The art of letting go
By Diane Gorman
This morning a few gentle snowflakes fell, but they melted as soon as they hit the ground. At our house this signals an annual ritual. As he does every fall, my husband will move my skates from the basement up to the storage area beside our back door in anticipation of another season of skating. Each spring, my husband will return my skates to the basement.
Every time I’ll go into the storage to get a broom or dustpan, I’ll give the skates a guilty sideways glance. I’ll feel the gleaming white leather and silver blades staring back at me, ready for action, chiding me to take them out for a spin.
But after five years of being moved upstairs in the fall and downstairs in the spring, without being worn once, I know it's time for us to part.
Parting with my skates is the first acknowledgement that ageing requires letting go of cherished passions. Knowing that the time has arrived and letting go graciously is the difficult part.
As a child, I skated to Strauss’ Skater’s Waltz on the frozen pond near my grandmother’s home, my mother and father gliding ahead of me, arms around each other’s waist, skating as one, moving as ballerinas across a stage. As a teenager, after finishing homework and washing supper dishes, I made my way to the local outdoor rink, where I met my friends, pulled off my boots, pulled on my skates and spent the next two glorious hours in the crisp night air. Under the moon and stars and lights of the park, the girls practiced our twirls, jumps, and skating backwards and were chased by the boys. We ignored them.
As a young mom, I brought each of my girls to the local park to learn to skate, first on bob skates, later on figure skates. Two of my girls preferred brown hockey skates—boy skates—as they could skate further and faster and not trip over the toe pick at the bottom of their figure skates. Maybe they would have been hockey players had hockey been available to girls then.
Winters meant weekly family outings to skate on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, the longest skating rink in the world. While their father warmed up the car, I would lace up the girls’ skates in the warmth of our home and soon we would be off. The promise of Beaver Tails and hot chocolate was likely more of an enticement than skating.
I recall owning only two pairs of skates throughout my life, although I must have had more. I wore the skates of my teen years well into my forties, the leather on the upper boot cracked and limp. To celebrate turning fifty, I bought a new pair of skates, but they never had quite the feel of my trusty, well-worn pair. I never bonded with the stiff leather that rubbed against my heels and often caused blisters.
The last time I skated was five years ago on the frozen river in front of our home. Each year, my husband hauled the snow blower to the river and cleared a rink for family and friends. Hockey games happened there; thermoses of hot chocolate for the kids; a bottle of white wine chilling in the snow bank for the adults. Even in the last years when our little rink remained open, I walked to it in my boots. My skates stayed on the shelf.
We did not clear a rink last winter because the river did not freeze. We have accepted that more rink clearing may not be in our future. The next generation will have to take it on. For the first time in its 22-year history, the Rideau Canal ice skating rink could not open last winter because it did not freeze. Maybe Mother Nature is giving up on skating, too.
I look wistfully at my other passions: my mountain bike, my kayak, my canoe, my cross-country skis. I use them less frequently now and with more caution, but using them gives me hope. As does our annual camping trip. We have coffee and bacon cooked on the camp stove we have used for twenty years. We prepare a fine meal on our portable barbeque. We sleep under the stars while listening to the migrating birds overhead. I have not missed a year of camping in 70 years. For now, I will not ask myself, “Is this my last camping trip?”
I will not ask myself that question until I know the answer and am ready to accept it.