Safety Is No Accident

Some time ago, we unwrapped the many ways I felt blessed to still be alive—despite my parents’ lackluster effort on that front. Yes, they loved us and fed us and didn’t allow us to drink arsenic, but I think we can all agree there was some iffy judgment on their parts when it came to trampolines, nunchucks and furnace safety.

floorfurnace

We had a floor furnace similar to this. We three kids would sit around the firey-hot metal grates to warm up. It was so hot that if you stood on it, grate lines would melt into the soles of your shoes. So let me repeat, we’d sit around it in our non-flame retardant pajamas to get warm. Didn’t my parents ever worry that “warming up” would escalate into “catching fire?”

furnacefire

My imagination is overly vivid at times, but this is actually how I remember it.

Side Note: When the blazing fire pilot light would go out, I’d watch—in absolute horror—as my dad descended into the bowels of hell to re-ignite it. I was forever certain he would get blown up, and we’d be left with no Daddy and no heat.

As an adult, I can get around my parents “letting some things go,” but it’s harder to understand why our very schools and city parks were so negligent.

Times have changed in a major way. What use to pass muster—playgrounds, p.e. activities, safety measures—is somewhat mind-blowing.

Shall we head down that road?

Remember these scary-go-rounds?

merrygo

If not, let me tell you how these worked. A few kids would hop on, while a few other kids grabbed a led-poisoned pole, and ran in a circle until they reached top speeds. Once maximum speeds were attained, the runners could do one of two things.

They could either let go and watch the ensuing melee, or they could hoist themselves up to enjoy the ride. Unfortunately, a third option sometimes presented itself. Once in a while, a runner wouldn’t be able to let go, and he’d end up losing his footing and getting drug through gravel—and if he was extremely unlucky, a limb or two would get stuck under the death trap.

As for the gullible crew riding the giant sit-n-spin—well, their outcomes also ran the gamut. Generally, one or more kids would lose their grip and fly off (and I mean FLY.) The ones who were able to successfully battle inertia were either throwing up or getting pelted with other kids’ saliva and tears.

Thanks City.

Remember climbing ropes in p.e. class?

ropes

Well aren’t those images just adorable. A spotter? A mat? Assistance knots? A harness? Not one depiction in these lying images rings a bell in my mind.

I remember hardwood floors, a 40-foot rope and a lot of yelling. I do not remember being told what to do if I did made it to the top of the building to ring the bell. I do not remember any warnings about the ensuing rope burn caused by descending it like a fire pole. I do remember logging the memory in the category, “The moment I realized my childhood was over.”

Does this red rubber ball bring back memories? This was the kind of weapon we used in dodge ball.

dodge6

Cut to today’s cozy foam ones. You can pinch off pieces of these. The red rubber ones pinched off pieces of you.

Are you kidding me? I'd use that for a pillow.

Are you kidding me? I’d use that for a pillow.

This is how the boys looked when they took aim at you. In all fairness, it’s how I looked, too. I flat-out loved dodge ball and lived for days we got to play.

dodgeballthrowing

I’m not even sure it’s played in school anymore. If it is, I’d bet the farm the rules have changed. I’m quite certain there’s a heavy penalty for throwing today’s soft foam balls at an opponent’s face. You know what happened when you hit someone in the face when I was young?

They were out.

metalslide3

Some of you may be looking at this like it’s a photoshopped joke—saying, “I’ve never seen a slide that’s not red or yellow chunky plastic.”

When I was young, the slides did one thing all day—roasted themselves in the baking hot sun.

They were dangerously hot. They were also not regularly inspected. Some of them would have a split in the hand rails, which meant that if you were a nervous newbie—who slid down holding the sides—you could very easily end up with a laceration between your thumb and forefinger.

Yeah, too bad for you—they were painted with a color called “Tetanus Grey.”

You also had a pretty big decision to make, once at the top—and once you verified the surface temps of 150. If you pulled your knees up to your chin—to keep your calves and hammies from suffering second degree burns—you would descend at rates a 4th grader can’t successfully negotiate. Your landing would range from heroic, to one where your friends assessed your dislocated bone situation.

