Irony on Ice


Irony on Ice       

The painting above, for me, is the epitome of irony.  It starts with its purchase.  We found the painting at a community art show in Boulder City, Nevada the first summer we moved there because of my employment.  My recollection was the art show was in the spring and the temperature was in the low 90’s, which is actually considered quite comfortable by the locals.  So, the fact that we bought the painting of ice skaters in the desert, in the supposedly tolerable heat of Boulder City is ironic enough on its own.  

The picture caught my wife Michelle’s eye.  She was a very good skater.  She has many fond memories from her childhood and youth skating on the frozen lakes that were near the dairy farm she grew up on.  The best winters were those cold enough to freeze the lakes, but dry enough that the snow didn’t accumulate until at least after Christmas.  That provided Michelle and her siblings and friends several weeks to skate all the way across and around the lakes.

My ice-skating history is brief and mostly unremarkable.  The truth is that I really could not skate.  My parents held to the thought that all that was necessary was to provide a pair of skates that more or less fit, and let Nature takes its course.  I, on the other hand, proved decisively that ice skating is not a matter of instinct, although it was not from lack of effort.

Every winter from the time that I was about nine and through high school I dutifully walked the three blocks to Murphy Park with a pair of skates hung across my shoulder.  For the first few years the skates were hand-me-down hockey skates from my older brothers that looked like they were likely hand-me-downs for them as well.  There were several sizes in an old crate in the basement, but I never found a pair to fit well.  Instead, each year I made do with skates that I could barely squeeze into, or they were a little loose.  My mom’s solution to too tight was a shoulder shrug.  In the too loose years, she always prescribed an extra pair of sox.  I recall that I got my first brand new pair of skates for Christmas when I hit my teen years; of course, they were too big so I could “grow into them”.  I’m sure that I did not ask for skates for Christmas, but Santa brought them anyway.  It was one of those things that could make you doubt the old elf’s existence, or at least his sense of humor. 

While Michelle wished for a snowless start to winter, ironically for us city kids, snow was essential to making an ice rink.  Every winter when there was enough snow to build up the edges, the Parks Department would plow the snow off of the baseball diamond at Murphy Park and then flood it.  The ice was hardly ever very smooth.  That was OK I guess, because my teeth were already chattering most of the time from the cold already, so I hardly noticed the bumpy ice. 

My favorite thing to do at the rink was to go sit in the ‘warming hut’ which was a windowless plywood shack that had a potbelly stove on the far end that gave off equal parts of heat and smoke.  There were benches along each side where I would sit until I began to feel guilty that I wasn’t out there on the ice having fun.  I am unsure even reflecting back on it what caused me to feel guilty about not doing something that I didn’t really want to do in the first place.  That was definitely misplaced Catholic guilt!

Over the years I did eventually learn how to go cautiously around the edge of the ice.  I never learned how to stop other than I had the choice of just not moving my feet and slowly loosing forward motion, kind of like a wind-up toy once its spring relaxed; or if I needed to stop more urgently I stepped into the snow bank.

I was more or less wise enough to more or less pick up a few tips from watching others, like the time that my sister Sandy’s new boyfriend Ron came to take us skating.  Because it was cold and Ron wanted to look macho he did not wear gloves.  All went well for a short while.  Eventually his hands were red and frozen enough that he tucked them into the pockets of his blue jeans.  Shortly after he hit one of those bumpy ice areas, he lost his balance and the toe of his figure skate accidently bit into the ice.  All this caused Ron to splat forward with no way to break his fall as his hands were in his pants pockets.  Sandy later married Ron; just like in those cowboy movies where the gal marries the cowboy that she nurses back to health after he gets shot by the local notorious bad guy.

I applied said learned lesson years later when I met Michelle.  We went to a park that had a little ice rink.  Despite the cold, she thought it would be a fun thing to do.  I silently cooperated without objection.  We skated slowly hand-in-hand and uneventfully around the outer edge a couple of times.  I was in my sweet spot.  But, then Michelle let go of my hand and picked up speed.  I took an opportunity when she wasn’t looking to step into the snowbank to stop and admire.  She gracefully lifted her left foot backward, balancing on her right foot and then reversed.  She picked up her speed again and executed a perfect half spin.  Unfortunately, she intended it to be a full spin.  She planted herself hard at center ice.  Just like Sandy had done with Ron, I skated over and asked if she was OK.  I helped her back to her skates.  And very importantly, I did not laugh – even though the fall was quite spectacular.  But most importantly, I married her that summer.    

The fact that the best thing that ever happened to me in this life happened, even if in part, on an ice rink is quite ironic – don’t you agree?  God didn’t laugh either. 

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan