During the winter season in Ottawa, wherever you go, you can find a pop-up skate rink. When the weather is cold enough, you can even skate on the canal or on the lake. You can feel that skating is really part of people’s life here.
Unlike Ottawa, in the region of Japan where I grew up, skating wasn’t a common sport. Outdoor rinks were nearly nonexistent, and even indoor rinks were very rare. But my hometown had one large indoor skate rink called “Orange Range” attached to the shopping mall where my family did shopping once every month. A local skate club used the rink for their practice, but the rink was also open to the public during the winter season.
When I was between the age of four and five, my father took me to the skate rink while my mother did the shopping. The access to the Orange Range skate rink was via a long deserted corridor from the shopping mall. The passage was complicated and made me feel as if I were on an adventure to a special mission. There was also a spiral staircase on the way, the very first one I had seen in my life.
At the reception, my father and I rented pairs of skate shoes along with protective gears and gloves, and we changed our shoes next to the rink. My father wasn’t an expert skater, but he could skate and enjoyed it. Since I wasn’t able to stand on the ice at first, my father told me to stay near the railing. Then he taught me the basics – how to push the edge against the ice, how to bend my knees, how to angle my feet, and he even taught me how to fall properly. After giving a lecture, he would leave me to go around the rink by himself while I practiced on my own.
I practiced a lot, and before long I was able to balance myself and move along the railing. My father suggested me to travel around the entire rink with the help of railing. I did, and it felt like a remarkable accomplishment.
A few sessions passed like that, and one day my father and I were back on the rink. By this time, I was able to walk on the ice without constantly holding the railing. But I was still staying close to the railing since I was afraid of falling.
After some time, my father left the rink to sit and rest for a while. Eager to practice, I declined the offer to rest and remained on the ice. As I moved toward the railing to resume my practice, a girl maybe just a few years older than me approached me with a beaming smile.
“Let’s skate together!”
I saw that she was a skilled skater from the way she moved. I, on the other hand, was still very wabbly. I didn’t think I would make a good company to her.
I mumbled to her about my limited skating skill, but the girl didn’t change her mind.
“Don’t worry. Let’s go!”
She took my hand, and off we went.
The moment we started, all my fear went away. My body felt light, and I felt as if we were flying in the sky. Together, we crossed the rink from edge to edge, side to side. We made curves on the ice, and as we sped on, the wind caressed our faces.
We made a full circle and came back to the spot where we started.
The girl cheered me with a big smile before we parted our ways.
I was still dreamy as I left the rink to join my father in the seating area. As soon as I sat next to him, he looked at me and said, “You’re skating beautifully!”
I still remember that magical moment like yesterday. I don’t know where this girl came from or where she went afterward. But the world I saw through her tiny hand that day will always remain fresh in my memory.