I went roller-skating as a child more times than I can remember.
My day care center relied on two North Dallas staples to keep elementary-age kids entertained in the summer: Don Carter’s All Star Lanes for bowling and Starlight (or maybe Starlite) for skating.
I can still conjure the smell — a mix of feet and sweat, dill pickles and Jolly Ranchers.
And the sounds — lots of Village People and Olivia Newton-John and Cheap Trick plus wheels on wood planks plus laughter.
And the sights — a dimly lit, low-ceilinged cavern punctuated by a disco ball, benches lined up against the wall, square metal lockers in a back corner.
Those strong memories have lasted a good 30 years. What my body doesn’t remember is exactly how to skate.
It is not like riding a bike.
I laced up a pair of rental skates this summer, joining Katie and Cooper at a birthday party at one of North Texas’ surviving rinks.
This was their first try at skating. (Yet another activity that I’ve failed to introduce them to in a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes I feel like a floundering social director.)
I figured I’d warm up with a couple of laps before regaining my youthful speed and at the same time inspire Katie and Cooper with my smooth moves and enviable confidence.
That notion was dispelled as soon as I stood up with heavy skates as my anchor. Any trace of grace exited.
I gingerly scooted across gaudy carpet to hardwoods and plunked my feet down. I couldn’t recall how to hold my body, what to do with my legs, where my arms should go.
There was much more shuffling than rolling. Understandably, my children were not impressed.
Cooper gave up on me for advice and grabbed one of those PVC-pipe-on-wheels contraptions — kind of like a walker, designed to ease children into skating on their own.
The problem is they’re designed for much shorter children. Cooper is 10 and more than 5 feet tall. To hold on to the walker, he had to stoop over.
The walker wheels would move faster than his skates’ wheels, but he refused to release his grip on the walker. So, within a few feet, his torso would drift from semi-vertical to horizontal. Then his colt legs would buckle from underneath him, and he’d tumble to the floor.
He’d scramble back up and try again. And again. Lap after lap.
Meanwhile, Katie couldn’t decide whether she would trust a walker or me.
With me she lacked freedom but gained a little more stability (while stealing it from me, though I didn’t let on).
When she chose freedom, though, she was more likely to fall. Flat on her bottom. Over and over.
Her cries escalated from surprise to frustration to pain.
She and I circled the rink four or five times. We clomped through the “Hokey Pokey,” laughing the whole time we were shaking. Mercifully we were not forced to perform “YMCA” or pair up for couple’s skate.
By the end of the party, the three of us were more than ready to put our street shoes back on.
We hobbled to the car, feeling the phantom weight of those skates. My body was starting to register aches that would last another two days.
“Let’s do that again!” a child enthused.
“Yeah!” the other agreed.
“Someday, maybe,” I mumbled.
Someday, maybe, when nostalgia for skating trumps the memories of my awkward reintroduction.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at email@example.com.