Friday, December 3, 2010

Skating into Obscurity

I was born and spent my childhood in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Minnesota is also known famously as a cold and wintery place. Minnesota's favorite son, Garrison Keilor, has made countless jokes about Minnesota winters and the Nordic heritage of its people. Some of my ancestors, as a matter of fact, came from Finland and Lapland.

So winter sports of all kinds are prominent in Minnesota culture. From icy shanty towns on frozen lakes where ice fishing is king, to hockey, to snowshoeing, to building backyard igloos, people don't hibernate for the winter in Minnesota.

I remember as a child inquiring impatiently of my father if our town's ice rink was ready for skating. There were frozen ponds and lakes in nearly every neighborhood but our town also would flood a parking lot or a tennis court every winter to make a public ice skating rink. The rink even had a concession stand that sold hot chocolate and coffee. I remember some years that were so cold we could not stand to be out skating for long.

Skating on ponds or lakes required a lot more work. After every snowfall, hours of shoveling would be required to make the ice available to skates again. But these were the places where kids spent the winter days after school breathing the fresh winter air, exercising their bodies, perfecting their skills and playing pick-up games of hockey.

Our older kids were born in Michigan where we continued to skate on our local frozen pond. We had tiny double-bladed skates for the youngest and many pairs of skates in various sizes that the kids grew in and out of over the years.

When we moved to Oregon we packed up a large box of ice skates and brought them along. Can you imagine our stunned disappointment to learn that the ponds here never freeze over sufficiently for ice skating? The winters in Oregon are so temperate and mild that ice skating is simply not one of the winter pastimes. We were crushed to learn this and it was years before we had the heart to get rid of that box of ice skates.

Ice skating in Oregon is for the rich city folk. There are two ice rinks in large Portland shopping malls.

They are multi-purpose rinks where professionals practice their moves and privileged children have expensive skating lessons. These rinks are also the place where average people can tie on a pair of skates and give it a try. For a fee. But if they find they have a talent for it, they can't continue to practice in the neighborhood like we did afternoons after school. Ice skating is only a rare treat for those willing to drive to the city and pay for the privilege.

This city rink is where Tanya Harding practiced her jumps and where the new Olympic hopefuls inspire the rest of us.

This is also the place to buy skates and costumes for that next competition.

Just in case any of us are feeling the drive to show off our stuff for the judges.

Whoa! I can't look....

1 comment:

  1. Fun!

    I need to start collecting a box of tiny little skates... we have big-people skates, but I guess we're gonna need some kid skates, too!


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