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Disco Lights and Carpeted Walls

Raise your hand if you grew up on a rollerskating rink.

I know there’s at least a heaping handful of you out there, because I grew up on the rollerskating rink right alongside you.

(A quick shoutout to Playland, may she rest in peace, and Foxboro, who stole our loyalty.)

I took my boys today.  Boys, meet the skating rink: brown skates, orange wheels, disco lighting, and carpeted walls.  When the world comes to an end, I believe roller skating rinks might survive.  And they will look exactly the same, in their timelessness – just like the Chicago Midway Airport.

I hadn’t intended to skate, actually.  I took my big bag of writing goodness, and I thought I would choose a corner by the snack bar to read, reflect, journal and write while the boys skated laps.  (It’s okay if you’re laughing out loud right now.  It was a ridiculous notion.)

No dice.  Who can possibly think anything of depth in that screaming environment with lights that induce seizures?  Naturally, I was on the rink in no time.  And a million memories came rushing back to me.

I remembered my last day of kindergarten, when my dad chaperoned the class trip to the skating rink and taught me how to skate.  The day he taught me the magic words to keep from falling: Hibbidy-Hobbidy-Hoobidy.  The day it all began.

I remembered skating through elementary school, with so many circles who knew skating was a guaranteed successful social outing.  I skated with the marching band.  I skated with my senior class.  I’ve skated in costume (I think I was a wrapped gift, while my brother was a three-legged man – with a skate on the third leg).  I skated with my college girlfriends, as we lapped the rink, holding hands to Point of Grace’s “Circle of Friends,” sure that no life stage or friendship could possibly match the one we had found.  I have skated at every hour of the night during multiple overnighters in junior high, always waiting for the Couples’ Skate, as if this would be my big moment to declare my crush to the youth group.  When he didn’t ask, my troupe of girls went to the dingy bathroom to eat Bottle Caps candy and spray our bangs.  I’ve skated the Hokey Pokey a thousand times.  I’ve won my share of races, and thereby free soda from the snack bar.

Heavens.  Makes me wonder if I did anything else with my childhood, if I ever wore a simple pair of shoes.

Somehow, in my memory, there is always the woman with the dark ponytail all the way down her back, in her high-waisted jeans and a mint green sweatshirt.

I think I may have been a version of that woman today, as I joined two hundred people, shorter than I, who actually have no idea that the song “I Had the Time Of My Life” is from a movie they’ve never seen and it hasn’t always existed in a hip-hop arrangement.

I took the rink for the Speed Skate, while my children stood by and cheered.  They think it was a race; they think I won; I may or may not be allowing them to believe this.

The boys asked me to sit out during the Backwards Skate.  I’m still a little disappointed, because their mom knows her stuff and could have shown them a move or two.  (This is probably the public display they were resisting.)

So, anyway.  We skated today.  Tucker took off, unafraid to fall dozens of times.  Tyler stayed close, little Mr. Chatty as he gripped my hand.  He complimented me: I was better than the little grandma in the purple pants with red light-up wheels.  Maybe she’s the same lady of the long ponytail, jeans and sweatshirt, two decades later.

As we left, one of my children said, “How come we never do anything fun??”  I launched into a tirade of the true definition of fun. Punk.

Every bit of me is sore.  Go to bed, little skaters.  Mommy needs a hot bath.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. and the Limbo…I always loved being able to make it to the finals for the limbo, while my even smaller-than-me-for-her-age best friend took first. And Red Vines. This is where I began my lifelong love for red vines. And that weird carpeted corner on the outside where the rink and wall met…unspeakable mysteries happened there….THANKS, Tricia for this skate down memory lane….I too have many nights where I went to bed with my inner ear still making me feel like I was skating. Great post with lots of fun details!

  2. I have a pair of derby skates in the closet, waiting for over three years for me to be less afraid of falling. I think I may have to try again, as soon as the weather is warmer. 🙂

  3. Long live the backward skate!!! What a great post, thanks for the memories!

  4. I’m now reliving similar memories. I tore up the backwards skate every time.

  5. Wow, I remember that lady with the pony tail too! How funny!!! She was ALWAYS there!

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