Family Travel

Kerry Egan



Skating away at Main Street Ice

Posted 12/23/2013 10:50:00 AM

You know the scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas where all the characters ice skate gracefully on the frozen pond, and that lovely Vince Garibaldi song plays in the background? That's just how it felt at Main Street Ice at Boyd Plaza in Columbia recently.

It isn't necessarily how the skaters (my family and me included) looked, but it's the feeling that counts, anyway, right?

My son Jimmy, 9, and daughter Mary Frances, 7, took off at a sprint ahead of me as we walked down Main Street towards the rink, set up just for a few weeks in the plaza in front of the Columbia Museum of Art. We could hear the music and laughter from the ice rink echoing down the sidewalk.

Once there, we traded in our shoes for skates at the little wooden shed festooned with white Christmas lights. Behind the shed was the ice, shining under bright lights as dusk fell.

I'm a competent skater (at best), but the kids are still learning. At first, they held onto the wooden boards surrounding the rink with a death grip. They managed to fall even while holding on. "That's OK," I yelled across the ice. "That's just how you learn!"

A wonderful thing about learning to ice skate in South Carolina is that there are lots and lots of other people who also are learning to ice skate. In fact, almost everyone there that day was learning how to skate. There's no shame in falling down and smashing into the boards when everyone around you is falling and smashing, too. If anything, it actually created a sense of camaraderie between everyone on the ice, as we all fumbled around together.

After a few minutes, once the children learned to stand without falling, I encouraged them to try skating. "Just push, push, glide," I bellowed from across the rink. "Push, push, glide!"

It was only after 10 minutes that I realized I was THAT woman at the ice-skating rink, screaming to her kids from across the place.

The kids started letting go of the walls, and tried to glide in the middle. My son actually looked pretty good, in an insane-ice-hockey-player-who-can't-stop kind of way. He only knocked me down twice.

Everyone around us, adults and kids alike, were falling, sliding and wobbling. The sharp sounds of out-of-control skaters crashing into the walls echoed in the air. And the laughter, so much laughter as everyone slid and slipped over the ice. Everyone, except my daughter.

After an hour of falling, she became frustrated and tired, and began to cry. So we took a little break. We got some delicious hot cocoa from the Paradise Ice and Coffee stand next to the rink and sat on the park benches.

In fewer than five minutes, she was ready to try again. This time, I held her hand. I could feel her get more and more steady next to me. Every time I tried to let go of her hand, though, she gripped mine even tighter. After two hours, I was exhausted and needed to sit.

"But how will I do it without you?" she asked plaintively.

"Just push, push, glide."

Without me on the rink, she had no choice but to try on her own. She staggered off the boards, and wobbled her way to the next corner. She turned to look at me, and her face lit up with joy."I did it! Without holding onto anything!"

"Now try to go all the way around the rink without stopping," I yelled across the ice (well, I guess I still remained THAT woman, but I wasn't the only one at this point in the evening).

She took a deep breath, and off she went. She almost fell a dozen times, and wobbled and swayed the whole way around. But that's just it. She made it the whole way around. When she passed me, cheering on the observation deck set up next to the rink, she didn't stop.

"I can ice skate all by myself!" she shouted. And on the next round, she yelled, "I don't need you to hold my hands! I don't need you!"

No, she didn't need to hold my hand anymore. The goal of motherhood is to prepare them to go out into the world and not need to hold your hand. To not need you at all. But it's a bittersweet goal, isn't it? And Mary Frances's joyful declaration was just a harbinger of that complete independence to come.

It's a good thing that we parents only get there step by step. Or push by push by glide.

Main Street Ice is located at 1515 Main Street in Columbia. It will be open through January 20, 2014. Click here for hours.

Insider Tip: Be sure to bring gloves or mittens for everyone! Even if the air temperature isn't cold, the gloves will keep your hands from freezing when you fall and have to push yourself up from the ice.

And for more information and other perspectives on ice skating in South Carolina, click here or here.