These teeter-totters—or see-saws, depending on where you grew up—look fairly harmless, right?

teetertotter

Well they are, if two well-intentioned, equally weighted kids play on them. Anything short of that left one or more participants nursing an injury. We used to add people to one end, if the other end had a “sturdy” occupant. I’m sure that would be grounds for juvie these days.

“She, she, she said she needed to add at least a first grader to her end so our weight would be even! She basically called me fat! Suspend her!”

Back then, evening out the ends was just basic street smarts. No harm, no foul.

We’d ride up and down forever—talking and laughing. These were good times with good teeter-totter friends. There were also some bad times, with bad teeter-totter friends-turned-foes.

About the meanest thing you could do to a partner was get to the bottom and jump off. It would send the high person crashing dramatically to the ground.

Juvie for that, too? Please. It wasn’t even worth mentioning to a parent, much less a teacher. It would be like saying, “Sara said she doesn’t like my shirt!” … “Yeah? And? Get back to your desk, you little snitch.”

scooter

Anyone remember these little gems? Was there anything better on God’s green earth than scooter-relay day?

Yes. Three things.

  1. Days when you didn’t get your baby fingers run over by Angie Brown’s scooter.
  2. Days when you didn’t get overzealous in your attempt to swim your arms faster, faster, faster—and catapult yourself chin-first into the germ-laden gym floor.
  3. Days when you didn’t get kicked in the teeth by Rodney Wheeless, who always took wide and wild left turns.

scooterracescooter2

How about tetherball? We spent countless hours on this fun, yet ill-conceived game. The chances of it going well were next to nil. You’d literally spike the ball, with all your might, directly toward your close opponent. Yes, the intent was to pass her head and wrap the ball around the pole—but more times than not, her timing had yet to develop, and she’d end up getting tattooed with the unnaturally hard tetherball.

tether_ball

Did any school officials ever consider that some little nugget might actually get the rope wrapped around his nugget head and choke to death? Doubtful.

Did you ever play on these guys? We did “cherry drops” from them.

monkeybars

We’d hang from our knees and start a swinging motion. We’d work back and forth until we were swinging high enough to let go and stick our landing. There was a 50% chance we’d land on our feet. There was a 100% chance our bars weren’t on a grassy playground—but on a concrete floor in the gym.

We were never once told to stop doing cherry drops.

grrr

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m so thankful I grew up when I did. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite the “dangers” and “life-threatening situations” and “abject negligence,” I feel like one of the blessed ones.

I love that back then, we were allowed to play, explore and simply figure things out. I also love that it was permissible to nail people in the face with red rubber balls. I could use more of that.

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Old School Parenting Prowess

My parents were extraordinary. They still are.

They were ahead of their time in so many ways.

Sure, we sat—or stood—anywhere in the car we wanted, but whatever, they got so many things right. They got them right without the luxury or convenience of the internet and a million how-tos at their fingertips.

1. My mom didn’t need an army of mommy bloggers to figure it out.

My mom stayed at home with all three of us—before going back to get her college degree and embark on a 25-year teaching career—without blogging about it or reading blogs about it. GASP! How did she make it through the school drop-off line or traverse the competitive world of child-rearing without the virtual company of 8 trillion mommy bloggers by her side? How did any of our milestones mean anything when they couldn’t be shared on Instagram or posted on Facebook? We’ll never know. But she did it like a B.O.S.S.

hairflip

2. They believed in lessons.

We got dropped off at the skating rink on weekend nights and picked up at midnight. One time when I was around 10 or 11, I had my brand new Nike kicks stolen from my locker. They were gone, period. End of story. Yes, my mom felt bad for me, but again they were gone. It sucked, but to my parents, the theft didn’t equate to a replacement pair, it equated to me learning to be more vigilant about prized possessions. You better believe I started double-checking the padlock after that.

Yes, my Nikes are gone, people.

Yes, Emma—MY NIKES ARE GONE.

