Thursday, April 21, 2011


We hadn't even moved in.  There were no beds, no hot water, and there was at least a foot of snow on the ground. And yet, the most important thing in the world for Jay and Liz to do, was to bring Nick, my three year old grand son, up from Florida.  They wanted him to experience snow, for the first time.

They came with their sleeping bags, and slept upstairs.  I slept on a mattress on the living room floor.  We were to camp out like this until Ira returned from Brooklyn, the following week.

After a few days of watching them in my backyard, sliding down the hill on the little sled I bought for Nick, I was exhausted.  I told them that I was going to lie down, and take a nap.  That's when Liz decided that her son should try an indoor sport, and we should go rollerskating.

While Jay was upstairs, getting dressed, she cornered me in the kitchen, and said, "Jay feels guilty about leaving you alone and going skating.  He thinks because he only sees you about once a year, that he's obligated to sit around this house with you all week and do nothing."  I said, "I didn't say I wasn't going with you."

We went to the Roller Magic Rink in Hyde Park.   It was early afternoon, and we were going to skate during the 'kiddie session.'  Liz went ahead of us to purchase the tickets at the admissions desk. We stood waiting, with the crowd of little kids and their parents.

Standing in line brought back memories of when I was a little kid, waiting to get my skates, the way they were doing. Knowing that I was probably the oldest person in the building, I wondered where all those years went.

Liz came back, and handed Jay his ticket.  I held out my hand, waiting for her to give my ticket to me, but she didn't buy me one.  She walked towards the skate rental desk without looking back.  I felt very out of place at that moment. Knowing the game for what it was, I snapped out of it very quickly.  I turned around and went back to the admissions desk, and bought my own damned skating ticket.

When I caught up with them, they were still standing in line at the skate counter, waiting to pick up their skates.  She looked back at me, seeing the ticket in my hand, and she said, "Oh, I didn't know you wanted to skate."  When I  realized how it bothered her that I had a ticket, I knew it was going to be an interesting day!

We went to a bench to sit down and put on our skates.  She took off Nick's shoes and put the skates on his feet.  When he stood up and tried to skate, he started crying an throwing a fit.  While he was well into his tantrum, Liz took out her camera and told him to smile.  He just kept screaming that he didn't want the skates on his feet.  We put our things in a locker, and headed for the rink.  Liz handed me her camera to hold until she was ready to take more pictures of Nick.

They took off, with Nick in the middle, each holding his hands, trying to get him to warm up to the idea of trying to skate.  I found a safe area on the side of the rink, where I could hang onto the rails, and practiced skating for a while.

It had been thirty-five years since I'd skated.  I never mentioned to Jay that I'd met his father in a skating rink a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday.  It was one of those war stories that I'd buried long ago, and never allowed myself to think about.

I skated over to the cafeteria section, and noticed that there was a big crowd of at least forty people having a birthday party for a little girl.  I skated around them carefully, rolling up and down the area until my balance improved.

The thought of getting out onto the rink still intimidated me.  It looked larger than I'd remembered, and would take a lot more energy than I'd had in years.  I'd forgotten how the vibration of the rolling wheels made the soles of my feet tingle when I skated.  I'd forgotten that I had to use all the muscles in my ankles to keep my balance.  But, I was slowly getting back to who I used to be, so many years ago.

About twenty feet  away from me, the sound of Nick screaming and crying came from the video game that he was hanging onto.  I watched Liz trying to reason with him, telling him that she'd payed seven dollars to rent his skates.  She said that he could play the video game later, but he had to skate, first.  His behavior got worse, and the people at the party were staring at him, getting annoyed.  They were trying to sing 'Happy Birthday' to the little girl, and his screaming was ruining the moment.

I pointed at Nick, and said to the women nearby, "You see that kid, throwing a fit over there?  That's my wonderful grandson, and that's how his wonderful mother deals with him."  Liz saw me, and gave me a signal that she wanted to take pictures of Nick.

They watched me as I rolled over to Liz, and handed her the camera.  Then, I put some quarters into the slot of the video game, and got it going.  Nick shut up, and started playing with it.

The next thing in order, was for me to get onto the rink, and skate.  As I was passing the party crowd, I yelled to the women who were watching me, "Here goes!"  One of them yelled back, "You go, Girl!"  That was all I needed to hear!  I gushed to myself as I got out there, "She called me a girl!" Those words made me feel young, again!

There I was, rolling around the rink with about fifty little kids and their parents.  I went around the rink a few times to get the feel of the wooden floor.  Watching other people around me skate, I copied what they were doing.  As they went around the curve, they crossed the right foot over the front of the left ankle.  Then, they stepped to the left, with the left foot, and pushed with the right one, to pick up speed.  I remembered that it was the thing to do, and dared myself to do it.  I saw Liz and Jay standing at the edge of the rink. They were looking at me, like they were worried that I was going to fall down and kill myself.

