“If only my life was more like 1983, all these things would be more like they were at the start of me.”
March rain fell outside, but the steady taps were silenced by boppy beats of early 80s disco inside Pioneer Park Skateland. I didn’t want dad to drop me off to go park so we ran through drops and over puddles, leaving our clothes spotted and damp as we entered the rink.
My Strawberry Shortcake skirt and sweater dried quickly as I made my way around the oval hardwood floor. Dad had laced up my white Strawberry Shortcake skates over my pink Strawberry Shortcake leg-warmers – both Christmas gifts – and I was off. He rented his own pair of brown skates with orange wheels and rolled onto the floor a few minutes later.
After five or six laps, I had made some new friends – two older girls who wanted me to teach them how to skate. I had been roller skating for about a year and naturally took to it. Between my snazzy, made-for-roller-skating outfit and the way I glided around the floor, weaving in and out of couples, kids and cones, I must have appeared to be a pro.
I had just shown them how to turn around and skate backward when the DJ announced a couples’ only skate. Knowing that I wouldn’t want to leave the floor, dad came up beside me and skated with me. The girls giggled and skated off and dad and I spent the next few minutes playing our “moonlight” game.
During the moonlight, couples’ skate – usually two songs long – a large mirrorball would turn, reflecting spots of light onto the hardwood floor. In our game, we tried to avoid skating over the spots, lifting one leg if it was about to touch the light, swerving to the left and right, even hopping over the moving circles. Anytime one of us touched a forbidden reflection we just laughed or said, “Gotcha!”
After we’d had enough of our moonlight game, dad took my hands and turned me around to skate backward.
“Don’t let me bump into anyone,” I said over the blaring Bee Gees song.
“I won’t,” he laughed.
I spent most of that time looking over my shoulder, first my right, then my left, then my right again – fearful that I would fall. Dad just laughed again.
“I’ll tell you if there’s someone behind you, Krista.”
I responded by looking up at him, making sure I could trust him, and then glancing beyond him at the skaters following close behind. Reflections of the mirrorball danced across the bent legs and flailing arms of wobbling boys and nervous girls.
It was the second or third time going around backward that I realized how strong dad’s hands were and how they fully enclosed my five-year-old hands. How could I possibly fall if he was holding onto me? And how would I bump into anyone if he was my eyes, watching ahead, weaving around flailing skaters for me?
I grabbed his hands a little tighter and enjoyed the next 30 or 40 seconds of skating to “More Than a Woman.” Anticipating the DJ’s call for everyone to return to the floor, dad spun me around, both of us skating forward now. We sped down the length of the floor – my short legs scurrying to keep up with his stride. I knew what was coming and I braced myself for the curve ahead, looked up at dad, laughed out loud, and let go when he whipped me around at just the right time.
“Alright everybody, it’s all skate now. All skate,” the DJ announced as the florescent lights flickered on and the mirrorball spots disappeared from the floor and the carpeted walls.
The rush of air blew my ponytail and bangs back as I stretched out my arms and skated straight ahead – not pushing off, weaving or swerving. Giggling and gliding down the near-empty floor where couples had just exited and the masses had not yet returned. I flew.
There was no way we’d get away with that during the regular skating times when the floor was jam-packed with skaters. Only at the end of the couples’ skate or right after games like Four Corners or the Hokey Pokey could dad whip me around and let me fly. Only then. I think he enjoyed watching me pretend to soar.
I spent nearly every second of the two-hour skate on the floor and ended up with a blister on my right pinky toe. When I finally came off the wooden floor, exhausted but happy, I rolled straight into dad who had found a seat on one of the carpeted benches. He took off my now-scuffed Strawberry Shortcake skates and, as we left, I acclimated my feet to tennis shoes and solid ground again.
Rain still fell and bounced out of overflowing puddles in the parking lot. On the way home, I watched the fat drops on my window dance and giggled at their wiggling and jiggling, slipping and sliding. Dad laughed, too, while he sang along with the Doobie Brothers, the windshield wipers keeping a not-quite-steady beat. After our laughing spell I kept watching the drops, wondering if we had looked like that – weaving, sliding and gliding over the hardwood floor all afternoon.