A mostly blind person shared a fear of his with me recently. He asked the question: if you lose your vision, will you also lose your memories? I tend to think if they’re good memories, they’ll stay with you. And the others don’t matter. But I’m glad I write my memories down–just in case.
With our second snowfall of the year, memories of growing up with winter activities slushed its way into my brain. Share my childhood memories and one beautiful ice skating experience with me…
Ice Skater’s Delight
We had lovely and very active winters in northwestern Pennsylvania where I grew up. There were plenty of hills and toboggan slides near my house to play on after a heavy snowfall. But what I enjoyed most was the pond below my house. When it froze over, the neighborhood kids would get together and shovel enough snow to the slides so that we could skate on it. The municipality eventually built us a shelter where we changed into and out of our skates. They even provided a small electric heater.
In blustery afternoons, we bundled up and headed for the pond. We all came those days–boys and girls, kids and teenagers.
We made short work of the shoveling. The older and braver ones soon played “Crack the Whip.” Others, like myself skated nearby or watched them. The tough guys skidded around on their sporty black skates, and the teenage girls flirted. That usually resulted in the teenage boys throwing packed snowballs at them as they chased them over the ice. The girls shrieked as they dodged snowballs or tried to avoid getting the cold stuff down their backs. I glided around and watched it all second-hand–my eyelashes frosted over with snow. What wonderful afternoons! I called up my neighbor, “Come on, Kathy! The pond’s frozen over again!”
I remember one brilliant night when I went down to skate by myself just after dinner, around 6 pm. The biting cold sliced through my ski jacket and whistled up my sleeves as I fiddled with the key to unlock the shelter door.
I turned that on, and sat down on one of the benches to change into my skates. As I laced up my last skate, a surge of excitement went through me.I made my way out of the shed and clunked down the snowy incline that bordered the pond.
I was gliding in the fresh, night air. The pond had been shoved earlier, and the streetlights shone on the ice.
I avoided the bumps, but skated easily on the smoother ice.
As I skated, I wondered if I could skate backwards. So after a good forward lead, I turned and took a few hesitant steps backwards. I was doing it! I tried doing a few figure eights then skating backward. I practiced again and again.
The pond became an Olympic arena and I was Dorothy Hamill. I arched my neck, held my head high and my arms out, propelling me effortlessly along the ice. I leaned down until I almost touched the ice with my chin. Then I straightened up and with long, firm strides, circled the pond.
I arched my neck, held my head high and my arms out, propelling me effortlessly along the ice. I leaned down until I almost touched the ice with my chin.
Then I straightened up and with long, firm strides, circled the pond. My (invisible) awestruck audience clapped wildly, which spurred me on to attempt a jump–of course, a half-circle twirl–which, unfortunately landed me with a painful bang on my behind.
The audience faded away and the music disappeared. I was just a sixteen-year-old skating on a pond below the house in the evening light. And one with an aching behind still on the ice.
But so what? Even the best fall, right?
I picked myself up and marveled at my ability to maneuver on blades. I loved skating backwards. So effortless. Giving a little bow, I felt free and alive!
An hour later, the cold crept through my various layers of clothing, snuck into the joints of my gloved hand and settled down into my toes. Time to get off the ice. I changed out of my skates, shut off the lights and heater, and then carefully locked the door. With my white skates slung over my shoulder, I crunched back up the crusty, snow-covered road that led home. I savored the feeling that came over me whenever I finished skating. Before long, I was ready to change from my wet blue jeans and drink a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows.
Looking back, I don’t think that night could have been any more perfect!
Even back then, God was preparing me to take my falls. And to rise again.
To marvel about the skills that I had, and not worry about what I couldn’t do. What strikes me now with my vision loss is that I have such a beautiful memory of a nighttime experience. At sixteen, I didn’t know what I wasn’t seeing. But God brought me joy.
Perhaps what God wants me to focus on is not the physical agility I imagined I had. It’s to know that in my increasing darkness He can bathe me in His light and bring exquisite beauty to my life anyway – if my mind and heart are agile and trusting.
Amy Bovaird is the author of two best-selling books Mobility Matters and Cane Confessions. As a speaker, she talks various topics based on life experiences to educate and inspire others. Living with progressive vision and hearing loss due to Usher Syndrome, Amy blogs about the challenges she faces yet still finds humor around almost every corner. Sign up for her newsletter below!
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