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My Summer of Skating

roller-skatesWhen quarantine first started in March, I was one of those people who immediately felt a sense of loss at having to be stuck at home 24/7. Needless to say, I got cabin fever pretty quickly. So, like many people across the US, I went in search of an activity that would keep me moving, get me outside, and would allow me to remain socially distanced from others. As bike sales skyrocketed and other sporting equipment was flying off store shelves and Amazon shopping carts, I quickly found my new niche: roller skating.

I had roller skated in the past at birthday parties in roller rinks, and had used roller blades a few times on my street when I was little. “How hard could it be?” I thought as I unboxed my brand-new white and green skates that I had bought from Kohl’s. Naively, I packed up my roller skates and new padding, dragged my mother along to Byrd Park, and envisioned myself gracefully zipping along the sidewalks as soon as I stepped onto the pavement in my new skates.

Oh how wrong I was.

My first time using my new roller skates was like a scene out of “Bambi,” as I wobbled precariously along the sidewalk, clutching onto my mother’s arm for dear life, trying not to wipe out in front of everyone else looking on at the park that day. As I shuffled back to the safety of a park bench to untie those wretched skates, I realized that maybe roller skating was not going to be as easy as I had envisioned. “I’ll get the hang of it the next time I skate, though!” I thought.

Oh how wrong I was.

It would take me at least three more times of shuffling and tripping around the parking lot at Norwood Central, holding onto my mother’s arm, before I decided to do some research to see if there was something wrong with the skates, or if I was truly just the world’s worst skater. A quick Google search informed me that there was a lot that I didn’t know about roller skates, but which did confirm that maybe it was the skate’s fault, and not my own lack of talent. It turns out that you can’t just buy any skate and then expect to zip around like you were on the set  of Whip It. Roller skates come with different wheels, indoor and outdoor ones. Indoor wheels are more suited for flat, smooth surfaces, like the flooring of a roller rink, while outdoor wheels are larger and softer, to be able to absorb the rougher shock of uneven surfaces like sidewalks and parking lots. I also learned that one of the most important things that you should check your skate wheels for is that they actually spin. I had scoffed this advice at first, but then realized as I tested out my wheels that they indeed did not spin freely as I had expected, which explained why I kept tripping over myself when I went out skating, and couldn’t actually stride or glide. After a quick tutorial on how to use my dad’s socket wrench, I loosened up the wheels and could now roll them across the ground and see them actually travel. 

However, as I did more and more research on indoor vs. outdoor skates, wheels, boot height, and more, I realized that at this point, I just needed a better pair of skates that could actually withstand the outdoor conditions of a street or parking lot. Unfortunately, proper roller skates had become just as rare to purchase as bicycles, with brands like Moxie, Sure-Grip, and Impala sharing on their website how they were completely sold out of stock, and I was starting to lose hope that I would ever become a roller girl before the summer ended. Miraculously, the skate brand Impala announced a restock just as I was starting to lose hope, and in a few weeks, I was the proud owner of a pair of bubble-gum pink roller skates. 

My next trip to the parking lot was a lot better with the Impalas. Instead of tripping over my skates and wobbling around like a baby deer testing out its legs, I could now start to stride and glide and feel the wind blowing through my hair as I picked up speed. And then, the proud moment came when, like a baby bird leaving the nest, I slowly let go of my mother’s arm that I had clenched in my hand in a death-grip, and skated on my own. I was overjoyed. I was finally skating!

For those who are thinking of purchasing roller skates for the first time, I have a few words of advice before you do so. First, do your research. There’s a whole world of skating information out there, and lots of skating guides to help you decide what to look for in a roller skate, and which brand is the best for your skating needs. Watch some YouTube tutorials, or even read a book! One of my favorite books is Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, a middle-grade graphic novel about a girl who joins roller derby camp, and realizes that skating isn’t as easy as it sounds. Reading that book and seeing someone in a similar skating situation to mine really helped me to understand how skating skills don’t occur overnight, and how much work needs to go in before you become a proficient skater. Second, invest in padding and a helmet. Falling on your skates will happen, and buying some good padding and a sturdy helmet will protect you from seriously injuring yourself. And finally, don’t be discouraged! You may fall and feel like you’ll never get the hang of it, but I promise you, there will come that moment when you lace on your skates, stand up, and glide off without tripping or falling.

Dina Delic is the Assistant Children’s Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for her article in the December 31, 2000 issue of the Transcript and Bulletin.


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