Roller boogie

From 1980 to 1984, I owned roller skates. My first pair was a blue-and-white pair without stoppers that were from Sears. I got them right after finishing fourth grade. Our parish had built a gorgeous new gym that could double as a skating rink. I was so uncoordinated, and those skates were scary, but after practicing on our gangway for days, I finally became good enough to go to skating at St. Eugene's (Fridays 7-10, Saturdays and Sundays 1-4; $1, but you needed to bring extra cash to buy a candy bar or a soda).

My second pair was a gym-shoe style skate, gray and blue. I quickly figured out how to learn the stoppers. I never could skate backward, but I could turn and stop.

The third was a more grown-up pair, black boot style. I think I got them before eighth grade, but I didn't use them as much as skating didn't seem as cool. I graduated grade school, so I wasn't really allowed to skate at St. Eugene's once in high school (not that I would have anyway). And I wasn't spending weekend nights at the Axle, the roller rink near us that eventually closed within two years. I outgrew the skates and hadn't put a pair since.

I put roller skates on again today, for the first time in at least 28 years. I was a co-oper/chaperone for the boys' field trip today to a roller rink/fun center, and the skates were free to use. I wasn't planning on skating. I feared hurting my left knee again that finally feels better. But a little part of me wanted to try.

After seeing some of the other parents and teachers who hadn't skated in years lace 'em up, I gave in to my recklessness. I wish I could say it was just like riding a bike and that I was skating proficiently right away. I wasn't even close. My center of gravity has shifted in the past three decades. The first few minutes were me just skating on the carpet around the rink. Eventually, I gained enough confidence to move to the floor.

The fun center has a second track with some obstacles to do stunts on, but also, walls to hold on to. I got a little better, though a couple small downhills freaked me out slightly. In time, I was able to actually skate rather than just move my legs in a walking motion to make the wheels go. Just as I felt I was getting it, the field trip was ending and it was time to go.

I survived. I only slightly fell once. But damn, this afternoon, I was sore, especially since yesterday, I did squats for the first time since I hurt my knee. And I forgot how much stress skating places on your ankles. No matter. I had fun and didn't get injured.

Here's Michael and one of his friends trying skating for the first time. He fell a lot but had fun and never gave up. I bet if we took him a second time, he would get the hang of it right way, as he's much more coordinated than I was as a kid. Ben stayed on his scooter (yes, this rink allows kids to bring scooters) the whole time. Some of the other parents got better as the day went along as well. Some just gave up. I'm glad I didn't.


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