Monday, August 3, 2009

The Skateland

At the age of 8, I was a roller-skating queen. I didn't realize it at the time. Roller-skating was just something we did back then and I guess I went rather often. I remember flying 'round the rink with my friends, Beat It pulsing through the staticky speakers. I could stop on a dime or spin around into the coveted backwards-skate position, which was important for couple-skate songs like Ebony & Ivory.

When I was 10 we moved far away and I didn't skate much anymore. The last time I was at a skating rink was probably at some point in college, a decade-and-a-half ago.

That all changed two days ago.

In the midst of a busy back-to-school schedule and a stressed-out me, I had to squeeze in a birthday party at the skating rink. And though I needed to do other, more important, very grown-up tasks, I begrudgingly hauled Blondie and Brownie to a party at the Skateland instead.

{A word here about Southern grammar. We love to modify places like Wal-Mart, Goodwill, and in this case, Skateland, with unnecessary articles like "the." And we also make them possessive sometimes, just for good measure. i.e. The Wal-Mart's has bananas on sale this week or I got this cute shirt at the The Goodwill.}

So Monday, I took us to The Skateland.

I quickly decided that every American skating rink hired the same design team. And that design team did all their work in 1979 and retired. Permanently.

The same black carpet, at some places damp and in other places crusty, dotted with glow-in-the-dark neon stars. The carpet-covered benches, worn clean through on the edges. The faded yellow, chipped-formica countertops in the less-than-sanitary bathroom. Brown steel doors that buzz when they let you in, sort of like prison. Not to mention the absence of windows. Evidently natural light is a major design faux-pas for skating rinks. It might distract from the flickering purple fluorescent bulbs overhead, reminiscent of giant bug zappers or Frankenstein's lair.

I also decided that The Skateland's employment application said something along the lines of: Those without smoker's voices need not apply. And let's not even discuss the harsh reality of rental skates. Not enough Purell in the world is sufficient.

The Monday afternoon crowd was a pretty harmless one. Mostly kids and a few moms. But there were several characters who did not disappoint. They exist, in one form or another, in skating rinks around the country. The folks who have spent way too much time here. The couple-skating duo, for example...he with a Confederate flag t-shirt that read Bad Ass on the back. The teenager in the middle of the rink doing twirls of various elevations, daring anyone to hold a candle to his mad roller skills. He looked like Napoleon Dynamite doing his famous finale dance...on roller skates.

The birthday party was for kids. Moms were there as taxis and chaperones. But something about that lacquered wooden rink beckoned me close, a siren call not heard since the early 80's. So I paid the three bucks, was buzzed in, and stifled my gag reflex as I donned the tan skates. I thought to myself, Will I fall? What if I outgrew my skills? I might break something.

But as my wheels touched the rink, all fear and trepidation evaporated. My moves came back in no time. The spin, the backwards skate, the speed. I relished every moment, the musty Skateland breeze whipping through my hair as I flew past those of inferior skill, clearly deserving the title that emblazoned the back of my Confederate pal's tee.

Blondie was stunned. In her eyes, I had instantly morphed into a skating-mommy-super-hero. She and all her friends held my hands as we giggled around the rink together, me feeling dizzy and giddy as I channelled my inner-8-year-old.

Eventually the party wrapped up and our fun came to an end. As we shuffled out to the parking lot, brown steel door buzzing closed behind us, I felt like Cinderella after the ball.

Mommy, why didn't you tell me you could skate like that?

It was as if I had withheld the key to unlocking some magical secret. And in a strange and unexpected way, I had withheld something. The key to letting go of my grown-up inhibitions and pressing preoccupations. Living in the moment, letting go of my fears, being a was the most fun I'd had in a long time.

Who knew that a pair of vintage, sweat-infused roller skates and a dated roller rink was my ticket?

Mommy, I think we need to go to the skating rink more often.

I couldn't agree more.


  1. so fun!

    i too remember going skating every weekend, all weekend long when i was a teen. maybe only a handful (less than that) since then. but that all changed this year when my daughter has a skate party to go to. i put on the skates and instantly was taken back. however after one time around taking us about 30 minutes, both her and i had had enough! she doesn't like to skate. and part of me was sad about that!

  2. I had to laugh when you mentioned the Southern grammatical addition of "the" to everything. We do that around here and don't even realize it. :) Haven't been skating since 1989!!!

  3. That was fabulous. Just fabulous. My roller skating days were also to a Micheal Jackson soundtrack, but I recall whizzing around the rink to "Rock with You." Disco baby. All the way...

  4. Scooper! way to go girlfriend!
    Our home school group has a skate day every month, but we haven't been in ages.
    I've been on the rink, too. It is a blast from the past! Everything you described is true here in "River City", too. The same folks must have deisgned our skating rink as well.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful time with your two older ones.

  5. What fun! And you are so right about skating rink decor-- what is that about anyway?

    I was never a good skater, we just never went much when I was a kid. I think I'd be more likely to make my kids cry from embarrassment than think I'm awesome. ;)

  6. Please tell Blondie that her Greatpapa Summy owned one of those skating rinks and Grandma Vischer was a pretty mean skater!! Had my first stress fracture in my foot jumping off the railing. My favorite song to skate to was "Puppy Love" by Paul Anka!!

  7. This is one hilarious blog! Yes, the subject is great, the experience obviously memorable . . . but your writing is absolutely fabulous! I was laughing, laughing, laughing at the atmosphere and images you created with your words. Love it . . . and you.


  8. Glad your twirling and whirling released those hidden inhibitions and you had a ball!! I never mastered roller skating- I can only ice skate. And there is a difference- I cannot stop with roller skates! Big Splat. LOL What a great post today. Sue

  9. I *love* this! My husband has insisted for years now that he wants a skate party for his 30th birthday. If I can get it worked out and it isn't WAY expensive, I think I'm going to do it for him. Because, why not, you know? If not now, when? So what if we can hardly walk the next day. It'll be a birthday he'll never forget!!

  10. What a great post. Sounds like you had so. much. fun.

    And you had me laughing out loud with the Southern grammar pointer. It's true, isn't it? I tell you, we had such a hard time when we lived in Michigan for seven years--they don't use articles for ANYTHING up there. They're all "We're going to dinner at Zalenski's" (or Savarino's or Cjakowski's or anything but Johnson or Smith). Never do they go to "the Zalenski's house." It was all we could do to translate.

    Have a great weekend!

  11. I loved this post. You touch on all the bits of life in the story, it just flowed into my heart.
    It is so important to "get down on the floor" with the kids sometimes, and equally to be all the parts of who you are and can be. Two comments floored me this summer, when my teen daughter said that a perfect backyard day would be me actually getting in the pool with them ( which I have yet to do), and when my 11 year old saw some pics online from a trip a year ago and I was riding a bike on a trail and she gushed "You can ride a bike ?!" That doesn't even come close to the skill and finesse of roller skating... so I was stunned and saddened.

  12. I love reading your blog. You take me to the scene... in this instance The Skateland. I just wanted you to know that it is very enjoyable.


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