ICE STARS

Editor’s Note: Following is a page from my spiritual notebook.

My rented Nissan Versa’s defroster and heater were cranked all the way up. I hunched over the wheel, gripping the steering wheel with both gloved hands.

Powdery snow blew across Grand Rapids, Michigan’s four-lane. It was plowed, but I had to choose between driving in a track of packed snow or following one with spots of icy-looking pavement.

I chose the snow and crept along at twenty-five m.p.h. As wipers cleared falling snow, I thought of Daddy’s winter driving advice. He said, “Always leave space –lots of space–between you and the car ahead.” He also said, “Keep moving through deeper snow. Don’t speed up to power through drifts, start and keep a steady speed.”

Using Daddy’s advice, I thought of another winter lesson he gave me: ice skating.

I was ten-years-old the Christmas  Daddy gave me  single-blade ice skates. He often shook his head and called me, “houseplant.” He thought I needed outdoor exercise and skating might be the key.

One Saturday January morning, he drove us to Kercher’s pond. “It’ll be frozen thick by now,” he commented as I looked out the car window, watching my breath fog the glass.  The Buick’s tires crunched over packed whiteness as it rolled down a snowy side road.

He stopped in a deserted place out in the country and said, “We’ll walk from here.”

Walk? I thought I was going to ice skate.   I didn’t say anything, just creaked open my door and set my booted feet onto the snow.  I glanced around.  “Where am I going to put on my skates?”

Wearing his tan ear flap hat, Daddy tipped his head and looked over the snow. “By the pond.”

He had slung my white figure skates over one shoulder and carried our snow shovel in his gloved hand. He started toward the pond, his black galoshes half-zipped and flapping.  In several minutes, we reached it.  I gazed at the expanse of ice as big as our church’s parking lot. “How did you know about this place?” Dumb question. Daddy knows everything!

             “I was here before. I knew the water was shallow and would be well-frozen by now.”  Daddy stopped and said, “Sit down and I’ll put on your skates.”

“On the ground?” My nose was already running and I hugged myself. I’m glad Mother had me put on my pajama pants under my corduroys.

Daddy noticed me frown at sitting in the snow. He said, “It won’t take long.”

I sat while Daddy loosened the laces of my skates. I took off both boots, but just one oxford. I held up one double-socked foot and Daddy slid on the skate. He bent over and took off one glove with his teeth.   Holding the skate blade between his knees, he pulled the long white laces tight.

I set the blade down on its back end and took off my other shoe. I held up that foot. Daddy put on, and tied, the other skate. He pulled me to my feet and put his glove back on. He smiled. “Let’s go!”

I glanced at the pond several feet away and back at Daddy. “How do I walk on these?”

            “I’ll hold you. Just step straight down on the blade.”

I waited while Daddy walked out on the ice sheet a ways and bounced.   “Feels strong.”   He led me onto the slick sheet. That’s when I noticed he still wore his boots.   “Where are your skates?”

“Couldn’t find them.” He paused. “It doesn’t matter. You are the one who’s going to skate.”

He held my mittened hands at arm’s length. “Now push on the blade like you do your roller skates.”

I had to push my roller  wheels hard against the sidewalks around our house. But, the metal blade skimmed easily over the ice. Slippery!

My teacher steadied me and slowly walked backward.  I watched my feet and pushed a little: right, left, right.

Daddy said, “That’s right. You’re getting the idea.”

He dropped my hands and took three steps back. He held out his arms and directed, “Skate to me.”

I managed a right, left, right and he caught me.

“Good girl!  Now try again.” This time he backed up farther.

I started off stiffly: right, left, right. But, before I reached Daddy’s safe arms, I fell. KA-BOOM! I landed on my butt.

Scared more than hurt, I started to cry.

Daddy hurried over. “Fritzie, Fritzie!” He lifted me up, but did not console me. Instead, he pointed at the ice behind me. “Look! You made a star!”

I looked back where I had fallen. The powdery ice was wiped clean where I fell. I’d left a ragged star-shape.

I sniffled. Daddy handed me his handkerchief. After I wiped my nose he said, “Let’s try again.”

 

I made a couple more stars that day, but by the time I was a teen, ice-skating was a favorite winter pastime.

As with his winter driving advice, Daddy was right about “making stars.”    When I fall, I need to get up and look for the “star,” the gift of my slip.

Frances Fritzie

 

1957: Me (left) girlfriends at Goshen, Indiana’s outdoor  rink

1957: Me (left) girlfriends at Goshen, Indiana’s outdoor rink

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