Through the loud speakers, the rocking beat of the song made me forget about being scared, and I started to dance!  I began to focus on the lyrics, and tried to sing along as if I knew the words.  In between the drums and the horns, men were rapping, and screaming the words:  "GO, MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO! -- GO MUCHAH FUCKAH, GO MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO!"

I thought about how inappropriate that song was, for the kiddie session, or any session in a skating rink, for that matter.  I wondered if anyone ever bothered to check the song list on the CDs, before they put them in the stereo.  I looked around to see if my grandson was listening, but he was still playing the video game.  No one else seemed to notice or care, either.  The guy in the middle of the rink, with the striped referee shirt and whistle in his mouth, the parents, and their kids, were all skating to the rhythm of the song.

As I rolled past the birthday party crowd, I heard clapping and cheering.  The women were waving at me, yelling, "Here she comes!  You go, Girl!"  I waved back at them, very excited!  I skated around, wishing I had a better song to work with, but then, again, I realized that the song fit the circumstances perfectly well.  I started singing, "GO MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO!"  I spun around, did some fancy steps, skating backwards, dipping and swaying like the song was written just for me!

Every time I passed the party crowd, their cheers got louder and louder, yelling, "WHOOOOH!   Girlfriend's got it goin' on!" Flashes from Liz's camera blinded me for a few seconds, but I kept skating, hoping not to run over anyone.

Jay came out to the rink and joined me.  He started bouncing and doing steps, in time with the music.  I followed along, doing the same steps.  We joined hands and danced until the song was over.  We slowed down to rest, sweating and catching our breath.  Jay said, "Ma, you didn't tell me you could skate like that!"  I said, "You didn't ask."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In 1968, I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and on the drill team of the Carlisle High School Marching Band.  Being that our sports teams were the 'Carlisle Indians,' our drill team was known as, the 'Indianettes.'  This meant that, not only did we march in parades, but, almost every Friday night, we would get on a school bus and be transported to other schools and march on their fields at football halftime.  It served as a guaranteed way to be out with my friends.

We had band practice every Saturday, marching for hours, all over the football field, and getting yelled at by our music teacher and band leader, Mr. Wyrick.  Before each practice would begin, Mr. Wyrick would tell us that when and if he had to call us out by name and yell at us, we were not to take it personal.  He assured us that he wasn't meaning anything by it, except directing us as to where we were supposed to be marching, or standing.  He said that we were 'working together as one big machine,' and when he yelled, he was just trying to get the machine to run smoother.  He gave us an analogy of 'keeping us oiled, and working out the kinks.'

While he stood on a bench on the edge of the field, he yelled and cussed us all out through a bull horn.  He would yell so hard that blue veins would actually pop out of is forehead!  At first, it scared me, but the older kids stood in the field and snickered while he referred to us as a bunch of 'losers and shit heads.'  He would call out the kids that laughed and said, "You can laugh all you want to, but you're still a big machine made up of a bunch of little-bitty nothings from the middle of nowhere, and that's all you're ever going to be!"

We quickly learned how to judge for ourselves what we were supposed to be doing, to save the poor bastard from stoking out.  When practice was over, he would have a big smile on his face and graciously thank us for our hard work, and point out the slightest improvements that any of us made.

After several weeks of marching in the cold wind and rain, we developed some not-so-elaborate formations.  Some of us were bright enough to be bored with, and ashamed of them, especially when we marched on the football fields of other schools.

For instance:  One of our routines involved marching out onto the field to the tune of the jingle from the 'Excedrin Headache' commercial.  The first group marched in the form of a person's head.  Two lines, marching in single file was his throat, and a group of us marched closer to the bleachers, forming an oval shape, which was supposed to be a person's stomach.  At the end of the song, around the last six beats, and a drum roll, the drill team captain, Jeanie Shumaker and her best 'frenemy,' Vicki Carpenter, would appear on the field.  Each would be carrying a large, white, circular piece of cardboard, with a big letter 'E' on each of them.  They were supposed to be a couple of Excedrin aspirins.

Then would run past the kids that were supposed to be a pair of lips, opening as they ran through.  Then, they would run in the center of the two marching straight lines of the kids that were the throat.  When they finally reached the oval shape of us that were supposed to be the stomach, the cymbals clanged, and the trumpets and tubas would do a 'TA-DA!'

After that, everything stopped to a silent stillness.  The crowd in the bleachers would be sitting there, very perplexed.  At the same time, all at once, the whole town took one big deep breath and said, "Huh?"

As we marched off the field to a pathetic rendition of, "Winchester Cathedral," the feeling of disappointment among us kids, was so thick, that we couldn't march away fast enough!

The few times that I ever looked out at the crowd of people in the stands, they were pointing and laughing at us, and as I marched, I felt both anger and embarrassment.  There was never any applause.