Tuesday, February 16, 2010
OLYMPICS ICE SKATING MEDALIST...ONLY IN MY MIND'S EYE
The 2010 winter Olympics are well into the first week and as always, I’m enthralled with the ice skaters. Last night’s pairs skating sent me down memory lane to 1961 and Jackson Park. The ice rink was (and still is) only a block from Edison High School. Did we girls plan at lunch to meet at the rink after dinner? More likely we passed notes during math. My mind’s eye travels back to those magical evenings: the smell of wet wool mittens drying on radiators; the sound of skaters’ blades as they thunked gingerly down the ice-covered wooden ramp to the rim of snow that surrounded the rink. The fun we had! We practiced spins, leaps, figure eights until the warming house closed, hoping that the boys over at the ice hockey end were noticing us. And suddenly there I am, skinny black Audrey Hepburn slacks, puffy white jacket, white pom poms and bell tied to the toes of my figure skates, neck swathed in the de rigueur six-foot muffler. Ah, that muffler...an essential item but not for warmth. At 16, who cares about comfort? The whole point of those mufflers, which wrapped around our necks and trailed breezily behind us, was that A Boy would grab an end. A girl lucky enough to be “caught” by her favorite lad would do a quick spin, thus wrapping herself in that length of wool and, if all worked out, into his arms. (The trick was to do it right and avoid total collision.) Now, almost 50 years later, I see a band of sweet young things who looked more like Snoopy with his Red Baron scarf than the glamorous Seventeen Magazine models we imagined. I snap back to the pairs skaters on TV but not for long. Something else triggers a memory. The Canadian pair circles the ice with arms crossed one over the other, and suddenly there I am, back at Jackson Park with Paul, the lad with the beautiful brown eyes. Paul has playfully caught my scarf. The moon casts silvery sparkles on the ice, the snow flakes glisten and glow under the rink lights (no doubt due to my astigmatism), my toe bells tinkle softly, and we sail over the ice arm in arm, smoothly, gracefully, elegantly...right into a pile of snow. While I didn’t have as much to lose as an Olympian hopeful, my hopes of being the glamorous girl who caught Paul’s attention fell about as flat that night as the hopes of the skater who fell on the Olympics rink. But like that skater, you get back up, dust yourself off, and start all over again, toe bells, muffler and all.