Where I was 25 years ago

Naomi Block made white chocolate candies before the Nutcracker, she made them in blue and other colors, each a specific shape. This is how I grew to love white chocolate.
I always knew the hot dog stand was there. I loved when it was open. I have clear memories of trotting off the ice with a skip in my step as my blade hopped onto the foamy floor and I dashed to the concession stand for another hot dog, bag of orange salty popcorn, coke…my parents complained that I spent too much time there and not enough time on the ice they were paying for me to practice on.
When I was 6, on Friday nights, at the other end of Robert Crown, CPC gymnastics set up an open gym for all kids who wanted to fly in circles around little bars and fling themselves off the end of runways into foam pits. I was there EVERY Friday I possibly could.
In the same wing there was an arts and crafts area. Potters wheel, kiln, sewing machines, big half circle windows at the top of the south facing brick walls. This is where so many of the magic Nutcracker and Spring Show costumes were sewn. This is where I took my first pottery class. This is where I would sometimes wander to if I got bored in the ice rink area.
Hockey skaters took over public sessions and figure skaters tried to take over the center, marked off with orange cones by the staff. Most rinks still do this I believe. I figure most rinks that support a non college level hockey team still have little padded, helmeted figures cutting through the middle aggravating the daintily dressed figures in white leather skates.
When it was my turn to perform in a show, when the lights were down save for the ring of light following the preceding skater around as they executed lovely jumps and spins, I stood shivering behind an enormous garbage bag wall, nervous as I ever was, ready to launch onto the ice like a rocket the moment the music faded, just before mine began to play. Out there on the ice, a million miles from anyone, engulfed in a bubble of terror, I couldn’t hear the cheering section of my peers in the far right corner 2nd floor seating area. I was aware of the scratching sound my blade made as it cut the ice. I was aware that a million people with 2 million eyeballs were staring at me, no matter what I did.
For a brief time I competed. My mom and I trudged at insane hours to skating rinks all around the Chicago area. That’s when I learned to love 4am and the sunrise. That’s when I learned to love seeing new sights and sounds. May be why I love to travel so much now :). Competing wasn’t my thing. I always sank a bit, didn’t stretch my arms fully, kept half the effort inside, afraid of doing well and being complimented. Why I do not know but I’ve tried to figure it out for years.
My feet hurt in those stiff white boots. They left red dents in my legs and squinched my toes. Taking them off at the end of practice was a high point.
But I LOVED it! I loved the time with friends, Kori and Jenny stand out in memory most, there were so many friends there. Spelling contests as we laced our skates, quick changes in crowded locker rooms, enjoying snack at the tables that now remind me of Volkswagen Bugs because of their full colorful shaped seats and table tops. I loved flying for hours every day, round and round and round, spinning fast and jumping in full circles. I loved listening to the mothers talk. I liked the rhythm of their speech, the way their mouths formed words, the way they leaned in to each other listening intently. I loved the friendships, the seemingly endless hours romping at Kori or Jenny’s home. At Jenny’s I remember the Barbie dolls, that we got chicken pox at the same time, and a matching game. Jenny was energetic and enthusiastic about all things girlie (which I was not, but I tried to learn because she made it seem fun). At Kori’s, it was a game of Operation, her dogs Sukie and Loius (not sure if I spelled their names right) barking at passers by and the window to the kitchen from the stairway. Kori talked about becoming a doctor. I remember her as thoughtful and intense. I was all over the place and asked a lot of questions. If I remember accurately this combination made for a fun time playing together.
I guess as far as latch key children go, I was lucky. If it wasn’t skating it was gymnastics (which is another story of how I became a real gymnast and not just a Friday night romper) for 3 hours after school most days. I had somewhere to go regularly where I exercised, made friends, ate expensive junk food and learned skills that still live in my muscles, ready to show off whenever I enter an ice arena or a gymnasium.
And now when I look back at my childhood for clues to explain certain strengths or weaknesses in me as an adult, I have crystal clear memories of my life as an ice skater which is strewn with clues that I can use to further develop the good and overcome the not so wonderful habits I’ve developed…like going for the potato chips when I ought to be going for the pretty slices of green pepper beside them on the table.

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