Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Group Writing: Winters of Content

 

It is winter and I am discontented. That was all I had when I signed up for the Group Writing theme, and I was hoping really hard that when I sat down to write, something more would come to me. When I began, I intended to write about the present, but my fingers had another idea as my mind took me somewhere else. To Long Island in the 1970s, when it was winter, but I was not discontented.

My father used to build us an ice skating rink in our back yard every winter. He would lay out a huge sheet of thick plastic in a frame built of 2×4’s and fill it with water. We had a large backyard and he was in the roofing business, so the sheet of plastic was pretty big and so was the rink, at least it seemed so at the time. We would skate from just before Christmas through early March. Every night he would go out and spray the ice to make it smooth for the next day. My cousins would come over; friends and many of the neighborhood kids. We had a floodlight in back in the backyard, so we would skate all day and all night. We’d come in for my Mom’s hot chocolate and then it was back out again.

Mostly we played hockey or fooled around, but I had dreams of being a figure skater for a while. It didn’t last long. I took lessons and mastered the simple toe flip but my single axels were timid pathetic things. I was too afraid to let go, to soar. In truth, it wouldn’t have mattered if I had. I was not graceful nor lithe. My feet were large and too wide for women’s white skates, so I had to wear men’s black ones. I was always embarrassed by that. I put pom-poms on them, but it didn’t help. 

One year my mother bought me some custom-made white skates. I’m sure I was no better, but in my mind, I was gliding across the ice like Peggy Fleming (Dorothy Hamill was still a few years away). By the next winter, my feet had grown. I knew I wasn’t going to get another pair of custom skates, so I squeezed my feet into my precious white ones. I’d skate until my feet were numb, which in truth didn’t take long, and then some. When I would take off my skates, my toes would be crushed together and a bright shade of purple. I’d massage the life back into them and endure painful burning for the next few hours. Didn’t stop me though. Until the next year, when I decided that I had suffered enough for fashion and went back to properly fitted black skates. 

I turned more to hockey and that worked out given that I had three brothers. Our entire basement was filled with hockey equipment and we often had games going. I would wear my figure skates, but I could hold my own. My older brother, in particular, was an avid hockey player. He would often come in and bark at me “Get in goal,” and I would go out to tend goal while he fired shots at me. No helmets or goalie pads, of course, although we seemed to have an abundance of hockey gloves. He didn’t care that I was a girl either. Once when we were playing one-on-one, I went into the corner after the puck, and he slammed into me. We had no sideboards so I somersaulted out of the rink onto my back. I lay there stunned for a few seconds when I realized my arm was moving up and down. I had grabbed his stick and he was hitting my hand against the edge of the rink to make me let go. I didn’t though, and got back in the rink. 

The winters started warming by the ’80s and skating time diminished. We got older too and involved in other things. So, eventually, my Dad stopped building the rink. We all missed it, and still talk about it to this day. Every now and then we meet someone in the neighborhood who remembers it too. Perhaps that is why I am discontented now, because Dad is gone, and my Mom joined him last year. We likely will sell the house. But such is the power of memory and prose, that for a few minutes I was back there again, gliding, twirling, falling, and freezing, with purple toes in the soft winter twilight. And all is well.

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  1. Sandy Member

    If we are lucky, one of the great pleasures of old age is remembering. The young may deride this as “living in the past,” but there is much to be said for the peace that memories of good times bring to the mind, and for the richness that stories like yours bring not only to the writer’s own family, and especially to the young, but to the general reader. Your warmth and humor are a remedy for current discontents.

    • #1
    • January 19, 2020, at 12:30 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  2. The Dowager Jojo Inactive

    What fun! What a great father!

    I did not remember it being so consistently cold in the 1970s. No wonder we were worried about global cooling.

    • #2
    • January 19, 2020, at 6:15 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. KentForrester Moderator

    Wonderful post, Gossamer Cat.

    I imagine that being the lone girl among three boisterous brothers was not always pleasant — unless those brothers were sensitive boys who looked out for their little sister.

    Having gown up in Southern California, where it’s sometimes 75 degrees in January, your childhood among the ice and snow sounds terribly exotic to me. Ice rink in your backyard? Wow! What a treat. I had a small orange tree in mine. Boring. 

    • #3
    • January 19, 2020, at 7:21 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat

    The Dowager Jojo (View Comment):

    What fun! What a great father!

    I did not remember it being so consistently cold in the 1970s. No wonder we were worried about global cooling.

