All four little girls giggled together in the back seat of the car as we approached the old-time roller skating rink. Two 10-year-olds and two 9-year-olds, they were eagerly anticipating all the fun they were going to have once they tied up those skates with the tattered and frayed laces. “Happy Valley Roller Rink” would once again live up to its name!
As we entered the 1960s-era roller skating rink, we were greeted by Butch and Amy. I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess that Butch and Amy started dating each other back in the early 1960s, perhaps one of their families owned the original building, and they have just continued to keep it running all these years. It still feels like I remember roller skating rinks from when I was a kid, back in the late 60s, with beat up skates lining the wall behind a weary looking counter which has seen generations of kids crowd around for a soda pop or a bag of chips.
These days, Butch locates and hands out the skates and in between customers, he reads last week’s newspaper. Amy, on the other hand, is clearly The Boss! When Butch couldn’t figure out how much it would cost for two kids, two pair of skates, and two parents (who were not planning to skate), Amy bustled behind the counter and tallied it all up, and announced, “He can’t figure it out!” Once we paid, we were allowed to enter through the heavy door that is covered with notes such as, “You may NOT leave and return!” and “NO food allowed inside from other places!”
One of the really good things about the fact that Amy (and Butch, when he isn’t reading the newspaper) runs a “tight ship,” is that we feel safe with our kids there. No gangs, no drugs, no food ;o) except for the outdated bags of chips, slightly soggy slices of pizza and cans of soda pop that can be purchased from behind that mysterious, tattered old counter. The kids love it! Round and round they go to the beat of some new music and lots of old-time tunes, including the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance. They always do the Limbo, too, and it’s great fun to watch the little kids and the big kids go lower, and lower, and lower, until they fall off their skates trying to get under the limbo pole.
It didn’t take long for the girls to get out there, lose their balance, slide this way and that way, fall down, and pop back up before they were flying around the rink at a pretty good clip. Except for our Annie. With her left side being much weaker than her right side because of mild Cerebral Palsy, it was really tricky for her to stay upright for more than a few seconds at a time. So, around and around she would go, holding on to the railing, and then falling down and crawling from one post to the next where there was no railing. The other girls would come along and take her by the hand and encourage her to keep on going, she would fall down, get up, fall down, get up, fall down . . . . and they just kept cheering her on.
I watched her agonizing over the simple process of just putting one foot in front of the other, while she tried to keep from falling down. After a while of letting her try it on her own, I decided to go over and see if I could do a bit of “Mama Coaching.” We walked back and forth on the carpeted area, where we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way, and pretty soon she was beginning to remember to put one foot in front of the other, but then she would forget and down she would go! After we worked on this a while, I asked her if she wanted to try it on her own for a few minutes, and she decided that she would give it a try.
I watched again (which is very difficult for a mama to do without jumping in to “rescue”) as she teetered, and tottered, and tumbled in a heap. She would get back up and try it again. She would lean this way and that way, grab the railing, spin around and plop! Back down she would go. As I watched from a little distance (so as not to interfere with her progress), she stopped by the railing and just stood there with her head hanging down. I waited and watched, and she just stood there. OK, a mom can only take so much of that!
I walked over and in the most cheerful voice I could pull from deep within my mama’s heart, I said, “Hey! How’s it going?” She didn’t answer me, just stood there with her head drooping down. I pulled her chin up so I could look her in the eyes, and the tears were flowing down her little cheeks. “What’s wrong, Annie Bug?” I asked, as if I didn’t know.
“Everyone else can skate, but I can’t do it,” she said as she continued to weep silently. “Wait a minute!” I said, pointing to the other kids that were falling down all around her. “Everyone else isn’t getting it the first time, either, and the ones who are skating, have been practicing for a long time.” She kind of looked around, swiped her hand across her tear-stained cheeks and said, “Then I guess we better come here every week so I can practice.” With that, she grabbed the railing and started putting one foot in from of the other, while I walked backwards in front of her, again lapsing into the “Mama Coach” mode.
“Come on, you can do it!” I would whisper to her over the railing. “Never give up! Keep moving! Just put one foot in front of the other!” I coaxed as she began to get a rhythm. “Keep your chin up! Look forward! Put one foot in front of the other,” over and over and over again, until she went all the way around the skating rink. Alone. Well, except for holding on to the railing and me yakking at her all the way ;o)
We are going again next Sunday afternoon, and I might even put on a pair of roller skates. It’s been a long time, and if I don’t kill myself, it might be a good way to help her realize she CAN do this, she just might have to work a little bit harder than someone else, but big deal! We all have things that we need to learn how to do, and when we look around and see someone who does that particular thing with seemingly no effort, it is difficult to understand. But all of this reminds me, too, of how many times I’ve fallen down, given up, swiped the back of my hand across my tear-stained cheeks, got up and just started putting one foot in front of the other. And I’m not done yet!
I’ll keep you posted on Annie’s progress as she practices her roller skating skills, and be sure to remember the next time you lose your balance and fall down . . . . get up again, keep moving, and just put one foot in front of the other. God will take care of the rest if we just keep doing what He puts before us. Have a great week and I hope you will stop back often! I have a few more holiday recipes to post this week, so if you are looking for some new ideas for your family Christmas celebration, come on back ;o)