There’s something magical about those first winter months. The sun shines, the snow glistens and the crisp air entices us outside. Even when there’s no snow, our minds yearn for those Thomas Kinkade moments, cuddling in horse-drawn sleighs, zipping down a hill on a sled or skis, gliding gracefully across frozen ponds.
Problem is most of us live where there’s no snow or sleighs, or the ponds don’t freeze completely, or the ponds do freeze but it’s too darn cold to breathe outside, let alone ice skate. Heck, even some of those lovely winter scenes in movies were filmed using artificial skating rinks and snow.
But what if, for one weekend only, an artificial skating rink magically appeared at the end of a local fishing pier? You could skate under the stars or in the sunshine while the Chesapeake Bay gently lapped the dock beneath you. With enough imagination, you’d feel as if you were actually skating on the bay.
Visions of Brigadoon…
Okay, maybe not so mysterious. The rink appeared courtesy of North Beach, Maryland officials, who rented it as a test. They promised to consider buying a rink for the town if community members enjoyed it.
Boy, did we ever. Friday night at 6 p.m. a crowd of adults and children lined up to be the first to skate under lights with the beautiful Chesapeake Bay as background. Those of us less inclined to freezing our butts shivering showed up on Saturday.
The atmosphere was festive with skaters and observers alike laughing and chatting. Children who’d clearly never skated tried to walk in their rented skates rather than glide. But the grins on their faces compensated for any technical difficulties. There were a few falls. But no tears. How could anyone cry under such glorious conditions?
Even though it’s been decades since I’ve skated, I was tempted to join the fun. But Sam was with me and they didn’t have skates to fit him.
So we stood by the temporary fence (white picket, of course) and watched the children glide by, their cheeks pink, their giggles carried on the wind. The ripple of water behind them created a dreamlike quality and I drifted back in time to my first outdoor skating experience.
My family lived in a Pittsburgh suburb called Forest Hills, a community with enough trees and sudden climbs and dips to merit its name. Winters were certainly cold enough to freeze shallow bodies of water, but there were no ponds in the community. So for most of my childhood, our only options for skating were all indoors.
And then, one glorious winter when I was in sixth grade, a frozen pond appeared in the middle of Forest Hills Park.
The “pond” was actually created from a basketball court. Unlike most courts, this one had been sunk six inches into the ground and filled with concrete. The short walls that rimmed the court not only provided a place to sit, but also a barrier that prevented water from seeping out.
Someone finally had the brilliant idea to fill it with water and let the cold Pittsburgh winter create an outdoor skating rink.
At long last we could skate outside, surrounded by trees, just like in the movies!
I looked like a bear fattening up for winter hibernation.
By the time we arrived, the rink was already crowded. I stuffed my feet into new skates and clomped across the gravel parking lot.
But as I stepped onto the ice, the world changed. The clumsy blades now slid along the smooth surface, carrying me through the crowd and toward the trees. I held my arms out and lifted my chin. For a few glorious minutes, my adolescent awkwardness disappeared and I imagined myself Peggy Fleming winning the 1968 Olympics.
What about you? Do you remember the first time you went ice skating? Did you ice skate indoors or out? Or did you prefer to ride a sled or toboggan or shoot down the hill on skis? Has anyone ever ridden in a horse-drawn sleigh, or is that just a movie fantasy?
Please let me know; I love to hear from you!