene.)

• Does your child have skates?
• Does your child have a helmet?
• Has your child skated before?
• If your child doesn’t have skates or a helmet, we can find extra.
• Can you volunteer?
• ONLY volunteers who skate are allowed on the ice. No shoes.

I think I read:

  • Does your child have knife blades for their feet so they can slash each other on the surface?
  • Do you have enough protective equipment to allow your child to partake in said slashing?
  • If your child has never skated before, she will be at a disadvantage, lose and be bloodied in this activity.
  • You are too chicken or poor to buy your kids skates and a helmet. What kind of parent are you, anyhow? Get with the program, or we’ll call Child Services and provide an enriching slashing/skating program for your child. THERE IS NO ESCAPE.
  • Are you woman enough to enter into a skating arena to witness the slashing of your child?
  • You TOO must be wearing slashing equipment and be prepared to do battle with others in the arena, perhaps even your OWN child.

Seriously…I’ve had nightmares about it. I pushed the Green Sheet to the bottom of a pile of papers on our counter top. You know the one – bills you don’t have enough money to pay….things you might want to read again but never do….GREEN SHEETS ON SKATING DESIGNED TO CAUSE HARM TO YOUR BABIES.

My mom and dad visited for Christmas. She sorts through my stuff, tidies up in that helpful but annoying way that mothers must.

“Oh LOOK! Grace can go skating with her class and learn how! Isn’t that exciting?”

Said Green Sheet now resides clipped to the refrigerator with a PEI lobster magnet. (Why?….do I keep these things, I ask myself.) The Green Sheet is a constant reminder over the holidays as we are in and out of the fridge more often than not.

Each time I go to the fridge, I see something different.

Once I need milk for my coffee, I see Elizabeth Hubble with skates on her hands, slashing after my daughter.

Another time, looking for some leftover stuffing, Dr. Glazier sits up out of a coffin with a three foot freezing needle, calling…”Graaaaaaaace…….GRACCCCCCCCCEEEEE! Come here…this won’t hurt a bit.”

I get grumpy with everyone, just because of the skating thing.

Determined to beat this….I announce to the family, “All right….we need to go and find skates and a helmet for Grace!”

In my mind, this doesn’t mean she will actually SKATE, but it will be a good delay tactic, I think. I put on my best Sun Tzu face. This is The Art of War. “The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.”

Grace is beside herself with excitement, and we head out to our local “Sports Expert” in search of skates. “Sophia has skates. They’re little. Just like her. They wouldn’t fit me. She can skate.”

I tell her on the way in the car about my skate experience, specifically so she will NOT gravitate towards the pretty white or pink “girl” skates with the bowie knife picks at the end. I pull up my pant leg and show her my scar, tell her the story and hope it makes an impact.

Apparently I do a good enough job, and she’s thrilled to look at hockey skates with the young man at the  store. She tries on several pairs…..none are her size.

Kevin and I think about it a bit more and hastily convene a parental conference beside the men’s sandals section. The only skates that sort of fit are too big for her. We toss around the idea of an extra pair of socks. I have a vision of Grace’s ankles caving over, her falling because of it and Zita Dropka skating over her neck with perfect white figure skates.

“We are OUT of here!” I declare. I am the most unpopular mother and wife of all time, but I think again of Sun Tzu.

“Let’s go and check out the second hand store.”, I say…offering a concession to my opponents.

We got there…just a block away. It’s closed. (YES!!!) We sit and have a bite to eat at the cafe next door. I break out in a sweat thinking about what is to come. Kevin is grumpy. He asks the waitress what time the store next door opens. 11:00 am…just fifteen minutes.

We wait through the silence of our cappucinos. Grace draws pictures on the steamy window with her finger. The second-hand store opens. We go in.

“This store is SMALL.” says Grace. “All the stuff in here is OLD. It’s WRECKED. Sophia has nice skates, but she’s little. Her skates are small, like her. Sophia has a pink helmet. Sophia can SKATE. She’s little, though. Littler than me, but we are the same age.”

I explain to her what it’s all about, and that a broken-in pair of skates might be way more comfy than a stiff new pair. She’s happy. Deflected once again.

Browsing through the racks of used skates, I think to myself – I bet the people who wore these DIED on the ice. They’re ALL murder weapons and somewhere, some detective is looking for these on his evidence shelf.

“Do you want to get a pair while we’re here, sweetie?” Kevin says, thinking he’s funny and charming and cleverly teasing me.

I think I hit him. I’m not sure. He’s not speaking to me.

“Here’s a pair of one and a half’s” he says.

