Over the weekend my daughter was invited to attend a birthday party held at the local roller skating rink. I tend to stay at the birthday parties my kids attend, mostly because I know how exhausting it is to be the adult in charge. It is a big old barn of a building and smells a little funny, as if thousands of sweaty folks have encircled its space for the past forty-odd years. Which, we can assume, is exactly what has been happening.
I stood alongside the wall for 2 hours as I watched my daughter stubbornly move around the rink, progressing from that painful mincing shuffle to small glides on her rented skates. It was great to watch her gain confidence and see her smile get bigger and bigger. It was also a 2 hour trip down my own memory lane.
When I was a kid, I lived about 80 miles from the nearest skating rink. It was the 70s and I lived outside a very small town. If adults organized a field trip, we elementary school kids did just about whatever it took to get to participate. And being a farm kid, I really lived for those field trips.
I’ll never forget the sense of freedom those trips to the skating rink gave me. Rollerskating was like heaven made real amongst the wheat fields and sage brush of eastern Washington.
My mom would send me off with a $5 bill and a signed permission slip. For several hours, I didn’t have chores to do or animals to feed. There were no irrigation pipes to change or grain to shovel. I could just be a kid and eat McDonalds and be free from my normal responsibilities.
It was like heaven. The big yellow school bus has always symbolized freedom in many ways for this farm girl, but on field trip days, the bus didn’t just take me away from the farm, it took me to the city and freedom from mere walking.
To rollerskate is to be magic. To be birdlike or something other-like. There was popular music playing loud over the speakers, crazy lights bouncing off the disco ball and lighting up the faces already lit by smiles. There was the chance to hold the hand of a boy and pretend.
Sure there were hard falls and bruises and injuries. But for a few hours, I was as close to flying as my earth-bound self could get and I loved it. The pain was worth it.
Watching my daughter make her way around the rink, I kept my hands still and hid my fear of head injuries and broken bones. I stopped wanting to keep her safe and instead wanted her to find just a bit more bravery.
I wanted her to go fast enough to feel the wind on her face, to feel just a bit like what it must be like to fly.
If I could give her wings, I would. Rented roller skates will have to do for now.