3. My mom ROCKED nightly home-cooked meals—for well over a decade.

We also ate dinner at home every night. Yes, up until high school, the five of us ate my mom’s home-cooked meals, around the kitchen table, every night. I can’t imagine how she pulled it off—that many meals, that many years—but she did. I’m sure one thing that made it possible was that she (logically) cooked one meal, and we ate it. Up until my freshman year, I have only a few memories of dinner anywhere but our kitchen table. I also have next-to-no memories of bumming out over the meal put in front of me.

It was also really, REALLY good.

It was also really, REALLY good.

Well, there was that one night when my dad was exceptionally cranky and put down the edict that he was “the father of this family” and he’d “by-damn get the piece of fried chicken” he wanted. I believe it was a thigh, which now makes me wonder what the fuss was about. Who was putting up a fight over a thigh? It was super fine by me. We also always had a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s bread on the table—a far stretch from the artisan breads of today, but I loved it. My favorite thing (after watching my dad do this) was capping off supper with a scoop of mashed potatoes in a single folded up slice of bread—a mashed potato sandwich dessert if you will. Heaven!

Now, at restaurants, when the waiter says, “Did you save room for dessert? Maybe some flan or a sopapilla or cheesecake?” I’m just thinking, “Please say mashed potato sandwich, please say mashed potato sandwich.” I’m still waiting on that offering.

Side Note: My dad and I used to love to eat gross things, too. Pickled pigs feet, sardines in the can—we relished every moment of grossing out those around us. We still do.

Another Side Note That Deserves Its Own Post: My mom is the world’s best cook. This is not up for discussion. I’d pick one of her home-cooked meals over any food, any where. I got my love of cooking from her, and I consider it one of the greatest gifts.

And with food. Lots of food.

And with food. Lots of food.

4. They took responsibility for teaching us about God.

We didn’t really grow up in church, we sorta just had church at home. As kids of praying, steadfast believing parents, we learned all the important things that we still hold dear today.

But one awful night (I don’t remember what led to this), my parents told me—what I considered at the time—a huge lie. They said I should always put God before them, and … wait for the shocking news … love God more than I loved them. I felt like someone slapped me across my precious face. I’d never been so upset with them.

This emoji best depicts my emotion on that dark day.

This emoji best depicts my emotion on that dark day.

As a little kid whose life still revolved around her parents, this made ZERO sense to me, and I wanted NO PART of it—not because I didn’t love God (I so did), but because my parents were my world. I devised a plan to disobey them, because it was simply something I could. not. would. not. do. I knew in my heart they’d gotten it all wrong. I almost felt bad for their misinterpretation of God’s will.

ALMOST—I was too disappointed in their careless mandate to empathize with them.

I knew that the God I trusted would never want to me to love Him more than my parents, so I decided I’d go along with them outwardly, nodding like it made perfect sense, but continue loving them #1 in my heart.

Fortunately, nothing bad came from my disobedience, and no one ever tested me. In my head, my defiance looked like this: choosing teams for dodge ball and picking my mom and dad over God—and then immediately getting struck in the head with lightning and my gravestone reading, “You picked the wrong rule to break.”

Side Note: I, of course, understand all of this now—but as a very little kid, I was appalled by my blasphemous, lying parents. I even remember where we were standing when they told me the lies. I also remember throwing myself face down on my pillow to cry it out—vowing in my heart I’d never love anyone more than my parents. This was, of course, before I laid eyes on Ricky Schroder.

I’d now like to lighten the mood by telling you that on our summer vacations, they’d make us virgin Tom Collins.

wiigswivel

5. We had wonderful traditions.

Speaking of vacations (and life in general), my mom was, and still is, the best of the best at creating traditions for our family. Her fingerprint is on everything that is real and wonderful about my family.

One of my favorite traditions growing up was our summer vacation down to Corpus Christi. The five of us would road trip (although when I was little, that didn’t have a name—it was just how you traveled) to Corpus. We’d leave in the wee hours of the morning and the kiddos would sleep in the car—all over the car. Floorboard, back window, across our parents laps. They probably would’ve let us sleep in the trunk if we’d asked. I doubt it, but I have nothing to base that doubt on.

