Saturday, October 23, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore...

Skate day. Group Lessons. Again. More Crossovers.

"I HATE CROSSOVERS," says Stitch as we cross the parking lot.

"I know. I'm sorry."

We ran into Coach X on the way in, and we chatted briefly. Skate Dad was also there; he has a kid in Pre-Freestyle and another in Freestyle 5, and we all talked for a moment about getting the Boys together in a class, to share costs and to encourage more boys to figure skate. I thought it was a great idea, and one that needs pursuing.

Stitch skated fast in class. Too fast. I could see poor Coach M begging him to slow down and do his crossovers correctly rather than blowing through them. Dad, S and I laughed and made trouble in the bleachers, pointing out the awesome skaters and that one girl who keeps blowing through levels despite her awful skates. She got bumped to Beta!

The kids ended up playing a game of "red light, green light" and then class ended. Nutso never said hi to me, never even came up into the bleachers. She stayed right by the ice door, scowling. Precious and Shuffles told me that they were going to play hockey together. Precious made the weird statement that she didn't want to dress in "those skinny tights." Hm. More weirdness from the Nutso Clan.

Afterwards Stitch and I hit the mall for a "lucky charm." I told him he would need one for his competition, now just two weeks away. He picked out a silver enameled four-leaf clover. I thought that was perfect.

Then we did something different. I broke out a map and a time sheet for The Rink Over There. The one where the competition was. We were going to public skate there, to see the rink, get our bearings, so as not to be so befuddled and surprised on the big day.

I only got lost for a moment, when I missed the turn, and had to make a series of U-turns to get back on track. We pulled into the lot, following the signs "ICE RINKS."

"Look for kids with Zuca Bags," I told Stitch.

We didn't have to. A bunch of hockey kids were doing jumping jacks on the sidewalk, with coffee klatches of moms huddled nearby. Yes, this must be the Ice Rink. This particular park district has a "sport complex," with gyms, ice rinks, pools and parks in one place. It's huge. We went in a door marked "Main Entrance," and were greeted by Halloween decorations and a banner, "BIG ISI COMPETITION! IS THERE A CHAMPION IN YOU? REGISTER NOW!"

Oh, wow. This is real, isn't it?

"Hi," I went to the front desk. "We'd like to do Public Skate."

"It doesn't start until four," said the big woman behind the counter.

"I know. We're a bit early. That's okay."

"Nine dollars, please."

I paid our way, we got stamped, and we went to find "Rink A."

Rink A also happens to be where Stitch will be competing, so I felt lucky. The Rink was just finished Practice Ice. We sat down and watched some pretty powerful skaters; double jumps and flying camels. What surprised me was the fact that there were lower level skaters on that same ice. One poor girl was being coached to death. She was trying so hard to land what looked like a double toe loop (could be mistaken) and kept two-footing it. Her coach, a big guy with a thick accent, kept fussing at her. I would have called it. She clearly looked too tired to continue on, but I'm just a mom. But as she kept on trying, her attempts got worse and worse. I felt for her, she looked so disappointed in herself. Poor thing.

The bleachers were nice, and there were theatrical lights permanently installed overhead. The hockey boxes were deep, and clearly where the judges would be seated. I pointed that out to Stitch, who was laying belly down across a few bleacher seats.

"Will there be a spotlight?" He asked.

"Probably not. Why? Do you want one?"


"Wait. You don't want pictures or video of you, and you don't want people looking at you, but you want a spotlight on you?"

*pause. Beat.* "Yes."


Stitch is a magnet for vending machines, and it didn't take him more than five minutes to find the machines at this rink. He grabbed two bucks and took off for a snack. "If you get lost, just tell someone you need to get to Rink A!" I called after him.


He was gone.

I watched routines to bad pop music, girls struggling with jumps and I debated where I was. What the hell. What am I doing here? Big Girl two footed her jump in her skates sparkling with Swarovski crystal, her face etched with pain and labor. Someone else scratched a bad fall right in front of me, the sound of her body thudding into the glass. Is this my future?

Stitch came back in time to see skaters still jumping even as the Zamboni chased them off. "WHAT IS GOING ON??"

"I don't know. I know Rink Pal would never allow that," I said, referring to our friend the Rink Guard.

I put on skates and we set off as the one Rink Guard opened the door.

The ice was harder, deeply gouged, and had a soft blue tint. Beyond that, it was the same. Little hockey boys and their dads, small girls in sparkly skate dresses, moms reading and acting bored in the stands, and people huddled by the ice door, blocking the way and creating a traffic jam. I skated my workout; swizzles, forward stroking, backwards swizzles and backwards pumps. Stitch played and spun, then realized he could get in the hockey box and no one would care. I joined him.

"What do you think?"

He shrugged.

"You ready for this?"



We then declared the evening to be "Fiesta Night." I stopped at a grocery store, taking the long way home past all the train stations and crossings. We got a few hot dogs, a party tray and some chocolate soda.

I tossed the top down and we rode with what might be the last warm evening of fall in our hair. "When we skate at home tomorrow," I shouted back to him. "Tell Rink Pal that he needs to get to That Other Rink. They clearly need him!"

"Yeah! Those hockey kids were going the wrong way!"

How much longer do I have of Public Skate being a viable practice option, anyway?

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