As the first images of the 2018 Olympic competitions aired on TV, I got a text from our daughter in Utah. She has no television, so wouldn’t have known I was watching ice skating. She might not have even known the Olympics were happening at all.
The picture in the text was that of a novel and a cup of chocolate ice cream she was enjoying. Her message was, “according to you, Mom, I think I picked up a new sport.” I had to chuckle. She is a girl after my own heart. We have a running joke in my family that Mom’s sport is reading books and eating chocolate.
I was never an athlete, although Tom was. Of course, growing up in a small town left children to walk, run or ride their bikes wherever they were going. I wasn’t an unhealthy weakling or anything. Just sort of uncoordinated and noncompetitive. My knees both have scars to prove that, one from a bicycle wreck, and the other from flying over a hurdle and grinding crumbled asphalt deep into my tissue. Some of which is still there! Anyway, we swam for hours every summer afternoon, in addition to riding horses, and exploring all over the countryside.
I watched the Olympics in those days too. Peggy Fleming was my idol, in all of her strength, beauty and grace. I also enjoyed watching my cousin, Wendy Sedar, skate at the Natrona County Fairgrounds ice rink when we visited Casper. She was also beautiful and admired by her younger cousin.
My own ice skating experience was very different. Mom had a white pair of skates in a size 7, which I wore no matter what size my feet were. My brothers, our friends and I would carry skates over our shoulders to follow Antelope Creek north until we found a little pond, probably no bigger than my living room. There was also a wider place further up the creek that offered a bit of skating surface too. We swiped snow to the edges with our booted feet before sitting on a freezing log to remove our over-boots and shoes to change into the skates. The ice itself was windblown and as rough as a washboard country road. We bumped along up and down and back and forth until our feet were frozen. Taking turns, since there wasn’t room enough for all of us at once, we all got our fill of ice and cold.
I never for one moment felt of Fleming’s beauty or grace with my lips turning blue and teeth chattering. Bundled in mittens, hat, and warm coats, we trudged unglamourously through the countryside. Olympic glitter wasn’t dazzling from my girlish getup, but in the sparkling snowy landscape and the magic in those beautiful pastel wintery skies.
I have to add that boys crave risky challenges more than girls, and my brothers just loved to jump up and down on the ice trying to break through. As the overprotective and scaredy-cat older sister, I would yell and cry with tears freezing on my cheeks, telling them they were going to fall through and be trapped beneath the ice and die, and I wasn’t going to risk my life saving them. In reality, the pond was probably not even eighteen inches deep. My imagination ran wild even then.
This brings me to the point that even without an ounce of competitive athleticism, I am actually quite accomplished at reading books and eating chocolate at the same time. In fact, I can do both while also keeping track of amazing Olympic athletes on a screen in front of me. Now my daughter, an avid snowboarder herself, is actually following in my sweet literary footsteps. I enjoy sparkling snow and winter pastel skies as much now, as I did as a child. This is the magic I hope my children will always notice and cherish for truly, there is beauty all around – in books, landscapes, and yummy treats.