A couple years ago, a friend and I decided we were going to take up roller skating as a way to get exercise that didn't involve A) the boring old treadmill or B) a weekly commitment to the dreaded gym. Now I'm not talking about rollerblading--I'm talking about old-school, 4-wheels-with-a-stopper-in-the-front roller skating.
After all, I was close to achieving pro status as a kid, and the exact same roller rink I visited on a regular basis still happens to be located almost exactly 5 minutes from my apartment. Since my once-cherished white, pink and purple skates Santa Claus brought me for Christmas were long-gone and would never fit my size 7 feet anyway, I was on a quest to locate the perfect pair of brand new skates.
I decided on a pair of killer black derby skates, which are just like roller skates--only they hit below the ankle like regular shoes. To this day, one of my biggest fears (no lie) is falling and breaking my ankle--thus, having to forgo wearing high heels. For me, life would be unthinkable in that condition! As a result, I concluded that an ankle-baring derby skate would allow for "give" if I happened to trip over a small child and fall flat on my face. Since ankle injuries seemed less likely and they were super-cool looking, I dropped the $70-or-so bucks on a brand spankin' new pair. I was so excited!
I discovered on my first outing that re-learning to roller skate would be a bit of a challenge since I hadn't attempted to do so in about 20 years--literally. I'm happy to report it's probably the cheapest form of entertainment one can find this day and age that guarantees a good time (and sore muscles, too, I've recently learned). I was shocked, however, when I was asked to sign a waiver before I was presented my wristband indicating admission to the rink. As it turns out, anyone over the age of 18 is required to sign a waiver, ensuring the roller rink won't be sued, should said person fall and break an ankle or a hip. Ah, lawyers...they always find a way to spoil the fun--and make you feel geriatric at a mere 30 years old.
It was a tad off-putting to be discriminated for being too old to enjoy my favorite childhood past time in a totally risk-free environment, but I understand the ways of the world have changed. One signature later, I was off to change into skates and lock up my shoes and handbag in the same lockers we used as small children. Looking around the rink, nostalgia overtook me-as did the familiarly faint smell of giant pickles from the snack bar. The place hadn't changed much, except for the new brightly colored carpet that replaced the hideous orange carpet of the early 90s. Plus, I was cool again--I brought my own skates!
The baby learning rink in the back was my first stop as I became re-acquainted with the foreign wheeled objects on my feet. It was like a scene right out of Bambi. I can imagine I must have looked like a baby deer learning to walk to all the happy-go-lucky kids and their onlooking parents. Not so much like "riding a bicycle," roller skating wasn't so quick to come back to me after a 20-year absence from the activity. Maybe I should have started with a glass of wine to calm the nerves; however, at this point, it was too late to turn back.
I mustered up enough courage after a few laps on the kiddie rink to make my way to the "big" rink (which, I must admit, looked a tad bit smaller than I remembered as a kid). My fear kept me from taking off like a bullet. Instead, I had to ease a bit more into it. After all, I had a lot further to fall than I did as a 10-year-old. Kids shot past me as I got my bearings, leaving me to feel like the "old person" I used to weave in and out of as a roller-skating champ some 20 years ago.
After a few laps, I felt more assured that I knew what I was doing, and it all started coming back to me. The music was different--as was the scenery from an older woman's perspective. I found it ironic that the once-craved snacks from the snack bar seemed to entice a gag reflex rather than a rumbling stomach. But all in all, it was like I was a kid again. Only my sore muscles and heavier breathing indicated I didn't have the endurance that once came so easily as a child. Did I mention getting older sucks??
As the music blared and kids whirred past, I was reminded of the countless birthday parties and random Sunday afternoons my childhood friends and I had spent at the Interskate roller rink, clad in colorful Lycra skating outfits we adored. I used to feel like a United States Olympian as I twirled and turned in the center of the rink where the more "experienced" skaters showed off their tricks to the addictive thumping beat of songs from New Kids on the Block, Milli Vanilli and Michael Jackson. At this point in my 30s, however, my main objective was to stay upright and not worry about crushing a small child.
It really was a thrilling experience returning to a place where I had once felt so alive and free. Though the music was a little different, with the same old wooden floor I'd circled hundereds of times and the God-awful floor-to-wall carpeting, it felt for a second like merely days had passed, and I couldn't help but smile. And despite the waiver I was required to sign that indicated otherwise, I really was a kid again...and I had finally returned to pay a visit to my old stomping ground.