There was a Little Girl of about nine or 10 years old rollerblading on my local running track. Well, she wasn’t so much blading as she was stomping around like Frankenstein and trying not to fall down. It was pitiful. Parents buy their kids bicycles knowing they'll have to teach them how to ride but this doesn't happen with roller skates or blades, probably because parents themselves don't know how to skate.
I never learned how to roller skate either. But this didn't stop me from saving up and buying myself a pair of white boot-skates with bright yellow wheels and going to roller skating parties with my friends. None of us were very good. We all careened around the rink, more or less to the beat of classic skate tunes: “Love is the Message” anybody? I could stagger forward but backwards was out of the question. Stopping meant crashing into something soft or someone understanding. It wasn't a bad way to meet boys but that's another story.
Just before hitting my teens I remember my Uncle taking my Cousin and me to the local roller rink, and being shocked to see that my Uncle was a great roller skater. I mean, really great. It was embarrassing. A grown up who could skate better than a kid? Oh the horror! But I was impressed. He glided around the rink with a grace and agility I never expected and apparently didn't inherit. I was a rolling menace.
Years later when my oldest Niece was approaching skating age I was determined not to make a fool of myself. I wanted to be as cool to her as my Uncle had seemed to me. By this time, though traditional quad-skating had been eclipsed rollerblading. So I put my pride in my pocket, went over to Chelsea Piers, and signed up for rollerblade lessons.
I was expecting it to be painful and humiliating, but I soon discovered that I wasn't half bad. Not half bad at all. I really took to it. Traditional skates seemed clunky and awkward, but rollerblades felt sleek and smooth.
Some of it was probably me. I was a klutzy kid when I got my first pair of skates. I hadn't yet learned how to walk in heels and my attempts at dancing would've made Alvin Alley cringe. By the dawn of the rollerblade era I was all growed up, strut-tastic in a pair of pumps, and could dance till dawn.
I learned how to rollerblade forwards and backwards. I could turn around, cross skate, flip back, spin around, and I could stop without the aid of an airbag. It was amazing. When I took my Niece skating, she thought it was amazing too, enhancing my coveted Cool Auntie status.
For years, I took my rollerblades everywhere and skated every chance I could. I got pretty good, good enough to add it to my acting resume under special skills. I even had dreams of becoming a rollerblade dancer. Imagine “So You Think You Can Dance” but on blades. No, I wasn’t that good, but I was willing to work at it.
This idea hit the skids when I developed what I now know to be plantar faciitus. Within five minutes of putting on my blades the bottoms of my feet would ache so bad I'd wish for amputation. The pain would pass after a few minutes and I’d resume skating. I went to the doctor but her recommendation: stop skating. And I did because eventually that few minutes of agony grew to five minutes, then 10, then torture. So no, I never became a rollerblade dancing queen but I was content that I was no longer a spas on wheels.
So when I saw the Little Girl at the running track struggling with her fresh-out-of-the-box blades I wanted to help. Her parents had given her what they thought was a good gift but if she wasn't taught how to use them, they were destined to end up forgotten in the back of her closet.
On my last loop around I saw the Little Girl bent over at the waist, her Mom in front of her, holding her hands, pulling her along. Rollerblade Dancing Queen to the rescue! I jogged up alongside them, turned off my iPod and said, "You'll keep your balance a lot better if you stand up and bend your knees." She did and I said, "Okay, now look straight ahead and think of it as a line: Keep your knees bent over your toes and your nose over your knees. Nose. Knees. Toes." Now the Little Girl was considerably less wobbly.
"Okay," I said, mimicking her stance, "Push your right foot out, glide, and step together. Now left foot out, glide, and step together. Glide and step together. Glide, step together." And suddenly the Little Girl was actually skating. And in a way so was I.
She and her Mom both broke out into big grins. Her Mom clapped her hands together and said, "Oh wow! Thank you!" I smiled back and resumed my run. I didn't need to turn my iPod back on because in my head I was now running along to Love is the Message.
Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can subscribe to the blogcast (yes, I made up this word) FREE on iTunes. And, in case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also an amazing stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." Basically, if comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @ VeryFunnyLady.com.