The past couple of years, around this time, I find myself shopping for new roller blades for the kiddo…..and I always end up transported back in time, lost in my memories of my childhood. You see, my family was founded on 8 wheels. My grandparents met at a skating rink. They skated throughout their marriage, participated in skate clubs and ‘danced’ their way through life on wheels. They raised their children to do the same……and so on, and so forth.
Growing up, I used to joke that, while others went to church on Sunday mornings, our family went to a different type of chapel….it was called Rollerland. From the time I was 3 or 4, every Sunday morning, my sister and I would wake up and get dressed in our favorite skating skirts and leg warmers(it was the 70’s&80’s folks). My dad and his girlfriend would load us and our skates into the car for our weekend ritual. This happened every Sunday until I was in high school. Even afterward, my dad would still go to an adult skate night….and once I was 18, I would join him when I was home for visits.
It may not have actually been church, but like the community you find at church, it was our family, all moving in the same direction(literally)…..with one goal…..to preserve our traditions. Even as they aged, my grandparents still attended their rink regularly. Every Halloween, we would all get dressed up and head to Long Beach Skateland for a costume contest. Some of my favorite memories of my grandparents happened in that rink.
In 1995 my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was instructed to take it easy for the time she had left, but she insisted on skating. The last time I saw her, she was slowly skating around the rink. Once she got too sick to leave the house, she refused to allow us kids to see her. She didn’t want us to remember her as being sick. So my last mental image of her is in a place we both loved….on wheels.
When I married my first husband, my dad and I had our father/daughter dance and it felt wrong. It was the first time we had ever danced together without skates on. Later on, when Michael and I were planning our wedding, I remembered that feeling and I considered having our rehearsal dinner at a skating rink, just so my dad and I could skate. My dad is the one that convinced me that it wasn’t really considerate to the group of other people attending….just so I could skate with my dad. So we danced…..and it still felt wrong.
As I got older, I skated less…..and then not at all. When you have a kiddo with sensory issues that includes a vestibular dysfunction, which affects balance, it is not a fun activity. He always felt like he was missing out on family tradition when he had trouble skating. Then we moved to Georgia. CJ’s best friend, Megan (the bonus kid), was a skater and he decided to give it a try again. For some reason, roller skates just don’t work for him….but he found that he has much more control when wearing roller blades. So we returned to a life where skating exists.
One of the best parts about skating again was meeting the woman who owns the local rink. She was a competitive skater in the 60’s and actually knew the owners of Long Beach, where my grandparents skated. She, on occasion, would participate in their skate club. I was able to share with her, articles and pictures that I had from that rink. It was like rolling right back into the past for both of us.
I always love shopping for skates for the kiddo, it helps me remember how great this family tradition made my childhood. I don’t always remember family holidays. Having divorced parents, you don’t always have specific holiday traditions since where you are tends to change from year to year. The times I do remember, without fail, all happened inside a skating rink.