Saturday, January 15, 2011

Has it changed?

Me skating on the lake in 1971

Skaters about the same age skating after Wednesday's 20 inch snowfall. A Hockey Box was plowed in a matter of hours. The fire was lit and people remained on the ice until well after dark. The light you see it from a golf cart which was parked to illuminate the ice. When I was growing up we used to use flashlights or candles stuck into the snowbanks.

I posted a few pictures of my neighborhood in the snow and I was asked by two people I grew up with if it has changed. I have been thinking about this question since Wednesday. In some respects the neighborhood has changed but what I marvel at most is the fact that as much as it has changed it has stayed the same. Sometimes I feel like a sports team 20 years later; same establishment, different players.

As I walked by the lake the other day I started to think about the evolution of skating in my family. My parents bought the house here for two reasons, kids playing at the lake in summer and kids playing at the lake in the winter. The common denominator has been the lake.

The lake in winter when I was young cleared the minute snow fell and skated on until it was almost too late to skate. It was a place where there were 2 types of skaters, figure and speed. Hockey was in a class by itself, it was strictly a game and hockey skates or slippery shoes/boots were required to play. The figure skating crowd was more old school and cautious, the speedskaters were fast and reckless. We were a serious lot, clearing an oval, maintaining it with buckets, practicing daily, forming secret relay teams for the annual competition between the lakes at the town's winter carnival and occasional jaunt to places such as the Newburgh Oval. Skating was real. Skating was fun. Skating was essential to life in this community.

My kids have grown up in the same house. They learned how to skate on the ice at the lake. They loved playing hockey in both skates and boots. Chris, my youngest has made skating his life, training seriously, hoping for a spot on the National Team. There was a time that we would have an oval cleared immediately after a snowfall, and illuminate the track with candles and flashlights, scrape the shale ice off with ice choppers, flood the track, spend hours and hours practicing on FREE ice. Sadly , we don't skate on the lake anymore. Our equipment too high tech and expensive to risk on natural ice. I am determined to find blades that we can trash, either this year or next.

As I walked by the lake a few nights ago, I realized how important it is for Chris to give back to the sport he loves so much. His presence on that ice with those up and coming skaters might inspire them to reach for a goal.

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