Well, I’m heading to Puerto Rico this week in order to thaw out and catch up with my dear skating friend who now lives there. She also happens to be my “oldest” friend; we’ve known each other for approximately 22 years.
It seems to me that “skating friends” are a breed unto themselves. After all, your school buddies could never really understand your skating craziness: the weird schedule, the numerous absences, or the extra stress (okay, and also fun) in your life created by those demanding little things called goals. Your skating friends…well, they understood both school and skating, and the particular challenge of balancing the two.
And they didn’t have to be your exact same age. Contrary to the sometimes rigid separation between you and people in other school grades, skating connected you with kids both older and younger, and the age-difference didn’t matter. In our case, the difference was (is) two years.
I don’t remember the exact moment when we first met, but it would have been some time during summer skating in Wilmington, Delaware. I do clearly recollect the first time we chummed around outside the rink. My mother drove my brother and I down to Washington D.C. from Delaware one Saturday to visit the National Air and Space Museum and we picked her and her brother up in Maryland on the way. As my mother remembers, my new friend and I didn’t stop chattering for the entire afternoon. And I doubt we were talking about aircraft.
We had a lot in common even beyond just general skating. We both skated pair…with our older brothers. And if this isn’t a powerful bond, I don’t know what is. In the years that we trained alongside each other (and competed against each other), we cried together, sympathized, compared bruises, and fastidiously attended to our fingernails.
Mainly, we laughed. I can easily picture us back then as teenagers, goofing off in locker rooms, while unlacing our skates on what seemed like hundreds of rink benches, and in the stands at Nationals. Most of the occurrences and observations we thought were so hilarious at the time probably wouldn’t translate in the re-telling. Suffice it to say, she is a huge source of my sense of humor.
In fact, she is a huge part of who I am.
In the time since those short but intensive skating years, we’ve lived very far away from each other, yet we’ve been able to stay in close contact. On both our parts, this has taken considerable effort, all of it well worth it.
For example, we visited each other’s freshman dorm rooms, both celebrating the new independence they represented and commiserating in their meagerness. On the day of my college graduation in Philadelphia, she unexpectedly showed up on my front stoop and knocked on the door. When I looked through the peephole, I could not believe my eyes: she’d flown halfway across the country to surprise me and secretly planned the whole thing with my mom! When she got married, I was there alongside her sisters, wearing a hot pink bridesmaid dress. At my 30th birthday party, she was sitting right there at the long table, again having flown in. This time, in her handbag she had a sonogram picture depicting twins, which she shared with me during dinner.
Our daily lives are now very different from each other’s. Of course, a lot has changed and a lot has also stayed exactly the same. I trust that when she picks me up from the airport, it will be like it always is when we reunite: as if no time has passed. And though this tropical setting – the palm trees, the sand, the sound of the ocean combined with the tiny voices of her three adorable kids – is about as far as you can get from our cold, icy origins, we probably would never have met or gotten to that sunny place if weren’t for the activity we shared so intensely, so many years ago.
As I tried to dig out some summer clothes in order to start packing my suitcase, something occurred to me. I never thought of this before, and little did we know it at the time, but the fact that she and I first really got know each other in a museum dedicated to airplanes would end up having quite a bit of meaning.
Thank you for reading.
I know you had/have some good skating friends, as well. Please share a memory or two.
To read an article called “International Judging System Basics” I wrote this week for icenetwork, click: http://web.icenetwork.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080216&content_id=44011&vkey=ice_news