Roaring Down Memory Lane On In-Line Skates

While filling out the form to rent the in-line skates, I hesitated at the "age" blank. Was it really necessary to record the number that labeled me as a senior citizen? I had to admit that, on paper, the number did not look age-appropriate to the activity. But then, was there a "correct" age?

The opportunity was just too good to pass up: six high-school girlfriends, reunited after more than 40 years since graduation for a weekend party at a California beach house surrounded by smooth, wide, curving sidewalks.

And Dorothy had brought along her in-line skates.

While some of us were eager to join her in this activity, others hesitated. Excuses were forthcoming: hadn't skated since high school; was afraid of injury; in-line skates were not the same as roller skates.

The excitement mounted as one by one we tried on Dorothy's knee-pads, skates, and wrist guards (in that order), and with her gentle coaching, each decided to take a turn close to the security of a wall. It helped that some of us had learned to ski, as the stopping motion felt similar.

When we began to share our socks with the skater-of-the-moment to achieve the appropriate fit, and to squabble like children over whose turn it was, we knew we were ready to roll. Each of us was ready to commit to rent skating equipment.

No question about my enthusiasm. Some five decades later, the soles of my feet can still feel the satisfying click-click-click of racing full speed over the cracks of the cement sidewalk squares that lined the streets of my Midwestern childhood home.

The streets, sidewalks, and empty lots were our playground. Shaded by a canopy of stately elm trees, the varying group of neighbor kids roller-skated, jumped rope, played hopscotch, and rode bikes all summer long. More ambitious projects were organized by the bigger kids: carnivals, theatrical productions, dog shows, and parades. Their little brothers and sisters were willing lackeys.

At twilight we'd gather under the elms to play "I Will Draw the Frying Pan," or "Red Light, Green Light." But any summer day would find me on my skates, the skate key dangling on a dirty cotton string around my neck.

My most daring feat on roller skates was regularly performed at the steep hill that led down to the next street at the end of our block.

My friends and I would roar down the hill lickety-split and stop ourselves with a quick jerk to the left at the bottom of the hill. We'd slam with a resounding bang into a conveniently located garage door. The door (much to the owner's displeasure) was permanently imprinted with a row of child-sized dirty hand prints.

So, some 50 years later, I gleefully suited up with kneepads and wrist guards, buckled up the rented skates, and followed Dorothy (my friend since fourth grade) down the alley to the wide, smooth pavement, where we could really take off. Turning her head, she grinned at me and said, "We're eight years old!"

"Absolutely!" I agreed. That was the number I'd been searching for.

By our next reunion, we'll all be pros.

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