Here was where the swoon came in. We’d start stirring in the late morning and wake up so happy when we saw we were well on our way—and then the realization that we were hungry would kick in, and we’d all start looking for a river bank or cool area for our lunch spot. My mom would break out the cooler of cold fried chicken, cheese, bread, pickles and bottled Coke. Nothing has EVER tasted so good in my life.

Then we’d crawl back into the car and play with our handheld games.

autobingo1

Side Note: I’m not gonna get on a soapbox about everything today’s kids “need” to “survive” a road trip—or the monsters we’re creating—I’m just going to say that I’m thankful beyond thankful that I grew up when I did, and learned how to entertain myself and just be happily alone in my thoughts.

We’d drive and drive, listening to The Beatles. We had a stack of 8-tracks in heavy rotation and it was pure bliss. No, I never did understand some of their lyrics (why is he a walrus? why is Lucy in the sky? Why’d Joe Joe think he was a woman?) but I never once tired of the music we grew up with.

Everything about our summer vacations to Corpus has stayed with me. The music, the stops for beef jerky and pickles, feeding the seagulls, looking for “butterfly” seashells to present to my mom as my promise of everlasting love.

I love you, Moma <3

I love you, Moma ❤

6. My dad guided us early and swiftly.

Me: Bye!
Daddy: Bye.
Me: See ya later, alligator!
Daddy: See ya later, alligator.
Me: After a while, crocodile!
Daddy: After a while crocodile.
Me: Soon, raccoon!
Daddy: No, Ma’am. I don’t want you saying that.
Me: Why?!
Daddy: Because it could be construed as racist slang and I won’t have you saying it. Alligators and crocodiles are plenty enough.

And that was that. I didn’t fully understand until he explained it further; but I knew not to ever say it again and knew why.

7. Their worth wasn’t tied to my athletic performance.

From the moment I set my eyes on the game of basketball, I was hooked. And one second after that realization, my parents found a way for it to be part of my life. They got me an outdoor hoop and they made arrangements for us to go play at a nearby community college gym.

I played all the time—every day and night, I shot baskets and played. That was all wonderful, but when they were truly ahead of their time was when I was on real teams. Never once, EVER, in a zillion games, did they ever show anger or disappointment in me. They were not those parents. This wasn’t as surprising coming from my mom—I think moms are naturally nurturing—but it was definitely more uncommon for dads to show nothing but support. And my dad was not a sugar-coating kind of guy. He was a “call it what it is” man. Yet, there he was, game after game with his arm around me—and a proud look on his face.

I have memory after memory of nothing but love and comfort after games, while nearby, I could hear snippets from disgusted, disappointed, furious parents railing on their kid. Don’t get me wrong, mine didn’t celebrate poor performances by any stretch—they just opted (way ahead of their time) to not take that route with me. Maybe it was because they knew I was extremely hard on myself and needed ZERO assistance in that department—I don’t know—but not ONCE? Not one chewing out session? Pretty impressive. I do know their worth wasn’t tied to my performance or success like seems to be the case so often these days … and that right there also puts them well ahead of their time.

No one but me can really know what their support did for me, or how it molded me—but it was a true and lasting gift. I can only imagine the damaging effect the opposite type of behavior has on kids. I’m glad I don’t know this firsthand.

nothankyou

8. They couldn’t care less about attachment parenting.

My parents gave us the perfect amount of “attachment parenting” vs. “cry-it-out.” In fact, one time I got my whole foot stuck in my bike spokes and my dad not only did NOT comfort me, but he was actually pretty mad about whatever carelessness led to my ankle being wrapped up in my wheel.

We consistently took off on our bikes, never to return until dusk—riding on hills and through terrain not cleared for children on Huffy bikes.

