Thirty brave souls—I might be projecting just a bit—show up for the first day of the winter term workshop Learn to Ice Skate. Before taking the ice, the students spread out around the skate-changing room just off Kenyon Arena, checking in with their instructors, getting fitted for skates, and signing insurance waivers.
“If you’ve never been on the ice before, you’re required to wear a helmet,” junior Lydia Waldo announces to the class. She’s one of three instructors along with sophomore Rose Kelly and senior Elizabeth Green. I ask Green how many of the students are beginners. “Probably about one-third,” she says. “The others probably skated when they were younger, but haven’t been on the ice in years.”
The divide is immediately clear as a little more than half the class strides confidently through the blue double doors leading to the rink; the others, numbering 14, take a little longer to get ready, fidgeting with helmets and retying skates, before taking tentative steps onto the ice. These are my people. I’m to join them—though not today; I have to take notes—a novice among novices, 45 years old, a Vermont resident for 15 years, the father of a 10-year-old skater. My eyes are riveted on the beginners as they hug the boards, a flurry of thoughts running through my head: Who needs to know how to do this? Why would someone think they need to know how to do this? How can I get out of this?
Already, they’ve dubbed themselves the Wall Crew, and they march along the wall single file like penguins, taking short, choppy steps, as if performing a slow-motion conga line. “All right, hands off the boards,” Waldo instructs. Oh no, so soon? I think. Waldo then leads the group through a series of exercises—they learn how to safely fall, how to get up, how to stroke, how to stop. After 30 minutes, most of the group can skate down and back, their legs no longer ramrod straight, their steps less tentative.It dawns on me that when I come out—with skates next time—I’ll be all alone in ability. And fear. “You’ll be fine,” Waldo assures me. “It’s going to be fun.”
I don’t believe her, until I look out and register the looks on the faces of the Wall Crew.
Okay, I allow.