Sunday, January 11, 2004

The air is crisp and clean. Snow crunches under my feet. My daughters and their friends chatter happily away as we walk along the sidewalk, where melting snow has caused oozes of ice across the once-clean-shoveled concrete. The weight of the ringette stick that carries several pairs of skates including my own presses down through my heavy jacket onto my shoulder. I shift the load to the other side. My brisk pace causes the girls to fall behind slightly, but they don't seem to notice. Evening comes quickly and the last bit of the day is used to travel to the outdoor rink near our house.

Lacing up four pairs of skates in the cool January air brings out the age in my hands - the skin stretches across my knuckles and my fingers become cold and white from the effort. I feel the night nip at my ear, making me wish I'd brought a toque. One by one, the girls rise from the wooden bench that has been painted red too many times. Helmets are hastily added and shoes are left where they fell in the snow as everyone makes their way to the ice. The frozen plywood acts as a sounding board for the solid "ka-chunk" of a puck. The click-clack of the hockey sticks punctuates teenage laughter and conversation as we make our way onto the ice under the bluish-green rink-light glow.

I move across the ice in ways that feel familiar. Childhood has different memories of skating - cold, pinching feet and awkwardness. Now, I glide comfortably, smoothly, as my legs do as they're told. The girls busy themselves, working out child rules for sharing the three sticks that were brought along. Oldest passes on tricks to youngest - raising, where to shoot, when to pull back and fire. They shoot at a goal with a tattered, old shawl of a net, hanging forlornly on the metal frame. A group of teenage boys and girls have silently given up half their ice to our little group. I, like a lumbering old patriarchal bear, circle about on our half of the rink. The biting sound of steel on ice pleases me, as foot crosses over foot in the corners. There's no wind to carry away the warmth I feel at this moment.

The evening is perfect. My children are at play.

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