Derek had been ice skating before, but the other four of us- including me- had never been.
The kids were excited to try it, if a little nervous. I was just plain excited, having long ago made my peace with making a fool of myself while doing any activity involving my person. For years, our kids watched those VeggieTales cartoons, and you may remember how the vegetable hosts always ended each episode with the benediction, "God made you special," "And he loves you very much." Well, one of the ways that God made me special was to gift me with extraordinarily poor hand-eye coordination and a propensity to fall/run into solid objects/accidentally hurt myself on a disturbingly frequent basis. Strapping blades to my feet and letting me loose on some slick ice in a crowd of innocent bystanders? I've really outdone myself this time, says God, as he pops some popcorn and settles in for a good show.
That is why Saturday was such a pleasant surprise: I can ice skate! Like, actually ice skate!
Listen, there are very few physical activities I've ever tried in my life that I caught on to quickly, so having a natural knack for something like ice skating made it so that I spent most of my time gliding (with, yes, frequent wobbles, IT WAS MY FIRST TIME, OKAY?) around with a gobsmacked smile and baffled laugh accompanying me. This must be how Derek feels all the time, and let me tell you, it is glorious!
Adelaide likewise took to it with relative ease, and like me, was just as pleasantly surprised and cheered as I was to find something she could do with such quick confidence. "I am good at this!" she crowed after an hour. "I know!" I replied, and we understood each other perfectly, as this is not normal for the two of us. Not normal at all.
Atticus was... well, he was interesting to watch, at least at first. He's a pretty athletic kid, and so far has taken to most of the sports he's tried rather well. So it was just bizarre to watch him struggle so much when he first got on the ice. That boy's feet acted like they had a blood vendetta against him at first, like they were bound and determined to slip this way and that way and often two opposite directions at the same time.
You know how, in the Harry Potter books, there is a curse that is cast by yelling, "Tarantallegra!" that causes your opponent's legs to dance under them in a quick and uncontrollable fashion? You remember that? Watching Atticus during the first half hour of ice skating was almost exactly the way I envisioned that curse playing out. He fell over and over and over, then he'd take a break, then drag himself back on the ice, then fall again, over and over and over, but at some point, even though he kept falling, he forced himself away from the bar running along the wall of the rink, and by what I'm guessing was sheer stubbornness forced his feet under control, and began skating. He was still falling quite a bit, but he was also skating, and getting faster and bolder and stronger on his skates, and I'm not gonna lie: It was beautiful to watch. He's the Crisler that started our outing rather dejected, but ended begging to go back.
Caedmon's skating abilities fell somewhere between Adelaide and Atticus's: He wasn't as quick a study as his sister, but it wasn't as difficult for him as it was for his brother. He used the little ice-skating-aid-walker-looking thing every so often (or sagged against it as the adults took turns pushing him around the ice, which, by the way, is exhausting), but also pulled himself around via the bar and mustered enough courage the brave the ice away from the bar. He won Saturday's award for Refused the Most Help which, despite being a medal that only exists in my mind, still equated to many, many cries of "Don't hold my hand!" "I don't need any help!" and "I can do it MYSELF!" That was before being reminded that guess what, bucko, manners still matter on the ice, and why, yes, you can still get in trouble while ice skating! After that it was polite but repeated, "No, thank you"s. He, too, can't wait to go back.
Derek skated around for a while with his usual disgusting natural ability for physical endeavors, but his ankles didn't hold up for long; whether that's actually his legs' fault or not, it's hard to say. He had warned me before we went that the worst part about skating at a public rink were the rental skates. I obviously have nothing to compare them to, but I will say I still have sore spots where the top of the skates met my shins- if I had to guess, and based on the skates I saw people wearing that were owned by them, my skates weren't tight enough, and I had them laced as tight as they could go. Even whilst skating, I had a fair guess as to what the problem was, as it reminded me somewhat painfully of the perils of not properly tying and tightening the ribbons on my pointe shoes. Ankle support matters, friends!
Big thanks to Derek's sister and her family for the idea and invite, to his mom for helping drag the kids up and encourage them time after time, and his dad for providing two solid hours of rink-side assistance. We can't wait to go back!