Running my fingers along the scuffed black leather and dull silvery blades, I pictured the snowy, dark afternoons when my siblings and I would skate on the neighborhood frog pond down the road. My sister wore beautiful white figure skates, while I sported boy’s black hockey ones, the only skates available in my size via the Sears & Roebuck catalog. They were not glamorous by any means, but fast. Very fast, and I loved them! With no toe picks to trip me, I’d whiz over the pond, the blades of my skates shooting sparks as they sliced over the tops of stones that stuck out of the shallow channel in its middle.
My skating-dreams resurfaced! I put the skates down and hurried upstairs to call my sister, remembering that she had gone skating with her boys when they were young. I asked if she’d care to start again, with me.
"I’d love to," she responded without hesitation.
And so we did. One day a week I’d pick her up and we’d go skate for an hour or more. Sometimes we’d stop for lunch afterwards, but mostly I’d drop her off on my way home to resume yard work, screen printing projects, or cleaning the garage.
Tired of the dull-bladed brown rental versions, I soon purchased a pair of white figure skates for myself, and enrolled in a beginner’s class. I loved it, and before long, I had passed my first three phases of learning. My sister acknowledged that accomplishment by buying a set of corresponding ISI (Ice Skating Institute) badges for me—Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Next would come the more difficult lessons of small jumps and spins. It was clear I would need a better built pair to protect my ankles from injury. Price tag: six hundred dollars.
I talked it over with Mike, and we agreed to have a garage sale to raise the necessary funds. For the next two months I dreamed of learning to hop and twirl over the ice while diligently preparing our seldom-used household items, clothing, tools, and miscellany for sale. I washed, polished, waxed, scrubbed, folded, ironed and priced until my back ached and my feet could no longer stand the pain.
On skating days I would pad my ankles and feet with cosmetic sponges to ease the sore spots. I treasured my ice time—except for the day I walked from the smaller lesson-rink to the large public-rink and stepped onto the ice without remembering to take off my skate guards. My feet slipped and down I went, slamming my right knee on the rock-hard ice. POP! The sound echoed throughout the dome. Before I could recover from my sudden drop, every skater in the rink had surrounded me. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, I’m fine." I looked up at them, embarrassed. Big time.
"Does your knee work?" Their questioning faces invaded my space.
I raised my right foot off the ice, then lowered it again. Twice. "Yes, my knee works, but I feel so foolish."
"Oh, don’t worry about it," someone said. "It’s happened to every one of us!"
I removed the guards and accepted help getting vertical, then continued to skate until my right pant leg became uncomfortably tight around my knee.
My sister followed as I moved to a bench in the observation area and pulled my pant leg up, struggling to slide it over my balloon-size knee. As soon as she saw the swelling, Sis disappeared but returned with a zip bag full of ice cubes.
"Where’d you find this so fast?" I asked, holding the bag to my knee.
"At the counter. They keep them ready at all times."
I sat holding the ice to my knee while Sis skated a bit more. When she was done, we changed into our street shoes and went home. My knee hurt, but didn’t prevent me from completing preparations for the garage sale set for that weekend. The ad was already in the paper.
Saturday morning was sunny. At seven o’clock I dashed out to post signs and hurried home. Almost immediately the cars began to come—one after another after another. The cul-de-sac became crowded. I greeted every person who arrived. I made sales, storing money and change in my apron pockets, expecting Mike to show up and help me.
A man asked if his little boy could use the bathroom. I said no. He objected. I told him where the closest public toilet was. He gave me a dirty look, put his son in the car and drove off.
A lady shopper approached me immediately thereafter. "I’m so glad you didn’t allow that man into your house," she said, nearly whispering. "If you had, they could have been busy inside your house, stealing things, while you were busy out here, with your sale. It’s often the ploy."
"Thank you. I didn’t know that, but just felt uneasy about him."
"You did the right thing." She patted me on the arm as we both watched the man turn onto the street at the end of the cul-de-sac and vanish. He never returned.
When a lull came along around one o’clock, I hurried upstairs to the bathroom. Mike was in his chair, watching television. He said he’d eaten.
