You are connected. Your kids’ former sitter, now a beauty editor at People, gifts you with swag bags of Product—capital P intentional—Chanel, Clarins, Clinique. Your old boss at the hospital still remembers you with all-day passes to the Presbyterian Parking Garage. Those have come in handy when birthing babies and repairing broken ankles. And today, a neighbor who chairs the Environment Committee at Community Board 14, snags tickets for you and the boys to test the ice at the 26-Acre LeFrak Center at Lakeside, one evening before it opens to the unwashed masses.
You are unprepared for the elegant, open air plan, flowing into a frozen lake. Two connecting rinks, one covered lightly, like a carport, the other exposed to the stars. Your teenage memory of the Wollman Rink is a painful one: a splinter working its way under your watch plaid skate skirt and lodging in your behind. That memorable piece of pine, requiring mom, tweezers and humiliation to remove. Yes, the old Robert Moses-era rink—wooden benches chopped up into splinters by kids balancing their blades to lace up. The simple cement ring, like a drained city pool, and a towering loudspeaker piping in Olivia Newton-John.
You are cheered by innovations in ice skates, 3 clicks and you’re in. It’s been forever, and actually, you spent much more time on pavement than ice, but you dismiss misgivings as both boys step on the ice and promptly reach for your hand. Each tugging you outward in opposite directions, surprisingly, you remain upright as you complete your first lap. It’s slow going and your arms ache so you nudge them out of the nest. “Let go!” you shout to the elder. He shuffle steps straight to the wall like a castaway reaching for driftwood. That’s something else you remember from Wollman, repeated here: kids clinging to the rink walls like cat hairs on cashmere; that, and the watery, commercial cocoa.
“The wall only gives you a false sense of security,” you scold. “You’ll never learn that way.” He pushes off cautiously. “Stop taking choppy, baby steps. You’re not walking anymore. “ He isn’t, and neither are you. You take off, pointing out the long strides of patrolling teens in red polos. There are no visible loud speakers, still, the high notes of Mary J. Blige sparkle the night air. You swivel your hips and suddenly, you’re moving in reverse. I’m searching for the real love.. someone to set my heart free… Your son smiles: “Do a figure eight.” You oblige. It’s coming back. The roller skates with the lightning bolts on the ankles, and the English muffins on your ears pumping in The Gap Band and Rick James.
Ice skating suits you – maybe not your trick knee – but certainly your character. Human connection is made easy on ice. Gliding into and out of personal space, you clock fifty new encounters in under an hour. A wallflower in a tiger hat with ear flaps reaching down to her knees, a photographer on the sidelines, a father leading his daughter over the ice in her Christmas coat. And your sons, off the wall now, taking short strides, but strides nonetheless.