I gave the double knot on Samuel’s skates a tug and pulled him up.
Samuel took a few teetering steps, then reached for my hand. Luke had gone ahead, quickly mastering the art of walking in skates on the rubber flooring. By the time we reached the double doors leading into the rink, my toes were already clenched inside the borrowed skates. But I was determined to do the mom thing and take my boys skating. It would be a weekly event, I vowed.
“Will Kurt be here, Mom?”
“No.” And neither would Wayne Gretzky or any other idol of the ice arena.
“Oh.” Samuel sighed in disappointment.
I stepped onto the ice.
“Okay, boys, ready? Step down carefully. Hold my hands, if you want.”
Luke and Samuel stared at the rink, their eyes growing big at the wide expanse of white ice. One boy, then the other, clutched my hands, then stepped down onto the frozen surface and stood rooted.
“Come on, one foot forward, then the other.”
Shuffle, shuffle, stop. Shuffle, shuffle, stop. We moved a foot.
I looked around at the scattered bunches of parents and children, scarves trailing, toques jammed tightly on heads. A few adventurous children had relinquished their vise grips on their parents and were awkwardly stroking along. Occasionally, there was an echoing cheer.
We moved another three feet. Four feet. We probably wouldn’t be doing any double axels today.
Soon, we overtook a mom and her daughter, who was motionless, clinging to the boards. The mom shook her head, and I smiled, not wanting to disturb our rhythm.
“Mom, can I let go now?” asked Samuel.
“If you want.”
“Me, too,” added Luke.
The boys moved forward independently, and I felt strangely light when they let go, as if I might fall. We were halfway around the rink, but my ankles were feeling decidedly wobbly. I hadn’t skated since... well, it had been a long time.
Luke had moved to the boards and was hanging on, his feet slipping and sliding. I held him steady, then unfurled his gripping fingers.
“Move out again, Luke.”
Luke did, his shuffling quicker, surer. So was Samuel’s. Occasionally, someone’s arms would flail, whip in the cold air, and I’d think, “This is it, he’s going to fall.” But, the boy in question would balance himself and carry on. Several times, I teetered on the edge of losing my dignity myself, but managed to keep my poise. How did anyone manage to throw themselves in the air, rotate three or four times, and land on these blades again?
As if to prove my point, a father and daughter glided by, smoothly and effortlessly, their movements in unison. The chilly breeze ruffled the fringes on the boys’ scarves. Samuel and Luke gazed in awe.
“We’ll be able to do that with a little practice, boys.” Samuel gripped my hand again, and away we went. Shuffle, shuffle, glide, Shuffle, shuffle, glide. A small improvement. We were making good time. Just a few dozen yards to go.
It must have been a speck of dust, a bit of pebbled ice, or maybe a moment of distraction revelling in the boys’ achievement. No amount of arm-flapping was going to preserve my equilibrium. I crashed to the ice.
I tentatively twitched each limb; nothing seemed to be broken. Cold was already seeping through my clothing, so I knew I wasn’t paralyzed.
I opened my eyes. Luke and Samuel were peering down at me. A circle of helpful folks had gathered around.
“Need help?” I accepted the proffered hand and hoisted my sodden self from the ice.
“Thanks.” Everyone dispersed with plenty of good wishes and advisories about hot baths, massages, and epsom salts.
Eager to resume our tour, I rallied the boys and off we went. Shuffle, glide, glide. The boys were confident, moving towards the exit. Finally! I helped each boy step up, then lifted my uncooperative, leaden legs over the sill. The boys cavorted towards the bench area like two goats, while I slogged along the padded flooring as if wading through quagmire.
“Can we have hot chocolate?” both boys begged.
My legs were wooden as I knelt to undo their skates. My numb fingers fumbled with the knots.
“Can we come back next week?”
After all, it was the mom thing to do.
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