This may be the first time you’ve heard me say this, but it probably won’t be the last:
Roller skating to 80’s power ballads makes me feel alive.
Not only that, roller skating to current Top 40 music that I don’t even know makes me feel alive.
If I had the skills, I would skate to the highest point in the city and proclaim from my quads (that’s roller skater lingo for four-wheel skates), “I love you, roller skating, and I’m not ashamed to say it!”
(OK, now that I’ve actually professed my love, I am feeling a little shy.)
Allow me to explain.
On Saturday, I joined my six-year-old daughter on a birthday party at Oaks Park — a long-time Portland-area landmark. Roller skating rink, amusement park, Coney Island meets Northwest.
with a little bit of this:
and you have a pretty good idea of the place.
If I’m being honest, perhaps saying I “joined” my daughter at the rink lacks some accuracy. For if I were sharing this story at a dinner party, husband by my side, he would probably tell you that I left no ambiguity on the matter. I would be going to this party, and, no question, I was going to skate.
The speed, the music, the sense of community, the Wurlitzer organ overhead, the hokey-pokey. A blessed combination of fear, freedom, falling. Such a great metaphor for life, and I of all people am powerless against a great metaphor and the pull of a great rink.
Other mothers might sit on the side calmly watching their young’uns, but as for me and my child we would be strapping on four-wheels and putting it all out there on the floor.
And let me tell you, my daughter and I were not the only ones putting it all out there on the floor Saturday.
A lean middle-aged man with black Lycra pants and a white towel — clearly a regular — created a veritable symphony of skate. He relished every moment, weaving patterns, accenting especially splashy moves with towel switches and head thrusts.
Kids gripped rink ledge hand over hand, shoulders hunched, feet splaying under them, eyes panicking when other skaters blocked their line along the wall.
Lanky teenagers, 20-something women, kindergarteners holding hard to parents’ hands. Everywhere I looked I saw people giving it their all.
Maybe you don’t relate to the love of skate. But maybe you’ll stick with me for a bit. Because after a delightful afternoon skating with my girl, her friends (and a good number of mamas, too), I just have to share a few life lessons lived on the rink:
1. You’ve got to feel confident standing before you get fancy.
Putting on skates is an equilibrium-shifting experience. Standing taller on wheels is not normal for feet-on-ground creatures, and we’ve got to take pause to adjust. So in life we’ve got to start with the basics, the standing, and build from there. I need to be faithful in the just showing up tasks of my life. In the everyday I am asked to do, the people I’m asked to love in this life I’ve been given. And whatever I do — meal make, diaper change, sink scrub, hand hold, hurt hear — I must purpose to do it, first, in love.
When I start something new, as scared as I may feel, I’ve got to remember the basics I already know. Breathe. Call on God’s presence. Remember whose I am. Then skate like the wind.
2. Try not to fret about the falling. Instead, when you do, hop back up on those skates and keep going.
My J-bug skated like a champ Saturday. She put one foot in front of another. Tested her speed in the practice bump area, rolled the big rink without holding onto the wall or my hand, even tried gliding backwards. And she fell over and over again on bony buns and got right back up. Life is a slippery rink, and the falls hurt, but get back up there, sister. Get back up, brother.
3. Know when to ask for help.
Most of the time when my girl fell, she pushed herself up with hands to the floor or pulled herself up with the help of the railing. Some falls are an opportunity to flex our resilience muscle, our reliance on the Giver of Perfect Help alone. But sometimes we cannot quite regain our balance, and we need to ask for help — without shame. This skating is tricky business, and we’re not alone on the rink for a reason.
4. Slow down to pick up fellow skaters.
It’s easy to stay focused on my own attempts at tricky footwork, the breeze in my hair, the amazing song through the speaker (“Oh Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey…”). But some skaters are down, and they need me. They need you. Look around. Be open to laying aside your fancy footwork to reach out to someone in need.
5. Feel the wind in your hair, the music in your feet.
Life is too short. Too short I tell you, not to do things you love. I don’t know about you, but I have spent too much life worrying about what other people think and believing enjoyment was for dessert when all serious living was cleaned up and put in order. But thanks be to God, who tells us that for freedom, for living out who we are designed to be in him — that for freedom he has set us free.
On Saturday, my J-Bug paused periodically in her skating to pulse head forward and back, teeth over bottom lip, feeling the music. She didn’t enjoy the tunes because she’d figured out the skating thing. She let it be about both the figuring out and the enjoyment, at the same time. She was loving it, and watching her love it brought me such delight.
For me, writing this blog is a terrifying, glorious experience. If not for the risk, there would be none of the delight. What causes you to feel the wind rush?
As we wrapped up the party Saturday, removed skates and touched down to old carpet, we felt again different. Shorter. Feet like hardened oatmeal. Strange. We walked around, getting used to our non-wheeled feet again.
My girl and I didn’t want it to end. There’s something about the uncertainty, the freedom, the joy of it all.
On the way home, J-Bug and I talked about our favorite parts of the afternoon. And right before the weariness rocked her to sleep in booster, she called from the back seat, “I want to stay there and sleep there and do it every day.”
Just like her mama.