When I was a kid, I was a whiz on roller skates. Seriously, my trusty skates were like an extension of my two feet. My very-best-friend-in-the-whole-world, Lisa E, and I would spend hours zigging and zagging along the street in front of my house and hers, endlessly looping around and around the cul-de-sac until the arrival of dusk and the illumination of the street lights, accompanied by the “Time to come in!” call of one of our four parents, signaled an end to our day.
I will always remember the nervous feeling in my belly the afternoon we skated, full speed, hand in hand, into the closed door of Lisa’s two-car garage. We were smart kids, for sure, but on that particular summer day in 1980, just home from the movie theater and straight into our roller skates, somewhere deep inside us we each dared to believe that maybe, just maybe, the E’s garage door was the portal to Xanadu. (Key the Olivia Newton John song.) It wasn’t.
Of course, things changed, as they do. A few years later both roller skating and Lisa E had a much smaller, less all consuming, role in my life and by high school they’d each faded away mostly for good.
Many moons later, here I find myself, back in my hometown and occasionally stopping by the landmarks of my childhood – the mall, the YMCA, even the DMV. It was inevitable, I suppose, that I’d make my way to the skating rink. As fate would have it, Moira has joined the local roller derby league. They practice three times a week as a team with the option of practicing on their own on Wednesdays during the “Adults Only” skate that goes from nine pm to midnight at the local roller rink. Two Wednesdays ago I decided to join her – to lace up a pair of roller skates for the first time since I can remember.
It was nice to be there with my niece – outfitted in her gear of regulation skates, knee pads, and ripped stockings – and to see her so delighted by something that once so delighted me. And, even if I know that what really delights her is potentially having the crap pounded out of her by other chicks wearing regulation skates, knee pads and ripped stockings, on that first Wednesday she still kindly pretended to be impressed by my ability to turn round and round in tight circles on the floor (Jesus, I was impressed) and, despite her watching me hug the wall for my first few laps, this close to falling on my ass, my reputation as her “Cool Aunt” appeared to escape intact.
During the fifteen plus years that I lived in New York, I felt about as far away as a person could from what I’ve been so happily immersed in since leaving NYC last January: the days of my youth. Days spent at the pool, swimming fast and strong through the water, emerging exhausted and happy. Days spent escaping the heat in a cool theater at 3pm on a Tuesday and maybe again at 2pm on Thursday if I’m so inclined. Days when my legs whipped here and there along the pavement on eight wheels, confident and sure, before taking that last loop around the cul-de-sac and down the slope of my best friend’s driveway. The days when anything was possible. Even finding Xanadu.