Sunday, January 29, 2012

Size matters

“One children's 8, one 12 and a ladies' size 6 please,” I asked the man behind the counter. I slid my driver's license and a twenty-dollar bill through the glass partition. He lined up the skates and passed them to me with a smile and ten dollars change.

Ittybit had disappeared with her friend and the pair of delicate white skates into the ladies' locker room while I labored over her brother, trying to convince his step-sister-stubborn feet to squeeze their way into this strange-looking boot with a blade.

It was hot and the pressure was on.

“I've never done this before,” he said in a whisper. “Ice skating ...”

“It's going to be fun. You'll see.”

I didn't have the heart to tell him that once the skates were tightly strapped to his feet my expertise would reach its end.

I haven't skated since I was 12, and to be quiet honest I'm not sure what I did back then could be called skating. I don't think I managed to glide anywhere effortlessly. How could I? I never strayed from the rails, where I was holding on for dear life. “Graceful” wasn't a word that would describe me now or then.

The fact that I had actually Googled “How to ice skate,” prior to the excursion and taken notes on my arm would have been lost on him.

No matter. The way things were going we were destined to spend our rink time in the “lounge” trying on skates.

As I loosened and stretched the laces – trying to coax his doubled-socked foot into the boot -- I began to doubt my abilities as a mother.

I thought he was an eight, I grumbled under my breath.

“Wait here, OK? I'm going to go back and get the next size up.”

Back to the window.

“Can I exchange these for a nine?”

“Of course.”

A few minutes later, I have his right foot secured and am working on his left, when a terrible realization makes me wish we'd decided on Wii skating instead: His left foot is ever-so-slightly bigger than his right foot.

Back to the window.

“I'm sorry,” I say, pushing the second pair of skates through the glass. “I need whatever size is next.” I am unsure of just what size that might be – 10, 12, 1? – so I don't want to hazard a guess. I can practically feel the motherhood license being ripped from my parenthood wallet and torn into tiny bits.

When I return with the skates The Champ was quieter than usual. The room had filled with skaters who weren't struggling with fit. And though he could see I wasn't much of an expert at lacing either, he didn't accuse me of “getting in all wrong” like he usually does when I make mistakes … such as “frenching” his waffle by leaving it in the iron until it crisps, or playing games by the instructions on the box and not the rules he arbitrarily concocts.

Finally, fitted and laced, he stood on the blades and walked rather confidently up and down the length of the narrow room.

He was ready to go …

I was fumbling with my skates and praying the sweat from my brow wouldn't smear the notes I needed for the next challenge – to actually skate on ice.

“I wish dad were here,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“Why's that, bud,” I asked, assuming the answer would be my final vote of no confidence.

“Because he could take me to the men's locker room,” he said almost wistfully. “I bet it's more funner in there than on the ice.”

Like mother, like son.

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