Being Spring Break staycationers, we filled our vacation week with Legos, Downton Abbey revisits, rousing games of Mexican Train and a couple local outings. Our favorite of which was an open-skate afternoon at the crowd favorite, White Rock Skate.
For the kids, it was total entertainment. For me, it was a walk down memory lane … as well as a blinding reminder of the Great Equalizer.
Growing up in Wichita Falls, my siblings and I relished any opportunity to escape the West Texas heat and crazy weather. Skate Whirl filled the tall order on most Saturdays. In those days, everyone wore the rented four-wheeled skates offered upon entry. But a special few came with bag in hand, toting sparkly white for the girls or shiny black leather for the boys. Colored lights and great music filled the air as we skated, raced, limbo’d, danced the Hokey Pokey, played air hockey and hung out.
Apparently, things in the roller-rink world haven’t changed much in the last 35+ years.
Seriously … do all roller rinks look the same? Apparently, yes. Skate Whirl and White Rock Skate could have been identical twins separated at birth. Even the elevated DJ stand sits in the same location of the rink. As well as the skate rental “closet” and snack bar. I think the carpet might even be the same.
But more than anything, the clientele hasn’t changed a bit. The roller rink is today as it was yesterday – the Great Equalizer.
In the rink, skin color, socio-economic status, native language, age matter not. Actually, neither does ability. I saw the same scoot-skaters (you know the ones that wiggle their feet back and forth ever so slightly in order to move at snail’s pace while clinging to the rail for dear life) share the rink with the effortless skater who weaved in and out of the small crowd, twisting, then flipping backward while crisscrossing elegantly around the floor.
The kids, young adults and even older adults came in all different shapes and sizes. None of it mattered.
That’s when I felt like I had stepped back into a time we need to remember. A time when a race was just a race. Fun. With a reward for the winner.
“iiiiittTTT’S TIME TO RACE,” crescendoed the DJ over the sound system. “Racers head to the middle. We’ll begin shortly.”
Sure enough, almost all the skaters, regardless of skill level, made their way to the middle of the rink where they sat in a line. No one said to sit in a line, they just knew.
Then the DJ called racers to the line. “Okay… all 6 & 7-year-old girls… make your way to the starting line.”
Quick listeners hopped up and raced over. A couple day-dreamers needed some nudging. Others ooched their way to the line. The DJ added 8-year-olds to the group so they could have more than just a handful of participants. No one complained or moaned about older add-ons not being fair. They just stepped up and started when the whistle blew.
A tiny African-American girl flew off the line like a spit fire. She was closely followed by a pony-tailed blondie wearing her own pink and white roller blades that matched her outfit. They duked it out, rounding the corners, trading first place with the spit-fire taking the honors.
“Great race,” said the DJ without feigning enthusiasm. “Winner head to the snack bar for your prize.”
All the participants were happy. No one whined. And while they all crossed the line, the kids in the middle and all the spectators got to watch for the next seven minutes (yes seven) one little straggler scooting her way around the rink. Because at White Rock Skate, if you begin the race you finish it. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow. I’m fairly certain it matters not whether you finish it on your feet or crawling.
Aware of the rules, everyone patiently waited. And slowly, very slowly, but surely the kid crossed the line. I expected fanfare and cheering for the kid who kept going almost unaware that EVERYONE in the entire building was watching her.
Nothing was even said about her crossing the line. The DJ just called the next race proceeded, business as usual.
It dawned on me right then and there – kids are just kids. They like to race. They don’t care as much about the medal as we do. One kid won. One kid got the award. No one was coddled. Everyone had to be patient. No kid gloves. Just life.
It was so regular – the biggest breath of fresh air. Everyone was on equal playing ground. No one was looking for hand-outs. Some kids were faster than others … so they won. And the other kids were fine with that. After the race they went on with their own fun, then participated in the Limbo … where again someone won!
… Well actually, no one won. I’ve never seen that before. All of the finalists fell on their last attempt. So no one won. Go figure. There wasn’t a tear to be found or a single blast of indignation. I think mostly because the building was full of kids. Kids just living life – without parents fighting the good fight to maintain their fragile child’s ego.
Apparently, kid egos might not be as fragile as we assume.
Food for thought, to say the least … Thanks for walking the road with me.