When it comes to good things happening for others, I’m just not the jealous type. I believe there is enough happiness and success to go around—and I enjoy rooting for people.
But, as a child, I do remember coveting one thing. Speed skates.
Growing up in a small town, it was not uncommon to spend one or two nights every weekend at the skating rink.
I was a pretty fast skater and rarely hesitated to step up to the line—when they paused whatever Rick James song they were playing—and announced racing heats. But try as I might, I never won my heat if it included kids from the Speed Skating Team.
I never considered—even for a second—that they were just faster. I knew in the deepest part of my gut that they won races because of one thing: Those Bad.To.The.Bone. speed skates.
The low profile ankle, the wide wheels, the low, flat stopper. Swoon.
I loved those types of skates with a fervor unmatched by anything under the sun. They not only looked incredible, but they were more stable than the high-sitting tan-colored abominations I rented from the desk—the jokes with the wheel bearings that hadn’t been lubricated for 91 years. The ones with the jacked up stoppers that were different heights from the right to the left—something a true speed skater would never accept.
Didn’t my parents know I needed proper gear to be a true speed skater? I guess not, because it wasn’t happening. They were expensive. And much to my surprise, we weren’t rolling in the dough.
I had no idea. My brother and sister and I thought we were rich. My parents provided for us in a way that left me confused about our wealth. But even at that, somehow, speed skates hadn’t made the list of immediate needs. Weirdly enough, soap and pork chops always came first.
Had my intense longing gone unnoticed? Had my older siblings’ oscillating interests schooled them to the temporary longings of my heart—training them to adeptly turn a blind eye to my yearning? I see no conceivable way they’d have had the foresight to know my living wouldn’t be made by speed skating.
I remember asking my mom if we could at least go look at some and price them out. I told her I’d never wanted anything more and could not fathom a complete existence apart from them.
Side Note: I can neither confirm nor deny that this was around the time I was voluntarily wearing ankle weights to meet my fitness goals. My attempts to build what I considered acceptable quad muscles for 12-yr old were, of course, thwarted by my supposedly-not-wealthy, see-into-the-future parents.
I felt I was being held back in my attempts to be more than the Saturday night limbo champ. Sure, I could limbo lower than anyone else at the skating rink. I’d hear people coo and squeal when I shrunk to the size of a baby panda on my way under the bar. But my expert limbo skills were simply a product of my size and natural ability to balance on 8 wheels. In my mind, it wasn’t a bonafide talent, so I didn’t deserve the accolades.
I wanted to race.
I wanted to run my bony little fingers along the rink as I went into the turn. I wanted to cross the finish line first and be going so fast that I could coast an entire victory lap without any effort, besides what it took to wave to my fans.
And even though I knew my full potential could not be realized in rented skates, I had to let my dream die. I entered fewer races, because I simply could not abide 2nd or 3rd place when it was no fault of my own. Occasionally I still raced just so the breeze could cool me off before the DJ announced “Couple Skate” and spun an intense Chicago love song.
My young boyfriend, Brandon West (same last name, but not related—it’s not that small of a town) would roll up to me with his hand out and I’d take a few laps with one eye on his sweet baby blues and one eye on his rad speed skates.
And as I belted out Hard Habit To Break in my head, it was unclear if I was thinking of Brandon or how to pick up the pieces of my wrecked speed skating dreams.
I already know my mom’s going to read this in Emmy-worthy mock-shock, feigning ignorance and swearing she had no clue about the depths of my obsession. She’ll say, “What? When was this? All you ever seemed to care about was snack money and the limbo! Sweetheart, if we’d only known, we’d have gotten them for you!” And to this, some (cough-cough) x-number of years later, I say, “Well-played, Mother, well-played.”
I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.