Roller Derby

I’ll admit it:  I had A BALL.  A ball!  Jonah, our 7 year-old celebrated his birthday last week and decided that nothing says ‘party’ like r-o-l-l-e-r   s-k-a-t-i-n-g.  I guess once you’re 7 good times can only roll with ample amounts of speed, danger, and loud music [does that ever change?]  At least this time around still doesn’t involve car keys–just some old wooden floors at a neon-frocked establishment that definitely hit its peak around 1989.

We invited a few of his friends and a cousin to this wheeled celebration, and when they arrived most made a B-line for the roller blades rather than old school skates.  Kids these days–don’t they know that you get much better handling, ease of balance and a more controlled ability to stop with the originals?  You remember them: tan suede, dark brown laces, and matching orange wheels and front stopper.  Baby.  What a style statement.  I don’t know what Stacy and Clinton would say, but I said heck yes to those sweet little size 8’s and went to the nearest bench to lace up.

Standing up and skating on carpet over to the rink entry point was a bit trickier than I remember it being at 10.  I nearly landed on my brother a few times, but figured it only garnered empathy with the struggling kids who were spending time bonding with the tile floor by the birthday table with legs splayed out sideways.  Gliding past the line of newspaper-reading dads and cell phone-talking moms gave me just enough time to re-hone my skills.  The rink was mine for the taking.  I was Napoleon Bonaparte ready to conquer any and all who dared get in my way.  Except the group of 7 year olds I was supposed to be nurturing and entertaining, of course.

The wood floor, long since warped and wavy, sent me back through time.  I looked up between the glittering the specks of silver splashed around by the disco ball and noticed a ceiling with tiles missing, exposing an old wooden dome roof.  It was beautiful in the way that old buildings are beautiful.  I wondered how many people have rolled past these same walls under this same ceiling over the years, listening to Madonna turn into Poison turn into Nirvana turn into Jay-Z.

It was fun thinking about all the memories that seemed momentous to me while strapped into skates:  my first ‘lady’s choice’ when Nick from 3rd grade held my  hand and Lionel Ritchie crooned Say You, Say Me.  In 9th grade, circling round and round trying to spot that boy to see who he was talking to, because he wasn’t talking to me.  What would I say to that high school freshman now?  I’d tell her not to worry—that she’d end up marrying him and they’d have beautiful kids that they’d take roller skating, too.

In high school I was the reigning champ when it came to races.   I loved to race because I actually won, something I’m still rather unfamiliar with.   I remember to this day who my main competition was, but I’ll protect her pride and her identity for now.  No need to rub it in once you pass the decade mark.  I won a lot of Coke slushes thanks to my skating prowess, and even more when the DJ did “Name That Tune” competitions.  Chalk up another Coke slush for knowing that Buster Poindexter sang Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot! Pretty cool for a dorky girl who couldn’t serve a volleyball if her life depended on it or keep proper score in a basketball game.  Roller skating was my thing.

Unfortunately, I seem to be gifted in areas that are inconsequential in real life.  Sure, I may kick booty on the rink, but so what?  There are no more drive-ups for me to work at and we have too much carpet in our home for me to skate and mop at the same time, tragic as that is.  All I have left are my fantasies of joining the roller derby or petitioning the Olympic people to finally make it an official sporting competition.  Seriously–if BMX is legit, it’s really only a matter of time.  And “Name That Tune?”  Good for nothing!   They have an iPhone app for it!

Jonah’s party gave me a chance to feel free and fast and unstoppable.  In fact, I felt pretty certain that the manager was watching and considering me for her next open skate-police-with-a-whistle position.  I don’t quite have the dance-while-skating thing down, but now that I think about it, I can’t dance in regular shoes either.  I am, however,  pretty good with backwards skating, turning a sharp corner, and avoiding small children clomping along near the walls.  No small feat, I assure you.  I’m preparing my resume.

In the midst of the Saturday afternoon excitement, it happened:  the skate-police-turned-DJ announced a RACE!!  Oh my.  I felt my palms start to sweat.  No mention of a free Coke, but who cares.  Should I?  Shouldn’t I?  A line of 12 year-old boys wearing jerseys and backwards hats clamored for the chance to burn some testosterone and shot out to the start line as I stood frozen on the stained carpet.  I looked at my husband for some direction.  Of course I knew I could win, I just didn’t know if I should go out there.  My thoughts rocked from not wanting to embarrass the 12 year olds to wanting to elbow them out of the way to show them that a 33 year old mom could still kick their junior high asses.

Oh no!  Too much thinking!!  The whistle blew!  They were underway!!  I missed my shot at Olympic gold—I mean, fame in front of 17 people in Byron Center.  The little things I cling to.  The boy with the white tank top won easily and I shook my head with pity.  Poor excuse for speed, really, but his legs were about the size of my arms duck-taped together.  No match for my powerful thighs or years of experience.  The DJ gave a last call for one more race and I finally started skating out onto the wood alone when he said, “OK, if there’s no one else, let’s get back to the music!” Dang it!!  Missed it again!  I cooly tried to snap my fingers and swerved around like I just couldn’t wait to join MC Hammer declare to the world that you can’t touch this.  And by this I mean my sweet mom-on-skates-skills.  I don’t think anyone noticed my ploy.

In an effort to stay away from questionable song lyrics with the kids from school [ MOM!…Guess what song they played at Jonah’s party?!] we requested some classic John Denver and sang all the words with pride, along with the grandmas and other old-timers glad to hear about mountains and eagles instead of someone who’s a “lady in the street but a freak in the bed.”  Ahem. No comment.

The party ended with cupcakes and presents and smiling, freckled faces.  It was a great day and so much fun to hang out with the kids and show them that mom actually knows how to do something besides pack lunches.  It was great to have my daughter look at me with pure delight in her smile, begging me to pull her along faster, and to not let go of her hand.  It was great to have it all, and have the memories to myself.

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