    They probably weren’t but I remember them that way, at least the early seventies. But the beauty of the artificial rink was that there were only a few inches of water so they would freeze again pretty quickly after a thaw. And there was no danger of falling through the ice. So I think that upped the skating time.

    • #4
    • January 19, 2020, at 9:34 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Wonderful post, Gossamer Cat.

    I imagine that being the lone girl among three boisterous brothers was not always pleasant — unless those brothers were sensitive boys who looked out for their little sister.

    Having gown up in Southern California, where it’s sometimes 75 degrees in January, your childhood among the ice and snow sounds terribly exotic to me. Ice rink in your backyard? Wow! What a treat. I had a small orange tree in mine. Boring.

    Thanks Ken. Sensitive boys they were not. We were all very close in age and very competitive. I have many scars from when play got out of hand (actual scars not emotional ones). We all get along fine now but I used to wish regularly for a sister. 

    It’s funny because we viewed Southern California as the most exotic place on earth growing up. Those that returned from Disneyland were local celebrities for a few weeks.

    • #5
    • January 19, 2020, at 9:41 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    The next door neighbor had a pool in their back yard during the summer. It wasn’t a fancy in-ground pool, but the sort with a metal frame and a blue plastic liner. They would put it away in fall, but use that round spot where the pool sat as an ice rink in the winter. The boy next door was very much into sports, pushed hard by his father, I suspect. My elder brothers both learned to skate. I tried, but never had the hang of it. Part of it may have been failure to be coördinated enough when I first tried at three or four years of age. But I remember that little skating rink next door in the late 60’s and early 70’s. And I remember so much more, like snow forts and snowball fights or digging hobbit holes into snow drifts. It was all so long ago and only yesterday.

    My elder brother married for a third time when he was a bit past fifty. They had a daughter, who will turn five in a few weeks. He put out a short video of her making snow angels. I wrote, “Remember when we used to do that?” And he wrote back, “I still do it!”

    • #6
    • January 20, 2020, at 11:38 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat

    Arahant (View Comment):
    My elder brother married for a third time when he was a bit past fifty. They had a daughter, who will turn five in a few weeks. He put out a short video of her making snow angels. I wrote, “Remember when we used to do that?” And he wrote back, “I still do it!”

    I noticed that my attitude towards snow changed when I had to go to work in it. But now that I don’t due to geography and the internet, it is back to being thoroughly delightful.

    • #7
    • January 20, 2020, at 11:49 AM PST
    • 1 like
  8. RightAngles Member

    We had a skating rink in our side yard every year! Great memories

    • #8
    • January 20, 2020, at 12:01 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The next door neighbor had a pool in their back yard during the summer. It wasn’t a fancy in-ground pool, but the sort with a metal frame and a blue plastic liner. They would put it away in fall, but use that round spot where the pool sat as an ice rink in the winter. The boy next door was very much into sports, pushed hard by his father, I suspect. My elder brothers both learned to skate. I tried, but never had the hang of it. Part of it may have been failure to be coördinated enough when I first tried at three or four years of age. But I remember that little skating rink next door in the late 60’s and early 70’s. And I remember so much more, like snow forts and snowball fights or digging hobbit holes into snow drifts. It was all so long ago and only yesterday.

    My elder brother married for a third time when he was a bit past fifty. They had a daughter, who will turn five in a few weeks. He put out a short video of her making snow angels. I wrote, “Remember when we used to do that?” And he wrote back, “I still do it!”

    As close as you lived to the municipal rink? I was over there all the time.

    • #9
    • January 20, 2020, at 12:08 PM PST
    • Like
  10. Arahant Member

    Percival (View Comment):
    As close as you lived to the municipal rink? I was over there all the time.

    They went there, too, but that was a couple miles. This was in the backyard.

    • #10
    • January 20, 2020, at 12:19 PM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    As close as you lived to the municipal rink? I was over there all the time.

    They went there, too, but that was a couple miles. This was in the backyard.

    Yes, we skated in other places too, particularly when the ponds froze over, but there’s nothing like walking out your backyard onto your own private rink.

    • #11
    • January 20, 2020, at 12:42 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    What a wonderful set of winter-time family memories.

    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the January 2020 Group Writing Theme: Winter of Our Discontent. We are full up for the month, so I will post the February theme shortly. Many thanks to all who signed up!

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #12
    • January 20, 2020, at 6:30 PM PST
    • Like