I have memories of taking off on foot or on the back of a bike of neighborhood friends and not seeing my parents for hours on end. Maybe whole days would pass—who knows?! I’m sure that’s wrong, but maybe my dad was OK with some suspect overnights if it meant peacefully getting the piece of chicken he wanted after a hard day at work?

9. They accepted life and its (occasional) unfair outcomes with grace.

In my preteen years, I used to compete in these “Hoop Shoot” contests. We’d basically shoot 25 free throws, within age brackets, and the winner would move on to sectionals, regionals and state. I won a lot of them and collected lots of cool trophies. People made a big deal about it because I was quite a little nugget and shot a men’s basketball (not the women’s size they have today) … and I was one of very few who actually shot it correctly, and not a granny shot.

Side Note: I was wholly unamused by the kids shooting granny shots. I cringed for them and wanted to point out how utterly embarrassing it was to be a nine-year old, still acting like a toddler. Come on—shoot the dang ball or go home and play with Barbie and Ken.

Anyway, one year I won the round that would take me to the big regional shootout—but found out a short while later, that I’d been placed in the wrong age bracket. I was disqualified. Nothing could be done. There were no do-overs or shuffling of winners.

While my parents and I were incredulous as we discussed the situation—and as it sunk in that it was just over for the year—no one threw a fit. I felt extremely disappointed, but nothing beyond that crossed my mind. My parents didn’t come unglued or “demand” anything of the sponsor. We all just kind of accepted the suckage of the situation.

They didn’t take me to Disneyland, in place of State, to soothe my disappointment. I might have gotten a Slurpee, but that was about it. What did happen was I kept practicing and I made it to State the following year. They even flew my whole family to the shootout in Austin.

suethem

10. They were the parents.

When we were growing up, directives like, “clean up your room,” “be home by dusk,” “put on your shoes” weren’t suggestions. They were orders that we obeyed, and when we didn’t, there were consequences. When we refused to do as we were told, there wasn’t some absurd discussion about it, like, “Why didn’t you mind me? Annnnnnna, didn’t I tell you to get dressed? Why didn’t you get dressed? Why are you disobeying me? Sigh, okay, go play.”

Oh. Hell. No. We didn’t engage in the bargaining and negotiating that’s so prevalent today. There was a very distinct line between the parents and kids—not the excruciatingly blurred lines of today. THANK GOODNESS.

And yes, we were spanked. With a hand, with a belt, with a ping-pong paddle and quite embarrassingly, with a flip-flop outside of Dairy Queen … for my “smart alec mouth.” So here’s the thing, we weren’t perfect kids. We absolutely disobeyed—but there were consequences for it.

If I got a lick at school, I got a lick at home. I didn’t get my mom rushing up to the school to question why I got in trouble for what I did—I just got in double trouble at home. This was a known and understood rule among pretty much all the kids we were in school with. And the truth is, I only got one lick during my school years, and it was for something quite benign … I ran from the back of the classroom to my seat in the front. But guess what? I got a lick and then got spanked at home.

And I didn’t run in class again.

True story—with each passing day, I’m more and more blown away by the job my parents did raising us. I read so many articles and blog posts about parenting and I just marvel at the fact that they did it without much help at all. I love that fact that they were ahead of their time in so many ways—and I hope, hope, hope we were fun kids to raise. I know I was pretty easy, because, as the third child, I put myself down for naps and changed my own diapers—but that’s a story for another day.

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My Missing Gene

I don’t have the gene that makes me enjoy feeling scared.

My sister used to call me a titty-baby. On one hand, it’s one of the more hysterical names a person can be called—if you really think about it (and its possible origin). It’s also wholly inaccurate in this instance, because I wasn’t even nursed, so she jumped off from a faulty premise.

Now that she has a child and watches her filthy mouth, she calls me a fraid’y cat (probably a cuter version of scared’y cat). I accept both of these, even though I consider myself more in the precious puppy family than finicky cat family.

Regardless, what some call being a chicken, I just call being logical. Why on Earth would I knowingly scare myself? What do I gain from being startled, afraid or on edge?

