My kids are drawn to skateboards like grown men to a construction site. It's in their blood. They get it from me. I, too, was a "soul skater."
For my ninth birthday, my dad gave me $8 and a ride to Toys "R" Us. I fingered Snoopy plush toys and scanned game boxes. I had just passed through the Barbie zone when I saw it: a pyramid of Super Surfers perched at the end of an aisle.
The Super Surfer was your basic piece of plain hardwood attached to clay roller-skate wheels. No frills, just thrills. Did I mention spills? A pea-size pebble could stop those wheels, hurling me through the air and into the gutter.
My favorite skateboarding spot was the steep concrete sidewalk along Star Dust Drive, the road that ran next to our corner house. Forget "ollies" and "grinds," my only trick was staying on. Perching my bottom on the tail of the 19-inch board and my feet on its nose, I coasted down Star Dust's steep grade, steering the Super Surfer by lifting the sides of the board with my hands and shifting my shoulders to move my 53-pound weight. Clickity-clack, clickity-clack, clickity-clack over the sidewalk cracks.
It was months before I made it all the way down the hill on one go, almost a year before I tried it standing up.
How the Super Surfer escaped all the yard sales and charity giveaway boxes that absorbed my other childhood toys, I'll never know. But that Super Surfer has earned me a lot of points with my three sons, ages 8, 6, and 3.
Who cares that I never got "air" on purpose and never tried to "hang 10"? The boys have all tried it, and they know: The Super Surfer sits high, moves fast, and spills riders quickly. Compared with today's technology, the Super Surfer is a death trap, and I survived.
I was the first kid on the block with a skateboard, and I thought "staying on" was a pretty good trick. Plus, there wasn't anyone else around to teach me new moves.
One day last summer, I was with my sons on the elementary-school playground when we saw three eighth-graders with skateboards scale a Dumpster and jump onto the school's roof. At first, I figured they didn't see an adult in the crowd. Then I realized they saw me, but either didn't care or figured I didn't.
Eight-year-old Jamie looked at me as I watched those kids (none of whom had helmets on) stand on their skateboards and coast along the flat part of the one-story roof.
I was about to make a very uncool bust, and he knew it.
"Please don't say anything, Mom," Jamie asked. "Let's just go home."
The teenagers decided the flat of the roof wasn't zippy enough and moved to the slanted portion that protects the rainy-day walkway and began to use it as a ramp. My eyes focused on the asphalt below.
I strolled over, looked up and said, "Why don't you guys come down from there?"
They looked at each other, took what appeared to be a silent vote with their eyes, and decided I was serious. Without a word, the roof skaters climbed off the roof and back down the Dumpster.
As we walked away, I explained to my sons, soul skater to soul skaters, why skateboarding on the roof is a bad idea. Duh.
Then, halfway home, three-year-old Scotty summed up the lesson he took away from the whole episode, announcing, "When you're a big kid, you get to skateboard on the roof."
Robin Schoettler Fox lives with her husband and three sons in Lafayette, Calif.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society