Recently, while stopped at the light to enter my neighborhood, I saw a family of four take advantage of a warm winter California day as they rode bikes and roller skates.
In the front, on roller blades, was “dad”. Next were two young boys riding their bikes, followed by “mom”, who was wearing a pair of four-wheeled roller skates – “quads” for those in-the-know. Mom’s skates reminded me of MY first pair of quads. They had white boots attached to a metal plate with four small wheels arranged 2 in front and 2 in back, just like hers; with one obvious difference. My skates had metal wheels – not the smooth riding polyurethane wheels you see nowadays. I soon found myself reminiscing of my childhood and how much I loved to roller skate.
I first discovered roller skating when I was a child in Chicago and I quickly fell in love with it. The first time I tried skating, I knew it was going to be challenging because it would require balance and coordination. But I welcomed the challenge because I was a gymnast…okay, it was through the Chicago Parks and Rec Dept., but I could still balance with ease. I’ll admit, at first, it was difficult to stay upright while rolling around on eight small wheels without falling, but I knew that with perseverance and practice, I could master this difficult challenge, which is exactly what I did.
Our house in Chicago had a large, unfinished, basement with cement floors. I spent a lot of time, in that basement, playing with my sisters, my cousin and our friends. This is where I would roller skate during the winter months. I remember the basement had two poles on opposite ends of the room. This became my personal skating rink where I would skate around the poles, eventually skating figure 8’s. Unfortunately, my skates did not have a toe stop like the modern skates, but, after a few bumps and bruises I eventually figured it out. Years later, we would move to California, which meant no more skating in the basement. But I was able to skate outside, whenever I wanted.
Over the years, I have owned multiple pairs of roller skates; luckily, they were crafted better then my first pair, and had polyurethane wheels, which improved my skill tremendously. Around this time, roller skating rinks were all the rage and I spent many weekends at the local roller-skating rink with my sisters and our friends. This is where I gained the confidence needed to skate with speed and, in no time, I was skating faster, with the ability to skate backwards.
For those of you who have not experienced the roller-skating rink, it wasn’t just a place to skate, it was a social haven, on and off the rink, filled with loud music, organized games, and races for skaters who wanted to participate. The races were my favorite part because I usually won.
Years later, I received a present from my boyfriend, who would later become my husband. After learning that I loved to skate, he bought me my first pair of roller blades. They were completely different than my other skates because they had four inline wheels instead of four wheels set apart, and once again, I was presented with the challenge of mastering another form of roller skating.
However, since roller blades looked similar to ice skates, I was not intimidated by them, because I knew how to ice skate. Without hesitation, I put those skates on and learned how to skate in those, too. I used them for about a year and then I put them in storage only to rediscover them again years later when my daughter was going to a skating rink for a roller-skating party.
As we entered the rink, I decided to try the quad skates from the roller rink, because, after all, I had mastered skating on quads. I was so excited to be back at the rink to share the love of skating with my daughter. Excitedly, I put on those skates. As I stood up to make my way to the rink, I suddenly forgot how to move. Pushing forward, I brushed this feeling aside and reminded myself that I can do this. When I finally got onto the rink, I could hardly make my way around it. So, feeling defeated, I carefully took myself off the rink, sat down, removed those quad skates, put on my roller blades, and made my way back to the rink. I was disappointed that I could not enjoy those quads again, but I did enjoy the afternoon with my daughter, her friends and the others who were learning how to skate. Skates will come and go but the skating rink and my time spent there will always have a special place in my heart.
Am’s View is posted on alternate Sundays.