Friday, January 23, 2004


I had the pleasure to go skating with Anna last weekend. My friend Brad took his son Ethan and the four of us went skating in Reston. Brad at least seemed to know what he was doing. I vaguely remember skating in some gym class twenty years ago, and thought I knew how. But I was very wrong. On the other hand, it was encouraging to see Anna skate better than her dad after little more than twenty minutes on the rink.

The rink was packed. There were lots of other little children trying to skate, and many would-be olympic athlete's swooshing around with grace and speed. Then there was us, a somewhat clumsy guy to start with, clutching to the edge of the ring and trying to keep a death grip on Anna, who just wants to skate out in the middle with all the cute little girls in stockings doing pirouettes.

"Anna, you need to hold on to my arm."

"I want to skate in the middle." Anna would take off skating. Her skates would clatter together and bounce against each other.

I start off after her and right away I feel like a cross between Jerry Louis and Chevy Chase. My ankles feel like they are on fire. My skates are clattering and flexing underneath me. Anna falls, suddenly. Wham! I try to help her up. She rises up and pushes away from me, trying to skate again. I grab her shoulder. She pushes away. Wham! And once more. The falls do not seem to faze her.

After seven or eight spills she takes a mean one. It didn't look any different from the others but she's crying now, and there is a crescent of red on her cheek, and a few drops of blood. I pick her up and somehow get her outside of the rink. It takes her about 90 seconds to recover. The blood isn't even dry on her cheek yet. I was hopeful that she had enough and maybe I could go home, and maybe read a book about ice-skating or something.

"Its okay sweetie, we don't have to go back out there if you don't want to."

She gets a look and then starts to cry. I'm thinking to myself, "uh-oh, she took this big spill and now she'll never want to go skating again. "But I WANT to go skating" Anna says, starting to whine.

"Sure! I mean, just as soon as you're ready we can go back out." I thought she might want to wait at least a minute or two. I didn't even get to finish my sentence, and we were heading back out.

As we skate I look around. I don't notice anyone else falling so much. Or falling at all. And no one here in the middle. The beginners are all like me, tenuous, careful, probing. But Anna keeps charging ahead, pulling away from me and falling, wham!, against the ice again and again. She's a tiger, that one. I was so proud of her.

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