| LifeTakes |


Were we really supposed to walk on these spiky lengths of steel?

IT had been years since I’d last gone ice skating. Decades, actually. Back in the day, I’d loved it. Loved the feeling of gliding across the ice, being in control, knowing just how to maneuver to turn corners and do crossovers.

And then I’d gotten married, moved away, had children, then grandchildren. Ice skating was, well, put on ice. But now I was back in my home country for a visit, my 12-year-old daughter with me. It was winter, we wanted to do something indoors, and I decided to treat her to an ice-skating session, secretly thrilled at treating myself, too.

We booked tickets and arrived at the rink. Once we were both wearing our skates, we started hobbling unsteadily together toward the ice. Hey, were we really supposed to walk on these spiky lengths of steel? How on earth were we to keep our balance? You’re out of practice, I told myself as I flailed about helplessly. Takes time to get used to it again.

I regained my equilibrium and finally we got to the ice. Thank goodness. Surely, with both feet on that cold, hard, shimmering sheen of white, it would all come back to me and I’d be zooming across in no time at all. But first, I was going to be the responsible adult and teach my young charge how to master the art.

“You bend your body forward, like this,” I said to my daughter, reminding myself to be authoritative but patient. “Then bend your knees just a little and slide your skates backward and forward at first. Like this.” I tried to demonstrate, but to my utter consternation, found myself clutching the guardrail, terrified of losing my balance.

Meanwhile, my daughter had lost interest in my initiation speech and was fascinatedly observing the other skaters flying across the ice, doing figure eights, twirling in one spot at dizzying speed.

And then, suddenly, she was off. I watched in amazement as she began gliding across the rink, just like that, fearless and adept, swinging her arms and bending her knees like a pro. I wanted to join her, but every time I let go, I grabbed hold of the guardrail again in a panic. This was all wrong. “I used to skate just like her,” I told a passing woman as I pointed to my daughter, feeling the need to share this information with someone. “Some 30 years ago.”

“Yeah, that’s how it goes,” she said with a hearty laugh. “We can’t do the things we once did.”

With a mixture of pride and humiliation, I spent the rest of our session watching my daughter skate skillfully, even asking her to give me some tips and gratefully accepting her generous offer to hold on to her hand as we tentatively moved along the ice.

When we got home, I showed my mother a clip of her granddaughter gliding gracefully, and told her with amusement about my dismal failure at reviving a long-lost art.

My mother didn’t find it so funny. “Yup, that’s how it goes,” she said pensively. “One day they’re holding your hand tightly, and the next day, you’re holding on to theirs for support.” As always, she was ahead of me in this game of life — now at the stage where she sometimes needed her daughter’s steady hand to keep her from stumbling. That remark was sobering… scary even.

But at the same time, there was some reassurance in it, too. For there we were, three generations of mothers and daughters, one hand extended toward the other, in an unbreakable link of giving, getting, and gliding forward in a sometimes cold and unsteady world.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 825)

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