"Are you going to come help me like you said?" I asked, heading for the kitchen.
"I’ll be down in a while."
"Okay. Thanks." I fixed a quick bite for myself and took it with me to the garage. The after-lunch crowd started arriving and didn’t slow down until five o’clock, the advertised closing time. When the last shopper left, around five-thirty, I lowered the garage door and slowly climbed the stairs, my back hurting and feet burning.
Mike was asleep in his chair, head back, mouth open. I nudged his leg. "Garage sale’s over. You okay?"
"Mike! You okay?"
"Uh …huuuuh … Flarz …" His eye lids opened half way, exposing a glassy gray stare I knew all too well.
Dear God, no. Not now. I am so tired. I rushed to the refrigerator, pulled out a jar of juice, poured some into a glass, stirred in extra sugar, grabbed a hand towel and hurried back to Mike. With some coaxing, some spills and a great amount of patience on my part, he came around before twenty minutes was up.
"What happened?" He scratched the top of his head. "I got a headache."
"I’m sure you do." I scowled. "You slept yourself into an insulin reaction while I was down handling the garage sale."
"Oh, yeah …the sale. How much did we make?"
We? Did he really think he helped? "I haven’t counted the money yet. I’ll do it later." This was one of those times when, as the neurosurgeon in California had advised, I would need the patience of Job. "I’m going to warm up some leftovers for dinner now. You just take it easy, okay?" I walked to the kitchen, juice glass and stained towel in hand.
Mike fell asleep in front of the TV after dinner. I decided to leave him there and put myself to bed. The next thing I knew it was morning. I grabbed the alarm clock and sighed with relief—8:00 am. Plenty of time. Today’s sale was scheduled from noon to four.
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and I suggested that Mike could watch the baseball game while I finished up the garage sale. He didn’t ask about the money again, nor did I mention it.
Shoppers were a bit fewer that day, but sales were still brisk. Exhausted from two months of preparing and two days of back-breaking, feet-searing customer service, I happily closed the garage door after the last shopper drove away. I turned around and smacked right into Mike.
"Oops! I didn’t know you were behind me."
"So," he said, rubbing his hands together, "how much did we make?"
I hesitated long enough to bite my tongue, then responded, "Let’s go upstairs and count it."
The total was six-hundred twelve dollars and fifty cents, not counting the hundred dollars in change I’d started with. "Enough for my skates!" I smiled.
Mike smiled back. "Enough for your skates! You did it!"
Dead tired and filled with pain, I suggested we go get a burger for dinner.
Mike agreed. "I’ll go fire up the truck."
"Okay … I’ll meet you out front." I washed up, threw on a jacket and locked the house, got into the truck, and we were off.
We pulled into the grocery store’s parking lot where Burger-King was located. I unfastened my safety belt as Mike turned into a parking space next to the restaurant, only to fly off the bench seat and bang my right knee into the metal side wall of the cab when our truck bashed into the tall concrete base of a parking lot light.
"Jeeze," I hollered, pulling myself back up onto the seat. "Why’d you do that?"
Mike had already popped out of the truck to check for damage when I realized we’d just encountered a side-effect of his laser eye surgery—no peripheral vision. He hadn’t seen the post.
I slid out of the truck to join him, and saw the big dent in the side wall just in front of the tire. This had to be hurtful to him. Our truck, affectionately called Big Red, was Mike’s pride and joy.
"Damn!" He growled, kicking at the dent.
"Well, that won’t fix it. Let’s go eat and think it over." I headed for the restaurant door, limping slightly because my already bruised knee was now hurting again.
Mike noticed. "Why’re you limping?"
"My knee hit the wall when I flew off the seat."
"Ah, come on. You didn’t bump it that hard!"
"Hard enough … it was already bruised. Remember?"
He made no comment. We ordered and ate, and decided that tomorrow we’d take the truck for repair bids when he got home from work. We did, and he selected a body shop in Bothell, insisting that we not run it through our insurance company in fear that our premium would double or perhaps mar his driving record. Or both. The estimate was six hundred dollars, if we paid in cash.
My ice skating dreams died that day.