Friday, November 28, 2008

"Zen and the art of ice fishing is an oxymoron."


I've mentioned before my proclivity for clumsiness, but when I was a very little girl I had dreams of being many things when I grew up - one of them a professional ice skater.

I obsessed of all things "on ice" - Ice Capades, Stars on Ice, Sesame Street on Ice - and begged my Grandmother to take me or let me watch on TV. I loved the costumes, the grace, the speed and the show of it all.

Fashionistas on Ice
by Ned Schultz on Flickr

I'd don my swimsuit in the middle of January and do arabesques around the living room, jumping and twirling, pretending I had a partner, leaping from the coffee table with the elegance of an elephant.

When I was a bit older, I begged and begged for a new pair of skates. Each of us kids had a pair that had been handed down through more than a few kids that were well-worn and scuffed. I simply was never going to amount to star material in smelly, second-hand skates. Finally, one Christmas they arrived under the tree, white with a bright pink lining.

I was ecstatic! I pictured myself doing toe loops, double axels and camel spins. I itched to get on the ice and break them in. So when my Dad decided to take my brothers ice fishing a few days after Christmas, my ears perked up when he suggested I tag along...with my skates.

I was on the cusp of puberty that year, and I fought tooth and nail that morning to not wear my snow suit. How completely unstylish would I be in my frumpy lumpy snowsuit? I reasoned that I simply would not be able to twirl properly wearing so much bulk. I chose a thin pair of gloves over the mittens my Grandma had crocheted for me (because, yes, they had a string), aiming to at least look like the figure skating girls in their practice gear. So in my waist-length jacket and blue jeans, we were ready to go.

We took Pa's van out to the lake, armed with a thermos of cocoa and a propane heater. We drove out onto the ice, found our spot and Dad slid the side of the van open and started the heater. Our own little shanty on wheels.

Before drilling their fishing holes, my father shoveled the snow from a large swatch of ice and helped me with my laces. (Only he could get them just right.)

"Have at 'er," he said, leaving me to do my twirling and grabbing the auger from the back of the truck.

I headed out to cross the length of my skating spot for the first time, my happy face chilly in the frigid wind when - BAM! I hit a stick that was jutting out of the ice and I went down, hard, on my kness.

Teary eyed, I limp-skated back to the van and reported my injuries. An assessment of the damage showed only scrapes and what would probably be bruises later on.

Determined to really break in my skates, I headed back to the "rink" after a cup of cocoa. My Dad and brothers had just gotten their tip-ups and poles into the water.

I gave the offending twig my best pre-pubescent evil eye as I skated around it, though my speed that day wasn't as fast as I'd have liked. See, lake ice doesn't freeze smooth like that on an indoor ice rink - if it was windy the day the lake froze, well, then the surface ends up pretty bumpy. Add to that my new fear of debris and the type of freezing wind that makes your eyes tear up and I was ready to quit the skating game after ten minutes.

But, as I've mentioned, there were hormones involved, people. And my stubborn streak ran deep. So I headed back to the "shanty" and stood in the warm air coming from inside and pretended to be interested in what my brothers were doing. I'd hang around for a little while, pestering my brothers until my Dad told me to basically "go freakin' skate already!"

I kept up this routine three or four times, but eventually my hands and thighs were beyond numb, my teeth were chattering and my nose was running. I decided to admit defeat. The rest of the afternoon I spent sitting in the back of my Dad's van, huddling under a blanket and holding my palms out toward the heater, trying to warm my hands. It was miserable.

I ended up with bruises on both knees and the flu. Somewhere in all of that I realized that A) my family was poor - there were never going to be skating lessons, B) I wasn't a morning person and would never be able to handle early-morning practices, and 3) my clumsiness was probably going to prevent me from every really being a skating star, anyway.

And, eh...that was just fine by me.


8 comments:

Connie said...

Great story! I loved ice skating as a kid too. In my mind I was much better at it then I actually was!

Don Mills Diva said...

That was an adorable story.

I too learned early that I was not destined to be great at anything requiring early mornings or coordination.

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

I was having a hard time visualizing the ice fishing, because that sounds so foreign to me. It's something that only happens on tv. And, I begged for skating lessons myself, but as there was only one ice rink in Houston - inside the mall that was about half an hour away, it never happened.

Mrs4444 said...

3 things...
1) Didn't mean to put my name in the Mr.Linky!! sorry
2) This is a really beautiful post; very nice.
3) The Road--I loved that book!

Miss said...

I've never been ice skating! Can you believe it?

Momo Fali said...

Aw! I can't say I blame you for giving up on that dream!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Awwww, that stinks! Ice on lakes is Horrid for skating unless somebody bothers to flood it with a hose.

Amber said...

I wanted to be an ice skater, too!! That or a ballerina. You got closer to it than I did. We were also poor and so my mom told me that I'd be too tall for a partner instead. *Sigh* I never did give up on that dream - I still spin and twirl and ice skate in my sock feet while cleaning my kitchen. ;)