“Do I have skates?”
Every parent has heard this question. Out of the blue, with little tethering to logic, you will be asked to think back in your child rearing Rolodex and know the exact location of baseball mitts, badminton racquets, combination locks and hockey pucks.
This can be a year after the last sighting of these things, or it can be a decade. Or more. Even if the child in question has moved out, you are still supposed to remain the repository for everything they accumulated in childhood and may one day require.
Ari, 22, and his buddies decided to go skating last week. I don’t know what precipitated it, only that all of a sudden Ari was tossing through years of skates in the garage and basement, like Goldilocks ransacking the Bears’ cottage. The boys spent a lot of time at an outdoor local rink near the house when they were younger but after its demise, they’d hung up their blades.
Jesse had been living out in Calgary and skating there; Ben plays hockey regularly; Emerson and Ari both had fond memories of skating prowess, if not exactly any recent evidence of it. They returned from their first rink excursion with a reality check firmly in place.
“You should have seen Emerson, it was so funny,” laughed Ari. “He can’t turn right!”
I told him it wasn’t fun to laugh at his friend, especially when you’re wearing a red plaid hat with ear flaps that makes you look like Elmer Fudd.
“We’d get going OK, then they blow the whistle to go the other way and Emerson couldn’t do it.”
“And you were amazing, I presume?” I asked him.
“No. I can’t stop. And turning left is awkward. We’re going back tonight,” he continued.
Ah, the tenacity of youth.
“So how do you stop?”
“By crashing into the boards,” he replied. “At one point, I was totally out of control and heading right for this dude, and all I could think to do was grab him in a big man-hug so I didn’t run him over. So I did that.”
“And what did he think of this?”
“He didn’t look amused,” admitted Ari. “But Emerson was going to land in this group of little kids. He grabbed the boards instead, but …”
By now Ari was laughing so hard, he couldn’t talk as he acted out Emerson flailing to avoid taking out innocents.
“Were the kids OK?” I asked.
“They were laughing at us. They’re like, this tall,” he said, gesturing to his waist, “and thought we were idiots. They could skate circles around us.”
They were back at it the next day, and the next. Taryn, Ari’s girlfriend, scooted to her Mom’s to find her skates, proving my theory yet again.
After the boys had been skating one afternoon, Ari and Taryn made plans to skate that evening when she got off work. She came home to get ready, and heard Jesse and Emerson pile into the front hallway. She looked at Ari.
“What? They wanted to come, too,” he said.
This is a group of kids that do almost everything together. I looked into the boys’ faces, and saw that Emerson just wanted to learn how to turn right, Ari just wanted to learn how to stop, and Jesse just wanted to laugh at both of them.
It took me a moment to understand why Taryn was sighing about the group date. She was envisioning a young couple skating gracefully holding hands instead of her boyfriend giving random strangers man-hugs and plowing down groups of fourth graders like so many bowling pins.
I reminded her that the Elmer Fudd look was already a bit of a romance killer.