It all started when I was ten years old, flying around our cul-de-sac on a shiny new pair of roller blades.
I'd accelerate into turns crossing my right leg over my left over and over again, the way I'd seen the Olympic speed skaters whip around tight corners. I'd jump over curbs when they were in my way, skate backwards when I thought people were watching, and stop with a spin and a flourish of my hands.
Yessireee, I had mad skills and mad fun. Naturally I was certain I would be the next Apollo Ohno. But that's only because I hadn't discovered roller hockey just yet...
Fast forward 18 years, and I'm at my folks' house for the weekend. Little Brother is in town for the summer, and asks if I want to join him and his friends in their weekly summer roller hockey game.
"Heck yes!" I declare, jumping out of my chair.
I know for a fact that my precious, Olympic-training roller blades still lay in the box of family blades in my parents' garage. Sure, one of the rubber wheels is lacking most of its rubber; and sure, they rattle and squeak and aren't very fast, but they'll do the trick.
So brother and I lace up our blades and hit the streets for a little practice. But all I have to do is skate to the end of the driveway before I return to the garage to find wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads. Some things have changed since I was ten. Namely my agility, balance, speed, reflexes and flexibility. Other than that, I'm my same ol' daunting skater self.
"I hope you have a helmet I can borrow tonight," I tell my brother as we skate down the street, hockey sticks in hand.
"Please tell me you're not wearing all that gear tonight," he says.
When you're flying toward 30 you'll understand, I tell him. He says he doesn't think so. If common sense doesn't tell you, then your bones will, I say. And your muscles. And your reflexes. Don't worry. Your rapidly decaying body will make sure you don't do anything life-threatening, I assure him.
And then we start practicing with our cardboard box goal. Time after time I race toward the box, shoot with gusto, and miss.
But I'm not deterred. Instead, I determine that tonight will be more about general fun than prowess on the court.
"Fun" is a defense mechanism I like to fall back on in sports when my body doesn't cooperate with me the way I'd like it to.
Hours later, Little Brother and I are on the court. I, in my helmet and protective pads, surrounded by very adept, strong men who are several years younger than I.
|The boys (sorry for the poor picture quality)|
As hockey balls fly to and fro, I quickly realize I've overlooked a very important piece of equipment. "Does anyone have any goggles I can borrow?" I shout above the din of clanking sticks and guys shouting encouragement to each other as they warm up.
They graciously assure me I won't need goggles, and then we choose teams.
"Folks," I say, "I realize I'm not the greatest asset here, so don't worry about hurting my feelings when you pick teams."
A few minutes later the teams are formed and the game has begun.
It is fast-moving and aggressive.
And then, two minutes in, our team scores our first goal.
Oh wait, did I say our team? I meant me. Yes, that's right. Goggle-less me.
A little bit after that our team scores our second goal.
Yes, that's right: me again.
And then our team scored a third goal, assisted by, you guessed it, me.
Believe me, no one was more shocked than I was.
And then our team was absolutely creamed by the other team, so that I don't even remember the final score.
|Little Brother and I|
But the moral of the story is not about winning. It never is. At least not when you're the losing team.
It's that sometimes it just takes a helmet, a set of protective pads, and some practice to regain your ten-year old skating skills. That and a fierce competitive spirit that generally overcomes the decision to just "have fun." No doubt this is a valuable lesson many of you also need to learn.
So now I find myself evaluating every parking lot I see for its roller hockey potential, and scheming of ways I can convince my friends to form a roller hockey club with me.
Perhaps with time I will be able to convince my friends that roller hockey is the best thing in the world.
In the meantime, I am revisiting other things I liked to do as a girl. Because, as I saw with my roller hockey debut, the stuff we do as kids is still buried inside of us. We just have to mine it out with the right gear.
So tonight I'm going to a painting class. This could be a disaster, but it will definitely be fun.
And who knows, maybe I'll do more than just "have fun."
Maybe I will paint something that's worthy of my wall. Maybe painting will awaken some part of me that fell asleep when I became an adult.
And hey, maybe I'll meet some peeps who will be willing to start a hockey league with me.
Chasing your childhood loves is bound to bring all sorts of fun surprises.
© by scj