Thank you to everyone who submitted a story to the nonfiction portion of the Winter in the Bay writing contest. Today, Susan Bagley and Monique Guilderson take us skating, telling us how it feels learning to skate – or learning to skate again – as an adult.
You can still submit your nonfiction essay of 350 words or less or your fictional short story of 2,500 words or less any time for sharing. We will post those stories here once all contest entries have been published. Let’s keep telling our stories of the Bay!
Learning to Skate
It was the winter of 1970-71 when I realized that most Canadians were probably born with skates on their feet. My second winter in Canada, but the first in a new home on the edge of Whynacht’s Cove, introduced me to new neighbours and new experiences.
There really are different kinds of snow; your tongue will freeze to metal and the ghoulish moans and groans interspersed with gunshot cracks are “just the ice moving with the tide,” casually spoken by those same new neighbours! The same new neighbours who could glide over that thick pan of ice with speed and grace. The same new neighbours who made it their mission to teach the ‘Brit’ how to master those deadly blades.
From nowhere came a selection of ‘well loved’ ladies’ skates, none of which truly fitted but gamely, like an ugly sister, I squeezed my feet into them as I was reassured that “first your feet will hurt but then they’ll be so cold they won’t hurt anymore.” Tying the laces with cold hands was another challenge, but not as daunting as clambering over the vicious shards of ice to get to the main surface, which was not nearly as smooth as it appeared from the safety of ‘dry land.’ Clutching the arms of stalwart skaters, I shuffled along on aching feet, trying not to listen to my brain, which was reminding me I had broken bones before and this time it might be my skull!
For three winters the ‘mission’ continued. Lawn chairs of various sizes were brought out from sheds for me to push; hockey pants and pads were added to my body; a hockey helmet was put on my head, but to no avail. I resolved that I would never be a skater, but I would put skates on my Canadian kids as soon as they could toddle and I’d shuffle along with them…in my winter boots.
Susan Bagley illustrated her story with Maria Kuttner’s “Learning to Skate.” To read Maria’s inspiration for her painting, visit the Winter in the Bay online gallery and click on the image of the work.
Learning to Skate, Again
Deep booming cracks and groans signaled the change of seasons growing up on the Bay. In winter, we simply went down the hill behind the house and out on the ice to skate.
Once you made your way over the bumpy hills of frozen waves by the shore you could skate for miles across the frozen water. There wasn’t a sound out there except for the wind that whistled and raced across the ice, swirling the fine snow powder on the surface into circle patterns or, just as likely, up into your face, depending on its mood. Skating gave us access to another world during the winter months. I remember being far out on the ice and looking back towards shore, the houses and the town looking very far away.
As a grownup, I stopped skating and eventually got away from enjoying winter altogether. I realized that my attitude needed to change. I got skating gear for the whole family, and we headed out to the St. Margaret’s Bay arena. With wobbly legs and clinging to the side boards for dear life, I made my way out onto the ice for the first time in 25 years.
When I was young, I would fling myself forward with abandon on the ice, I had no fear. Now I’m well padded, knowing too well what can happen to mature bones on hard ice. I went around the rink at a snail’s pace; the toddlers who were learning to skate moved much faster than I did. People flew past me. sending cold blasts of air in my face, reminding me of the wind gusts when I was young and skating out on the Bay.
I’m slow, but I’m out there on the ice, out in that other world, that winter world, back where I came from.
Monique Guilderson also chose Maria Kuttner’s “Learning to Skate” to illustrate her story.