Skating into the new year

Central Park, New York City, Winter: The Skati...
Central Park, New York City, Winter: The Skating Pond, 1862 by Currier and Ives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I took my daughter ice skating for the first time on the last day of 2013. I had not skated in twenty years. The skates were rented. The ice was man-made. It was warmer inside the colossal ice rink than it was outside. She felt the thrill and fear of sliding beyond her eight years on an unknown element, and I was transported back into the skill of gliding on the edge. Around and around we went, getting the feel of it, the fun worth the falling. I was a grad student, a teenager, a child skating on Miller’s Pond, a father guiding and comforting a child, light on my feet, going in circles, wanting to let loose and test myself against my past and all the younger skaters. And yet I held back, checked by my daughter’s need of me, the need to assume a duty. All that time is not a mirage, a delusion. I was not young again, no longer native and unattached. Another year was ending. But it all came back, the teetering grace, the slippery control of the slimmest friction deftly applied. The impossibility of teaching except by example and delight. And when we both decided we were done, we were lighter and happier, despite the bruises and ankle-soreness. Outside a light snow was falling; the whole world was cold and slippery but we were in our element– another winter, the risk of losing control while appearing (as father) in charge and confident steering the sliding car towards home. We had shared the ice and mastered it in our separate ways, not mastered but made peace with it. We had, as the poet said, attained “a mind of winter” as we skated down skateless the last few hours of bright darkness in an exhilarating cold. Time froze for my daughter and I, but not enough. We knew, at least, that ice would last, that we could go back anytime.

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