Sounds of Blade on Ice
By Noreen O’Brien, Purchasing, Marine Parts Express
The first time I tried on a pair of ice skates, though terrified, I was determined to learn to skate. Kathy, Louise, and Mary took turns holding me under my arms, leading me onto the ice amidst the throngs of skaters and hockey players whizzing around us at what I was certain was the speed of light.
My knees were like jelly and my ankles turned inward, looking to meet the ground, resisting what was being asked of them: to support me on the smooth, slippery surface of solid ice while balancing on thin, single blades of metal. No double-runners for me.
Glen Park, a huge ballpark, was two doors down from where I lived. Every winter, the city would build an ice skating rink by dumping dirt mounds around the perimeter of the park, and then flooding the center with a thick layer of frigid rushing water from fire hydrants. The excitement at the sound of that heavy equipment working out there in early November and knowing what was to come still sends the adrenalin up a notch when I think about it. I could barely think of anything else—and I could not sleep—as I waited for the first freeze of winter to solidify the flooded ball field.
Racing home from school every day so I could get out onto the ice, nothing else mattered to me. Ice skating became an obsession—much as reading was, or as bird watching would become later. I spent hours and hours on that ice, braving the biting wind and stray hockey pucks that caused excruciating pain when they bounced off an ankle. My hands and feet might be bright purple and numb, but I would not—could not—give in to the cold. I had to know how to skate and I had to know it well.
Never was I dressed warm enough. A warm hat? I didn’t own one. I wore one of those wide, knitted headbands that run across the top of the head from earlobe to earlobe, like a giant, flattened worm, tied under the chin with lengths of two skinnier worms, full of tight knots I could never get out. My hat was gray with individual silver sparkly circles stitched all over it.
My best friend, Kathy, was beautiful and rich. She wore earmuffs, or a hat similar to mine, but of a much thicker yarn, often a clean, bright white. She had a muffler for her hands, worn over warm, bulky mittens that matched her hat. Kathy wore stretch pants with loops at the cuffs that passed through the skate blades and snapped on the other side of the pant leg, keeping them from riding up and the cold draft from creeping up her legs at the ankles. Sometimes, she wore a skating skirt over these stretch pants. I would have looked silly in such an outfit—it simply was not me.
In time, while I had nothing like Kathy’s snug pants or layers of brightly colored bulky sweaters or coverings for my hands, I learned to fly across that ice at least as well as Kathy could. Still, I did have bells on my hand-me-down skates as Kathy wore on hers, mine silver, hers red, blue or green, depending upon her mood and sometimes worn in clusters, one of each color. I guess I looked like something of a ragamuffin. However, when it came to ice-skating, I could not have cared less about my appearance. I wasn’t out there for a fashion show—I was there to skate.
More important to me was to be a part of the throng making those lovely scraping sounds of blade on ice. The soft, muffled clunk of metal to diamond-hard ice surface as my foot touched down to propel me forward, faster and faster, my eyes watering from the icy wind. The soft continuous “shhhhh” as my blades rode atop the surface at high speed, and the sound of the swirl as my skates carried me into a reversed direction, making yet another new swish, swish, swish as I created a pair of curvy lines, carved in front of me on the top layer of ice.
I wanted to be on that ice until I died—and would have been happy to be there until that moment came.
Scenes of Glen Park with swarms of kids whizzing by every which way and hockey pucks swishing between players of several hockey games are etched in my brain forever; however, I was barely aware of anyone else out there while I was on that ice. I was oblivious to the backdrop of screams of laughter from those sledding and coasting on the park’s hillside, bordering the skating area.
Of course, I also was unaware of the moment the park lights went on at dusk signaling it was time for me to get home. I simply never noticed that moment—I was too busy learning how to twirl, create figure eights, circles, skating on one foot and—what I loved best—skating backward creating those long-distance double-lined curvy paths edged with ice dust. Who needs to eat when the park is flooded? There is always time for food, but the ice will be gone before we know it and the park will then be filled with softball games, foul balls bouncing off the backstop fence and fans in the bleachers screaming insults at the umps.
Am I the only who longs for winter before it is even over?
Like the skaters who find a sense of freedom and calm on ice, customers find superior service and knowledge at Marine Parts Express.
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March 16, 2011 / Noreen O'Brien / 6
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