Thou Shalt Not Covet

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.

heaven on wheels

heaven on wheels

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.

look at this disaster

look at this disaster

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.

Do you know how many races I’d have won in these? Spoiler alert: ALL OF THEM.

Do you know how many races I’d have won in these? Spoiler alert: ALL OF THEM.

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.

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29 thoughts on “Thou Shalt Not Covet

  1. I coveted a skateboard when I was 12 but my Dad, the recycle king before it was cool, built me one out of wood leftover from our deck and old rollerskate wheels. I went down the driveway once. I’m sure I could have been something if I only had the proper equipment.

    • Crazy to me how adults weren’t clicking in on “PROPER EQUIPMENT” … how were we to excel and become an X-Gamer with makeshift and/or faulty gear? HUH?? Thx for reading!

  2. In kindergarten, I invited my “girlfriend” Kerri Something-or-other (whose attentions I obtained through sheer bribery) to a church skating outing. Then I sat in the snack bar shoving crap down my throat while she whizzed around the rink with other people she knew because I had not, in my young mind, made the connection between asking someone to go skating with you and knowing how to skate. And thus began my ongoing relationship with skating and skating rinks…

  3. YES – can’t tell you how happy I am that the ankle weights made an appearance (albeit, a small one). And though I wasn’t on skates, I won my fair share of limbo contests during the Bar Mitzvah Party circuit circa 1993. Shall we compete?? 🙂

  4. Once again Anna, you take me back to some of the best memories of childhood. I know you didn’t name names, but I feel certain you were referring to a couple of red headed racing sisters! Man could they tear up the rink! They made even me want to have those heavenly speed skates.

    Good stuff! Keep em coming.

    • Jana! Love taking you back to our great childhood 🙂 The Browns? Something else, huh? HOWEVER … proper gear for Anna Banana and Jana Banana? Watch out y’all.

  5. You poor poor baby. If I had only known. There, I got the apology out of the way. Now – let’s rectify the situation. I will buy you a pair of speed skates for your next birthday (if I don’t forget). By the way, is the limbo what taught you how to “stoop so low” in your quest to remember things in a “slightly” more dramatic light than how I remember them? Just wonderin’.
    Funny, funny, funny. You make me happy, happy, happy.

    • Your apology feels flimsy. It’s almost like you don’t remember or believe me … which I find peculiar, to say the least. I bet your ears perked up at the mention of pork chops though, since those were always in stock, while my speed skates (and future) hung in the balance. Just so you know … I’m BARELY over all this. And also, I wear 7.5.

  6. Ok. I’m not completely denying that we didn’t get you speed skates, but I have a vague memory of ordering skates from Mr. Robertson (?), owner of the skating rink. What was that about? I feel bad smiling and even laughing over your 12 year old angst, but it’s just funny! Your fingers along the rail as you raced? Who remembers such things?

    • Yes, we did go meet with him to look at WHAT I THOUGHT were speed skates. I even got to touch them and hold them in my lap … but they were pricey (as if you can put a price on someone’s dreams) and we (you) decided rentals would just have to do. In your defense, you probably took me to Taco Villa after that and I loved you for it 🙂

  7. Ah memories!! I’m laughing and nodding as I read this! Two words: Roller Dome. That was the name of the beloved rink my friends and I frequented almost every Friday as kids. There was a certain pair of rental skates that were my fave and when they were already checked out by the time I arrived, the night was RUINED! /drama. It was serious business. I didn’t even want to couple skate with cute Danny Raymond without them. Tragic!

    • Snap, T. I’d have DIED if ours was called “Roller Dome” … are you kidding me? That’s so boss 🙂 Really beats “Circle Roller Rink”. Yeah, you heard me. Did you ever try to find the person wearing your fave skates and ask how long they planned on staying? lol

  8. Haha! Hard Habit to Break!
    This was brilliant. Who among us didn’t have their dreams dashed because their parents weren’t willing to fork over the dough for something other than sub-par equipment. I’m older than you, probably, and I do remember those Saturdays at the old high school gym, skating around and thinking I was all that. I never got anything other than the clip on, adjustable skates with the key! rentals were a notch better, but the speed skates, those were what dreams were made of.
    Great post, Anna.
    PS- my parents still pull the same act of appearing completely ignorant. Actually, maybe it’s not an act?

    • Oh no! Clip-ons? My heart just broke for you, but I’m also laughing:) Did they even have stoppers? Wow, I guess I had it pretty good. LOL, thank you for your sweet words!

  9. For me it was a ventriloquist dummy. Yes, that’s right, I said it. Every year, I would circle the God-forsaken dummy in the JC Penny Christmas Catalog and every Christmas morning excitement was feigned over less than stellar gifts. The real dagger to the heart for me, however, was when I was in high school and my mother gave my younger cousin the EXACT SAME dummy as a part of our Christmas gift exchange. I could barely believe my eyes. My mother’s only response of, “What? She really wanted it” left my heart aching at the thought that she had never even referenced the catalog I so diligently canvased each year. I may never forgive her for this.

    • Ohhh, I believe you. I went through that same ventriloquist dummy phase! In fact, I wrote about it a bit in the post called “Time To Rhyme” 🙂

      Can’t believe your mom didn’t clue in on your earmarking of it in the JCP catalog! Poor thing! 🙂

  10. I can hear Chicago playing right now, the disco ball going, the poor kids’ crappy brown skates with frayed laces and dried bubble gum on their orange wheels as they hit the wooden floor. And sitting at the rink curb, watching the boys during the speed skate races, the fastest in his short black speed skates. Oh, I know coveting. How can anyone be expected to make those turns quickly during a Ratt song, if you’re burdened with the shoe of the plebeians and commoners?

  11. Please tell me you weren’t one of the girls that did limbo while doing the splits, grabbing your ankles. If so, your sister and I were sitting on the side making fun of you. Because hanging out by the foosball table was WAY more cool.

  12. Pingback: Dear Diary, I Get Around | Anna Lea West

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