I have been to countless arenas, bringing children to skating lessons, hockey practices and games. I even made a career of being in an arena. One thing I hadn’t done, though, was actually get on the ice and skate. I figured skating was something you learned young. Since I missed that window of opportunity, it is definitely too late for me to learn now, right?
But then a friend of mine wanted to take skating lessons and asked me to join with her. I am still foggy on the specifics, but somehow it seems I agreed. Apparently, feeling pretty brave that day, I signed up with her and promptly forgot about it.
Yesterday morning I received a text from her: “Today is our first skating lesson.”
Oh no. I immediately started to worry; I’m not ready for this! In fact, I had already lent my crutches to a co-worker. What would I do after I broke all my bones on the ice?
I tried not to think about it, or I would chicken out. I just drove to the arena, knowing my 12-year-old’s hockey bag was in the back. When I got to Canlan, I got out his skates and helmet. I tried on the helmet. It was too small. “Phew!” I told myself. “You should just leave now. There is nothing to be done about a helmet which is too small.” But, no, I didn’t take that opportunity to run. Instead I went into the Canlan Sports Shop to see Tomm, and we made adjustments to the helmet.
I went back to the lobby and lined up to check in at the table. That was pretty painless. I used an iPad to sign a waiver. (I could have completed it online beforehand, but that could have given me more time to chicken out before heading onto the ice!) The attendants gave me a free pass for Canlan Drop-In programs. I laughed: as if I would actually be able to come to Drop-In Programs while in traction! Thanks, guys.
Being in the dressing room and tying skates was a breeze—that I’ve done a million times! Actually using the skates, though? That’d be the challenge. I took it slow—tiny steps, two inches at a time—holding on to anything I could. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it through this. Surely, I would fall, or just give up. “This is how it starts,” I thought. I took lots of breaks, hoping there’d be a chance to sit and rest. “Why did you agree to this?” I asked myself.
At last, the steps started to come a bit more easily; my confidence began to rise! Finally, I made it to the Player's bench!
On the bench, I met my classmates: other adults who’d made similar questionable life choices (like learning to skate at 40 years old). Some were having issues with their shiny new helmets; others didn’t know how to tie their skates correctly. These were things I did know, and I was happy to lend a hand. As I helped them, I started to feel better about my predicament. I wasn’t alone, I thought to myself. I’ll see some familiar faces in the emergency room, at least.
After the Zamboni was done, the instructor came over invited us all out onto the ice. I took my first step onto the ice. Slippery! I couldn’t let go of the boards; I was certain there was no way I was going to be able to stand on my own. Eventually, though, I did decide to let go—just for a split second—and I didn’t fall! This was amazing! I was skating! (Well, I was standing in a funny knees-bent position with my hands hovering an inch above the boards, anyway.) This is how all past Olympians started, I thought. My classmates and instructor all told me I was doing great. Naturally, I decided I could reward myself with a little rest on the bench. And so it went on like this for the first 15-20 minutes of class: I would go out onto the ice, hold on for dear life, then let go for a second, then head back to the bench. Eventually I worked up enough courage to follow some of my classmates down the side of the ice and back, holding onto the boards the whole way. Each time I went back on the ice, I felt a little more confident. My teacher, Coach Erin, got me a skate aid so I could venture out into the middle of the ice. This was a game changer! By the end of class I could skate fast, slow, kind of stop, and sort of turn and spin. I was whipping around the ice! Toronto Maple Leafs, here I come!
I cannot wait for next week! As I was leaving Coach Erin stopped me. I was sure she was going to tell me I was the best student she had ever had, and she was so impressed at how well I did. “Next week you will need to let go of the skate aid,” she said. Oh no, I thought. I will make sure I bring my crutches with me!