They are pure Canadian boy hockey skates. No death-inflicting torturous picks at the end. A bit of flash with some metallic material and red on them. Grace loves them. She tries them on. They fit. I retreat to the truck.

In a last ditch effort to save my child, I send Kevin back into the store to find skate guards. They have ONE pair…that fit exactly. I am doomed, as is my child. Fate has struck it’s die. Sun Tzu fades into his dynasty.

At home, Kevin finds Ben’s old ski helmet. It fits. We are one step closer to gore.

“Let’s all go to the POND for New Year’s EVE!” they say. We can teach Grace how to skate, and eat a hot dog and have fun.

The day wears on. The temperature drops below -22. I remind everyone that it’s too cold outside for family and old folks to venture forth. They remind me that blood flows slower in cold temperatures. I think about learning how to drink. Scotch, I think. In the end, I win on the “It’s too cold for the old folks card.”

The year ends….and my daughter is still unscarred. I am victorious, and yet again unscathed by liquour.

I sleep….with one eye open.

New Year’s Day arrives. Grace is over the moon about going to the Pond, and none of us can escape her persistence. We promise that we will go at 4:00 pm, just enough time to try a short skate in the cold before going for sushi at our favourite Canmore restaurant, “Chef’s Studio”. I figure in my mind, if Grace is going to be forced to skate, others in the family can learn how to eat BBQ eel afterwards. Revenge shall be mine, and I shall obtain it by whatever means possible.

We all put on 43 layers of clothing against the cold. I pack the first aid kit. I keep saying to them, “Are you sure it’s not too cold? Maybe we could all go for a swim or hot tub instead. My friend Elaine has a circus performance at The Banff Centre. That would be fun. Maybe we should go there instead.”

They all look at me, flashing Will Farrell “Blades of Glory” looks in their eyes – they all wear the facemasks of Zita Dropka, Elizabeth Hubble and Dr. Glazier.

“Maybe it will be busy.”
“We won’t be able to find a parking spot.”

My inner thoughts are to no avail.

Ample parking.
Perfect mix of people at The Pond.

Have you ever had that feeling like you’re awake but in a dream, or in someone’s movie? Like someone else is moving you, and you are a character in a story that you KNOW is going to end with you being that stupid person that always dies first in the horror flick and everyone knows it? That was me. I was like a puppet of the Fates once again.

We go to the rink. Kevin and I hold her arms. She tries to RUN on her skates and goes down hard, but laughing. It’s freakin’ freezing….or maybe it’s warm. Fear does weird stuff to you.

I spot a bright red “skater’s helper” – once of those cool things they have now instead of chairs, that you can hold onto while skating.

She’s all over that idea.

Slowly, and so determined, she “gets” it. Before long, she’s going at breakneck speed, squealing with delight and sliding on her knees to stop.

Her friend Sophia miraculously shows up at The Pond with her giant hockey-stick wielding father. Pink helmet. Little feet. Little girl. Sophia can skate like Dorothy Hamill. Sophia has a lower centre of gravity than my Amazon daughter.

“Hi Grace!” says Sophia in her cute little pink-helmeted pixie voice.

“Hi Sophia! LOOK! I CAN SKATE!!!!”

They go off together as thought this is their only life’s desire. Kevin and I are left at the side of the rink. It’s a Kodak moment. Tears are in my eyes, but they freeze on my face it’s so damned cold. Nobody sees it. I’m actually happy. Ben comes onto the ice.

Lumbering, almost 6 feet tall at 14, he gives me a hug.

“I hate skating too, Mom. I love you.”

The grandparents are huddled at the side of the pond beside the heated gazebo with their camera flashing away. The sparkling white lights around the pond come on. You can see the mountains around Canmore in the background. Shinny players glide by and young couples ask us to take their picture. I feel like I’m in a Norman Rockwell painting …or a character in Chevy Chase’s “Funny Farm”.

Kevin puts his arms around me and gives me a hug. Somebody’s dog scampers after a loose puck. Grace and Sophia bump into each other and they both go flying. I catch my breath and then hear their girlish peels of laughter and squeals of delight.

The ghosts of Zita Dropka and Elizabeth Hubble skate by me, smiling, hand in hand and fade into the woods at the end of the pond.

Grace, complete with red and rosy cheeks  skates into me.

“Mom, I’m cold and my hat is in my eyes. I’ve had enough. Can we go to the Placebo?”

I take her hand, uttering a silent prayer of thanks for her safety and mine.

“Yes Grace…..we can go to the Gazebo. And then we can have sushi.”

“Can I come skating tomorrow?”

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