We had lovely and very active winters in northwestern Pennsylvania where I grew up. There were plenty of hills and toboggan slides near my house to play on after a heavy snowfall. But what I enjoyed most was the pond below my house. When it froze over, the neighborhood kids would get together and shovel enough snow to the slides so that we could skate on it. The municipality eventually built us a shelter where we changed into and out of our skates. They even provided a small electric heater.
In blustery afternoons, we would bundle up and head for the pond. We all came those days--boys and girls, kids and teenagers. We made short work of the shoveling. The older and braver ones would soon play "Crack the Whip." Others, like myself would skate nearby or watch them. The tough guys skidded around on their sporty black skates, and the teenage girls flirted. That usually resulted in the teenage boys throwing packed snowballs at them as they chased them over the ice. The girls shrieked as they dodged snowballs or tried to avoid getting the cold stuff down their backs. I glided around and watched it all second-hand--my eyelashes frosted over with snow, my cheeks red and my eyes glowed. What wonderful afternoons! "Come on, Kathy, " I'd call to my best friend, "The pond's frozen over again!"
I remember one particularly brilliant night when I went down to skate by myself just after dinner, around 6 pm. The biting cold sliced through my ski jacket and whistled up my sleeves as I fiddled with the key to unlock the door. Once inside, I felt my way to where the lights were, and flipped on the switch. The 60-watt but gave off little light. I could just see where the small heater sat. I turned that on, and sat down on one of the benches to change into my skates. As I laced up my last skate, a surge of excitement went through me.
Soon, I made my way out of the shed and clunked down the snowy incline that bordered the pond. Soon, I glided in the fresh, night air. The pond had been shoved earlier, and the streetlights shone on the ice. I avoided the bumps, but skated easily on the smoother ice. I think I can skate backwards...lemme try a figure eight. I practiced doing this for awhile.
The pond became an Olympic arena and I was Dorothy Hamill. I arched my neck, held my head high and my arms out, propelling me effortlessly along the ice. I leaned down until I almost touched the ice with my chin. Then I straightened up and with long, firm strides, circled the pond. My (invisible) awestruck audience clapped wildly, which spurred me on to attempt a jump--of course, a half-circle twirl--which, unfortunately landed me with a painful bang on my behind.
The audience faded away and the music disappeared. I was just Amy,a sixteen-year-old skater, in the evening light. So what? Even the best fall, right? I picked myself up and marveled at my ability to maneuver on blades. I loved skating backwards. So effortless. I felt so free and alive!
An hour later, the cold crept through my various layers of clothing, snuck into the joints of my gloved hand and settled down into my toes. Time to get off the ice. I changed out of my skates, shut off the lights and heater, and then carefully locked the door. With my white skates slung over my shoulder, I crunched thoughtfully back up the crusty, snow-covered road that led home. I savored the delicious feeling that came over me whenever I finished skating.
Ahhh... Now to get out of my snow-covered blue jeans and drink a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows. I'm so glad that I live just over the hill from the pond.
Looking back, I don't think that night could have been any more perfect!