No, sorry, I do not enjoy roller coasters. I don’t like the wretched anticipation I feel when I’m suffering through the long lines, only to climb into a bucket of death. I’d rather be doing just about anything else—picking weeds, fixing wifi issues, trying to understand a customer service rep.

titan um no

And I really … I mean REALLY … hate the click-click-click sound and feeling as the carts hitch themselves up the hill of horror. With every click, a new and exotic cuss word pops into my brain until I’ve strung together whole sentences of nothing but colorful language that would offend a sailor.

Along with that, I’m just thinking, “Why, why, why am I here doing this to myself? I hate this thing, I hate this place, I hate pedicures that hurt, I hate hearing 911 calls, I hate it when grown people say tush, I hate it when someone answers only 1 of my 3 questions in an email, I hate it when companies spell their name with a K when it should be a C.”

So yeah, I don’t enjoy roller coasters. I don’t actively seek out ways to feel frightened. I’ve been on many and will probably have to be on a few more during my life, but I won’t like it and it won’t be my idea. I’m not scared I’ll get injured or fall to my death—I just simply don’t enjoy feeling scared when I don’t have to.

I guess that’s why I don’t watch many, if any, scary movies. I don’t mind something that’s psychologically thrilling, but if a film is categorized as a horror movie or has possessed beings or shadows holding machetes, I’ll pass. I just have no desire to throw away two good hours actively terrifying myself and knowingly facilitating bad dreams.

I know I’m not the norm. I realize many people love all things scary. I’ve just decided I’m missing that thrill gene.

Side Note: In my opinion, it’s one of the better genes to be missing. About the only one I’d swap it out for is the one where I don’t hear all the horrific noises people make when they eat … or jingle their change, or tap their pencil repetitively, or type really loud like they’re doing a drum solo on their keyboard, or crackle their water bottle, or eat anything in the nut/carrot/apple family at work, or breathe. Oh dear, I just realized this could be its own blog post—it’ll be called “Misophonia and My Untimely Demise.”

Sometimes when I’m watching Amazing Race, one of the contestants will say, “Oh! Bungee jumping! I’ve always wanted to!” This, along with, “Which heels go with this dress?” are two things you’ll probably never hear me say. It has to be a gene that makes a person want to climb really high off safe ground, get harnessed up and plunge to possible death/certain whiplash. Yes, odds are that you’ll survive and have an adrenaline rush, but is it worth the risk?

scurred

I’m not saying these people are crazy, I’m just saying I don’t understand the appeal of putting your life in peril. It’s gotta be a DNA thing.

An adrenaline rush is no more appealing to me than, say, a delicious sandwich. I mean, it’s good, but I won’t risk heart palps or my life to get it.

Leaving work last week, I was overzealous in my descent of the stairs—and missed one. Thankfully, I landed safely on the next step; but, not before my life flashed before my eyes—and that was enough of a scare to last me a solid six months. Would an adrenaline addict think, “Whoa, Dude! I’m totally doing that again tomorrow!”?

They say that “perceived danger” is what draws adrenaline junkies to skydiving, haunted houses, swimming with sharks and driving at high speeds. But here is the thing—I perceive danger on a much smaller scale—like trying a new sushi roll, using a public toilet or skipping my daily multivitamin.

I’ve also heard that the aftereffects—the sense of relief knowing you’re safe—is the appealing part of being scared. But what I enjoy is already being safe … without a harness or helmet.

A person with the thrill gene might say, “I just feel so alive afterwards!” But I can eat a great meal, or take a hot shower, or put on a stellar concert in my car and feel alive. Actually, sometimes creating a really solid Excel document does the trick.

Truthfully, I love excitement and spontaneity. I even love things that could be dangerous if not handled responsibly—4 wheelers, snowmobiles, zip lines, rattlesnake roundups—I’m just not going to risk my life for an adrenaline rush or consciously create a “fight or flight” situation to get my blood pumping.

Between dealing with olympic-caliber passive aggressive co-workers, and delighting in Tina Fey’s return as Sarah Palin on SNL, I have more than enough excitement for the week.

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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.