I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. Back when I was growing up there were no video games to play or Netflix to binge watch on a cold day. When the weekend came we would find something to do, preferably not at home and with our friends. One of my favorite winter activities was when the Racine Zoo pond would freeze and would open for ice skating.
The lights would illuminate the pond at night. There was a warming house just under the monkey cages that didn’t have such a great smell but it was where you would change from your shoes into your magical ice skates. It was a place where you would meet with your friends, talk, gather, and generally be kids.
Didn’t know how to skate? No problem. There was always someone around that would teach you. Didn’t have someone to go with? No problem.
Once you had changed into your ice skates it was just a short walk from the warming house to the ice rink. Once on the ice rink, you would find some skaters racing from one side of the rink to the other. There would be others that would be gathering along the sides trying to keep themselves upright. There would be others that would be effortlessly gliding around the outer edges changing from skating forwards to backwards. There were even some that were able to twirl in circles with their arms beautifully swirling in the air above them. Didn’t know how to skate? No problem. There was always someone around that would teach you. Didn’t have someone to go with? No problem. Just have your parents drop you off and you were certain to find a friend or two that had done the same. By the way, you would tell your parents what time to pick you up because there were no cell phones, so once you were dropped off you were there until the time that they picked you up.
Now, for this quiet introvert, I didn’t much care if there was someone there or not. I would just skate around the pond alone. As a matter of fact, that was some of the best times for me. When I was in college and living with my parents it wasn’t unusual for me to layer on my long underwear and top it with my favorite light blue cable knit sweater, grab my skates and head on down to my favorite little pond. I didn’t care how cold it was because once I got moving I would always warm up.
I loved hearing the sound of the blades against the ice as I moved across the frozen pond.
I taught myself to skate backwards and even learned to do a twirl or two. I would rewind those things I had learned in class that day in my mind. I would review mentally my notes that I had taken. I would quiz myself on what I had learned. I would be moving across the ice but very much inside my mind reviewing the thoughts that had gathered there during the day. It was my solitude. It was my escape. It was a place that provided me peace. It was magic.
As the magic of the holiday season is upon us I think of the countless hours I spent on that little zoo pond wearing my magical ice skates. Maybe my gift to myself this year will be to pull down that favorite light blue cable knit sweater and find a place to go where I can wear those magical ice skates again.