by Cheryl Glass from Pinehouse, Saskatchewan

Dear Stuart,

I never learned how to skate. Growing up in southwest Saskatchewan, land of perpetual Chinooks, “good” ice didn’t last long enough for me to get the hang of it. I’d try--tripping, falling, crawling to the edge of the rink to pull myself up. Some years I’d get the knack of forward, but I never quite figured out how to stop. I would just crash into the boards whenever I needed a rest. So I grew up not knowing this most basic of Canadian skills and it never bothered me…until now.

Now, I’m a Canadian mother. And not just Canadian, but Northern Canadian. And, while there are some things that are lacking in a community that is over 350 km from the nearest Tim Horton’s, one thing we have plenty of is ice. Six or seven months a year. Acres and acres of lake ice and a big rink that’s always filled with NHL hopefuls. 

This year, the town cleared the snow from 2 empty lots, one on either end of town, and flooded them, making two mini-rinks just for the little kids…no teenagers allowed. Plenty of opportunity to learn to skate.

Finally, one sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-January, my husband and I headed down to the rink with our two boys – aged 10 and 6. We sat on the snow bank sides and laced up their skates. We checked to make sure they had mitts and toques. The older one stepped out somewhat cautiously, but was soon on his way. The younger one…I don’t know. I couldn’t watch.

I looked between my fingers as he took one or two faltering steps and crashed to the ice. He bounced back up like he was on springs. 
Another step or two and down again. His dad and I cheered from the banks every time he got back up. The scene repeated itself over and over until, by the end of half an hour, he was making it from one end of the rink to the other in his high stepping, trotting way.

He cried when we told him it was time to go home, that his feet would be sore and his body would hurt if he kept going. He insisted that we take him back after supper so he could practice some more. He’s probably skated more now in the last month than I have in my entire life. 

Watching him that night skating in the dark…that’s when I knew – not just about skating. There are so many things that my boys are going to need to learn, and I won’t have a clue how to teach
them. I’ll do my best to supply them with the tools and introduce them to the folks who know the ropes. But then I will just have to stand by and watch through my fingers as they fall. And pray that they get back up again, and cheer when they do. I will have to learn to not interfere when they’re surrounded by those who are bigger, faster and stronger. And let them go, even when every ounce of my being shouts at me to hold them close. I will have to stand by the side of the rink, and watch them skate.