Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hijinks at the Rink

Among the many hobbies I have or have had at one time in my life, there is one that until recently I have not participated in since our arrival in Georgia over five years ago.

I like to ice skate.

I didn’t grow up ice skating. I started while I lived in Japan in the 90s. (Yes, I know. Some people pick up kendo, flower arranging, or some other local sounding interest. I started ice skating.) I found it relaxing because it took all my concentration to not go splat at first. In other words, I forgot about everything else. I started one summer, finding a rink in downtown Osaka. I used to skate about every other week or so, taking the subway into town. I wore the largest skates the rink had. They weren’t the right size. However, the leather had stretched after continued usage, so I could get my feet in them. When the weather got colder, a winter only rink opened up much closer to my residence. I ended up going every week. On a vacation trip to the U.S., I bought myself a pair of skates. When the winter rink closed and I started taking the train back to Osaka, I discovered the rink downtown had purchased an extra large pair of skates just for me.

I kept up the hobby after I returned to the U.S. for good. My wife and I lived in Portland after we got married. There was a rink near the house and we occasionally took the kids. However, when we moved to Atlanta, I couldn’t find a rink nearby. I knew there had to be one. But, between work and all the kids’ other activities, I never really looked. I stored my skates in the basement, where they sat for several years.

A few weeks ago, my wife found my skates while we were cleaning. She suggested getting rid of them. I wasn’t ready.

Then my wife found a rink over spring break. My younger son, in particular, got excited about the discovery. He loves to watch hockey and has a Thrashers calendar on the wall. So, with a rink discovered, we scheduled a family night out last Friday.

It turned into a boys’ night out as my wife wasn’t up to it. We went to the rink. I laced up my skates and helped my boys get ready as well. Then I got on the ice. At first, the muscles didn’t work like I remembered. I could skate forwards and backwards but felt every turn. I also tried quick direction changes, amazed that I didn’t collide with someone. I skated with the boys and tried to help them. My teenager could get around and didn’t need my help, but he was still timid on the ice. My nine-year-old spent most of the night hugging the side. Eventually, he moved onto the ice in order to play with another kid about his age (as well as get away from the other kid’s little sister).

The two hour night session passed quickly. The rink closed appropriately with Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and Ray Charles’s “Hit the Road, Jack.” However, my kids declared they wanted to return soon. I promised we would.

What things have you wanted to do for a long time that you haven’t done?

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