Every winter, I nestle them in a basket full of pine cones and branches. It creates a nice mix of nostalgia sitting on top of my old show box, and it’s also a good reminder of perseverance. Trimmed in red with the original shoe laces still in, my old, double-bladed ice skates are very special to me.
They were a Christmas present when I was in the fourth grade. The blades, although in need of sharpening, are still in good shape. I loved those skates when I was a kid. The two blades sit really close together, which means I could balance better than on the single-blade skates my cousins used when they came over to play on our frozen pond.
I could go faster, even attempt to leave the ice in some sort of made-up maneuver. In my mind, I was almost ready for the Olympics. But of course, I had a tremendous advantage being that I didn’t have to use the edges of the blades. I scooted along the ice like I knew what I was doing.
I loved feeling eloquent and graceful on those ice skates. I’m not so sure I looked that way, but I felt like I did.
I learned to skate backward. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to cross my legs over going forward or backward. I know now that the reason for that was because of the two blades. It was next to impossible to get tilted over enough — there was too much traction.
I didn’t know that maneuvering your body and feet to get the edges just right was the key to ice skating.
So my showoff fun in front of my cousins actually hindered my ability to skate properly.
Now, these skates didn’t make or break me. They actually fostered a lifelong love of ice skating, and they’re something I treasure. But they did keep me from learning how to skate the correct way.
They weren’t intended to be pre-Olympics training equipment. They were meant to be fun for a farm girl who wanted to skate around on the frozen pond. In my book, mission accomplished.
But when I was old enough to pay for lessons, I had to relearn how to skate. It was much harder, but I was determined. I practiced doing crossovers, or the position and movement of them, on the slick, linoleum kitchen floor when I wasn’t at the rink.
In time, I really did learn how to leave the ice and land gracefully. Thankfully, there came a time when the double-blade handicap was replaced by a single, narrow blade, which equaled perseverance and even more freedom.
The point is, maybe it’s time to take off the training wheels and the second blades of everything we’re teaching our children and grandchildren. So much is right at their fingertips. It’s not all bad with technology.
There are remarkable opportunities, advances and experiences available that are a direct result from how we are wired today — or wireless, for that matter! But it’s often at the expense of patience, long-suffering and learning to endure. Remove adversity, and you remove the opportunity to learn, grow, explore and triumph.
I am so thankful that I didn’t settle for a subpar existence in the realm of the double blade. I would have missed the eloquence of freedom in all that I have lived.
McClain writes from Greenwood.