I got my first pair of wheels when I was maybe four. Fisher-Price skates. The adjustable kind that you put on over your shoes. Yep, that’s how I rolled as a 4-year-old. Well, technically, I clomped a lot more than I rolled, as the wheels were plastic and meant more for clomping, I suspect, than anything that would give a 4-year-old actual (noiseless) speed and mobility. I’m sure they were “training” skates or something.
With that first taste of un-padded freedom (no elbow pads, no knee pads, no helmet – complete freedom to clomp as I pleased), I wanted more. It wasn’t too long before I graduated to real skates. And skating rinks. And actual speed.
I remember when skating up and down (and up and down and up and…well, you get the idea) the driveway was the best.thing.ever. Every now and then, one of my friends would have a birthday party at the skating rink in town, and in the summers, the school daycare program I attended took weekly field trips there. Every week, the little skating rink DJ, who was probably some ancient 17-year-old with a summer job, would interrupt the flow of 80s pop/techno music to announce a skate race. I would line up on the starting line with my little daycare compadres and race flat out – with flair, even. I could do everything except skate backwards (never quite got that one figured out). I was most proud of being able to cross over my feet when turning corners on laps. Oh yeah, I thought I was some sort of Olympic speed skater – with rented roller skates. I did win several of those races, though.
Ah, skating rinks. I haven’t been in one in, what, two decades (sheesh). They used to be magical places. Oddly carpeted (shag carpet over every surface, even the walls, for people who only knew how to stop by smacking into the wall – you know who you are). And horrible techno-dance music, with occasional “couples only” (blah!) slow skates to some horrid ballad. And those rented skates – kind of like high-top bowling shoes with wheels. No telling what sweaty foot funk the last person who wore them had. Or the person 10 people before them. But that’s the grown-up me breaking through – as a kid, I’m sure I didn’t give it a second thought.
Yeah, this picture brings it all back. Not sure I’d want to do the whole rented skates thing again. Not without some heavy-duty disinfectant spray. *snort*
I remember being so envious of a friend of mine who practically lived at the skating rink. Every Friday at school she would brag about going to another all night skate. Come to think of it now, that place was probably a fantastic kid-sitter for the grandmother with whom she lived.
This was all before the days of Rollerblades. I did get a pair of those when I was in 8th grade, and I learned how to use them, but it just wasn’t the same. Never did get really good at Rollerblading, maybe because by then my family had moved out to the country and my choice of surfaces was the road in front of our house – lots of gravel and uneven-ness. Perfect for busting it.
*A* did a lot of roller skating when she was a kid – I recall a story about a broken arm from a driveway roller skating calamity. Turns out it’s not such a great idea to jump over the crack between the driveway and the garage floor, reach up to grab the strap attached to the overhead garage door (meant to aid you in pulling the door down), miss, and land smack on the concrete as opposed to on your feet. Lesson learned. I can safely say that these days, were I to persuade *A* to strap on a pair of non-rented skates, she wouldn’t think of such a thing.
I’m happy to announce that my old pal Fisher-Price is still making those “training” skates. They’re called “Grow With Me 1-2-3 Skates,” as they probably were called then. And they look pretty much the same. Too bad they don’t come in adult sizes – I’m not sure if roller skating is the same a riding a bike – I’m pretty sure I don’t have that much coordination any more – it would take a heck of a lot of practice. In non-rented skates.
Roller skating talent (in childhood, anyway) runs in the family and I’m sure I can teach our kids how to skate. My mom told me stories of her skates – they were sort of loosely similar to the Fisher-Price skates in that they were adjustable, but they were metal, with leather straps. And you needed a key. Why did you need a key? I don’t remember that part. I wish you still had those skates, Mom!
On a semi-related note, the old school skates are making a comeback – in an area I never would’ve imagined. Some of you might have seen a movie made in 2009 called Whip It, about a girl who joins a women’s roller derby team on the sly (her mom wants her to compete in beauty pageants, which she’s having none of). It stars Ellen Page (of Juno fame), whose skater name is “Ruthless” and the ever-frightening Juliette Lewis makes an appearance as “Iron Maven,” one of her tough-lady teammates. (Why does Juliette Lewis do those scary roles so well?!) Check out the trailer here. Prior to the movie, I wasn’t all that familiar with the concept of a roller derby, and when we found out a few years after we moved to North Carolina that the school where we had both finished our Master’s degrees had a roller derby team, we had to check it out. They’re called the Appalachian Rollergirls.
We’ve only managed to make it to one of their bouts, and for the half-hour or hour (I don’t remember how long it took) it lasted, I was totally confused. I have no handle on the scoring. But it was pretty fun to watch. Kind of like watching women playing field hockey. Terrifying. Brutal. Elbows flying. Lots of shoving. Body-sized bruises. No idea what they were actually doing, but I was fascinated. And I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t want to have a run in with any of these “girls” in a dark alley on the wrong side of town. On the right side of town, come to that.
They are admirable skaters – really good, and fast. With flair. Not just their skating styles – they do the foot-crossover thing super well, all of them. And they all skate backwards. No carpeted walls needed here. No, their flair extends to their attire as well – there’s apparently a certain element of kitsch that accompanies roller derbies – lots of outlandishly colored spandex, super-short 1978-style shorts over said spandex, and I know I saw some fishnets and one or two tutus?! It just adds to the fun, as do their awesome nicknames – Appalachian Rollergirls has a Rolly Cannoli (she moonlights as a server at a local Italian restaurant) who throws out little cannoli in a ziploc bag to screaming fans at each bout. Apparently the whole roller derby thing is becoming quite popular again – there are teams all over the Southeastern U.S. I had no idea of the history of this whole thing. Must do some research.
Maybe we’ll have a roller derby kid one day. I’m sure I’ll be terrified about the viciousness of the whole thing, but we’ll start early. Me, the kid, and Fisher-Price. And lots of padding (for both of us).
Wanna see the Appalachian Rollergirls in action?
Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theamericanroadside/5230026180/; http://www.etsy.com/transaction/127319144; http://sagecharterschoolabq.org/roller-skating-party-11192013/; http://www.highcountrypress.com/weekly/2011/04-14-11/appalachian-rollergirls-kick-off.htm