I was given my first pair of roller skates when I was 4 or 5. They were white faux leather with pink straps, pink wheels, and a small photo of Barbie on the side. My parents bought them for me for my birthday, I believe - I adored them.
I remember wearing them around the house, scuffing up the linoleum in the kitchen as my unsure feet found their way into a gliding rhythm. When I could finally stand on my own in my skates, my Nana took me to the skating rink each Saturday morning. Before we left in the mornings, she would make me creamed egg sandwiches with extra pepper, stating that eggs would make me strong. We would listen to Neil Diamond on our way to the rink.
Sweet caroling, bah bah bahhhh.
Good times never seemed so good, so good so good so good.
The rink was always cold and Nana always brought us sweatshirts - Kansas City Chiefs for Nana, Kansas City Chiefs for me. She would sit cross legged on the floor and gently put my small feet into my Barbie skates and then lace up her skates, pulling her pants over the tops of the boots. Skating on the carpet was always easier than skating in the rink so she always held my hand for the first few laps around the rink, letting me decide when to let go.
We skated from 9-11am, forever in a child's eyes. We skated because Nana loved to skate. I skated because I wanted to be with my Nana.
I don't remember when we stopped going skating together exactly. I'm sure it was a result of a multitude of factors: my parents got divorced, Nana lost her leg above the knee, I started growing up. I just remember one day realizing that skating wasn't a part of my life anymore and being sad.
By the time I had this realization I was 11 and no one really roller skated anymore - it was all about in-line skating, roller blading, and I had moved to a city where skate night happened on Friday nights. Friday nights full of teenagers and testosterone. I hated renting skates just to hang out with my friends and begged for a pair of roller blades. I never got pink Barbie roller blades. Instead, my mom bought me a pair of black and blue blades that I would take to Great Skate every Friday night to line my wrists with glow bracelets and hope for a shot at couple skating with the cutest boy there. I skated because everyone else was. I skated to be closer to cute boys, and when I turned 12 I had a skating birthday party. But fate had the greatest irony planned for my 12th birthday: I dislocated my knee playing volleyball in P.E. just two days before my already booked party. I would have to sit out on the bleachers as I watched everyone at my birthday party skate around the rink. I watched as my best friend at the time, got to couple skate with the boy of my young dreams.
I stopped skating after that.
Up until two weeks ago, it had been nearly 12 years since the last time I skated. I hadn't even stepped foot into a rink. Not because it brought back bad memories, but it was more like I didn't care, didn't have a passion or a reason to do it again. I had graduated college, gotten married, and worked full time, but didn't have a hobby of any kind. After a few friendly conversations with a co-worker and a good friend from high school, I decided I would try skating again. I gathered up a friend to skate with me and brought along my husband and a few other friends to act as a support system, and I skated for the first time in 12 years - at a local all women's roller derby rookie practice.
I sweat for what seemed like hours as we did endurance laps around the rink, practiced safe falling and stopping, but no matter how many times I hit my knees or banged my elbow, I kept going back for more. The adrenaline high after practice was unlike anything I had ever felt. I couldn't sleep though it was midnight, all I could think about was skating. I had my first taste of roller derby and I had an insatiable appetite for more. I went to open skate. I met more people. I studied tutorials of juking and blocking and bouts of competitor teams. I learned about outdoor skates and rules and regulations. I couldn't get enough.
My family and close friends say I'm too frail for roller derby - Bird Bones as Joseph calls me. I say they're wrong. For the first time in my life, I want to skate for me. I am skating to remind me of my Nana, to remind me of my youth, but most of all I'm skating to discover who I am. I don't want to get all philosophical or cliche about it, but I feel more comfortable in a derby skin than I have anywhere else in a long time. I feel like I fit in and that I can be good at something other than academics. I get to be a banker by day and a fierce derby girl by night.