Sunday, January 11, 2009

W. W. B. A. D???

What would Barbara Ann do???

Yesterday, I went out to purchase new figure skates.

Confession time, here: and those of you who have strong, pre-conceived opinions about what a Good Canadian should (or should not) be... you're probably not going to like this.

I haven't been on skates since I was a teenager. Well, in my early twenties, anyway. Which is more years ago than I care to count.

I know, I know... there are even TELEVISION COMMERCIALS on our Canuck stations extolling the virtues of skating-- especially skating together, as a family... preferably on one of our "outdoor rinks" (in most case, a local pond or lake... and in our case, THE DRIVEWAY...)

Hey! It's fun!! It's inexpensive!!! It's GOOD FOR YOU!!!!

Well, I buy all that. In fact, I was a fairly decent skater when I was a kid, forced into lessons by my wise and well-meaning parents. Several times a week, I was crammed into layers of winter gear, laced into a tiny pair of scuffed-up, second-hand figure skates, and pushed through the door in the boards of the Stratford Arena, down on Riverside Drive. There I would spend hour after hour, patiently waiting for an instructor to find the time to tell me what the heck I was doing wrong. My legs became horribly tangled-up during cross-overs (I was crossing-over with waaaaay too much enthusiasm, and losing my balance). I could not transfer my weight between two feet and succeed in propelling myself backwards along the ice, with all my fellow skaters-in-training (I wasn't sticking my bottom out far enough, and as it turns out, it's impossible to skate backwards if your posture resembles a ram-rod).

It took perseverance, that's for sure. Not to mention Buns of Steel, to absorb all of the falling-down I did.

But, I performed in one skating exhibition, and somehow managed to earn several badges, which still sit nestled in a corner of my jewellery box.

Unfortunately, however, I just couldn't get past one thing about skating.


No matter how fast I skated, or how hard I worked at improving.

I got cold.

I froze, in fact. I can still remember that awful feeling of standing on the ice, waiting and waiting for it to be MY TURN with the instructor, while my toes turned to ten little popsicles inside my skate boots.

I think it was 'round about that time that my sights turned to a "career" in ballet. Which was performed INDOORS. Under HOT LIGHTS.

'Nuff said.

That didn't stop me from admiring those who COULD skate, though. I remember watching all the major figure skating championships on television, sitting cosily on the couch with my mother. Indeed, "The Battle of the Brians" was a year I'll never forget. That, and the magnificent Olympic silver medal performance of our own Elizabeth Manley, right here on Canadian ice...

My mother's enthusiasm for the sport was undeniably contagious. Still is. And it was she who first introduced me to the wonder that is Barbara Ann Scott.

Barbara Ann Scott began skating at a very young age with the Minto Skating Club of Ottawa, Ontario. She was only eleven years old when she won her first Canadian national junior title. Two years later in 1942, when she was thirteen, she became the first female to ever land a double lutz in competition. From 1945 to 1948, she won the North American Figure Skating Championships. In 1947, she became the first North American to win the European and World Figure Skating Championships, making her a Canadian national heroine. After her great victories, her hometown presented her with a new convertible as a gift, but she had to turn it down in order to retain her amateur status so as to be able to compete in the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. At those Winter Games, she became the first Canadian to win the figure skating gold medal.

My mother followed Barbara Ann's career with zeal. She had the time to. As a young girl, she was bedridden for nearly a year with Rheumatic Fever, an illness that we seldom hear about now that antibiotics have become a standard course of treatment for strep infections. Not only did my mother comb newspapers for any and all tidbits of information about her heroine, she also became the proud owner of one of the "Eatons Beauty Dolls" that were made in Barbara Ann's likeness.

Oh, how I admired that doll: her lovely, lacy costume with the feathers and frills around the hem, the tiny, perfect teeth, and the weeny pair of skates on her feet... She was placed behind glass in a case in my bedroom when I was young-- and very occasionally, I was allowed to hold her gently in my arms. My mother's fastidious care of the doll has kept her in perfect condition all these years, and I wept when she lovingly presented it as a very special gift to my eldest daughter on her tenth birthday.

Once again, the Barbara Ann doll sits in my bedroom on a high shelf, to keep it safe from little hands... And I wondered what on EARTH Barbara Ann, herself, would have thought if she could have seen the figure skates that I purchased yesterday.

We set out for Canadian Tire, the Mecca of CCM products in our little town... The two eldest girlies were bought beautiful skates with white boots-- the very kind I had worn as a child, and craved to have them perfect and unscathed by black scuffs and blade scratches... Wee Three was bought the tiniest little pair of hockey skates you've ever seen, her father reasoning that skates without toe-picks would be easier for her to learn on.

Then it was my turn. But, unfortunately, because we are somewhat late about visiting the January Sales this year, there were no white boots left that fit this old girl's feet. Pretty amazing, considering I take a whopping size nine-and-a-half... I nearly gave up, but the girlies protested loudly. They want to skate as a FAMILY, without Mother sitting up in the stands with her knitting (hey, I need to keep WARM, remember???!)

So I ventured a little further into the Canadian Tire stock... And I was somewhat shocked to come up with a pair of THESE:

I have NEVER seen figure skates like this before in my entire life. And I'll bet Barbara Ann hasn't, either. They are made by Reebok, and tighten up using a new-fangled hydraulic system-- with the turn of a button, tiny metal threads pull tight around my instep and ankle, automatically adjusting to produce a perfect fit.

Best of all, though?

THEY'RE INSULATED. For optimal foot-warmth.

My tootsies have never felt this comfortable in a pair of skates... And even though the boots are a little stiff, and my ankle can't bend quite the way it used to in my old boots... It doesn't matter one whit.

I'll be with my girlies, out there on the ice. I'll be warm.

And, I sure as shootin' don't think I'll be attempting to land any double-lutzes any time soon.


ewe are here said...

Oooooh, interesting new skates!

I was a figure skater when I was young, and have always enjoyed skating. I have a classic pair of figure skates in the garage... I was dying to pull them out yesterday, as lots of frozen puddles and fields around here had people skating around!

Nan said...

"It don't snow here, it stays pretty green.
I'm gonna make alotta money and I'm gonna quit this crazy scene.
I wish I had a river, I could skate away on..."

(Joni Mitchell)

So we can't skate. But I had a ball waltzing all over the kitchen with the boys! Not talented dancers, any of them, alas, but three boys doing "ballet", pirouetting and leaping about, was a sight to see!

crumby theology said...

The voice on your blog just jumps off the page; and your title? I love it. Thanks for many wonderful gifts through the Christmas season. You're now on my list of 'favorites'.

painted maypole said...

i haven't ice skated in years. we used to flood our back yard and then when it froze we skated there

Louise said...

I love this! I always wanted to be a figure skater. My mom had a pair of double blades when I was little that she stuffed the toes of to make fit me and I went out on a neighbor's pond and stumbled around a bit. It wasn't what I had pictured, though, and I was sorely disappointed. I think I thought I would go out and look like Debbie Thomas, but like you, I was FREEZING and it turns out that even with the double blades, I had the balance of a drunk.

I hope you and your girls have the time of your lives!

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