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Friday, November 9, 2012

Wheels in Motion

So as I was saying, I popped in to Sports Chalet the other night to see if they had any good hiking shoes on sale. I had just returned a pair at another sporting goods shop, picked up another pair at a third sporting goods shop, and was now browsing to see whether their 25-50% off sale had anything good. The slightly bored salesguy wandered over to where I was looking at prices on the bottom of the hiking shoes, and brought me my size almost instantly. I tried the shoes on, walked around a bit, and decided they weren't what I was looking for. The cool thing about Sports Chalet is that they have a floor that simulates regular hiking terrain. It's kind of pocked and bumpy, which is perfect to test out new shoes on, rather than the soft mat I sunk into at the other store (see previous post). I bounced up and down on my toes, then sat down and took the shoes off, handing them back to the guy who now had another customer to busy himself taking care of.

I had some time left, so I browsed the discounted shoes stacked haphazardly on a couple of metal shelves in the back of the building. As I pushed and pulled boxes to get a better look, my fingers brushed against a larger than usual cardboard box. I casually glanced at it, then took a second longer look. Could it be? Did I dare?

Seconds later I was sitting on a bench, pulling my thick crew socks out of my purse and pushing them on my feet as quickly as I could with trembling fingers. Almost reverently, I took the boot out of the large box, carefully slid my left foot inside, laced up the thick laces, and then clicked the safety clip shut. I stood up, but soon realized I had to put the right one on too, otherwise it wouldn't work. I sat down and treated my right foot to the same deferential treatment. Then I stood up, oh so carefully.

And I rolled.

The bumpy all-terrain surface wasn't as easy to maneuver on, so I slid a few inches to the left, gingerly holding on to a sock display for support, and found myself on a firm carpet. I pushed out with my left foot, then with my right, carefully, slowly, like a baby just learning to walk. As I did so, the muscles in my legs remembered, my body leaned slightly forward, and I found myself settling into the rhythm as naturally as breathing.

I was rollerblading.

For those of you who knew me before I hit the turbulent adult-teen years, I was an avid rollerblader in the day. I wasn't anything fancy, I didn't skate in a park (I'm not even sure they had parks in Egypt or Lebanon), I wasn't able to jump steps two at a time like my boyfriend could, I couldn't make sharp turns like my sister did, and I was just learning to blade backwards before we left. But I could rollerblade and I did. I would turn on my dance radio station, lace up my eggplant purple & fuschia pink boots as tight as I could, click the safety clip shut, and then dig into the cement on my way to the top of a small incline at the entrance of the parking lot. Turning around, I would wait for a particularly fast beat, push off with one foot, get a good rush of speed, and then glide the rest of the way. I skated round and round that parking lot till the sun went down and the street lights didn't give enough light to see the tiny pebbles that would catch in my wheels and send me stumbling.

I remember buying those rollerblades. We were in our favourite children's toystore, perhaps Intertoys, and Rachel and I spotted the bright purple and pink rollerblades. We knew immediately that those were what we wanted. In Africa we wore metal wheels attached with a couple of bright red straps that laced over our tennis shoes and were called rollerskates. We finally graduated to shoe rollerskates, in a bold print that prominently featured fluorescent lime as its primary color. I remember being envious of my best friend's white boot skates with laces all up the front that looked just like the kind that iceskaters would wear on TV. Sometimes she let us take turns wearing them.

But now rollerblades were all the rage and I was determined to fit in with the in crowd. We begged my mom for the blades. I could see her standing there, calculating in her head the baggage allowance and mentally packing our 10 suitcases with two years' worth of shoes, Christmas presents, special treats, last minute gifts from our generous relatives, and the clothes we had brought with us. She knew there was no room to add another 20 pounds of bulky unnecessary items, but she could see how very badly we wanted them. "Okay," she said, "you can get them. On one condition. You have to carry them back home."

I still remember that long trek back from Europe to the Middle East, time changes and planes later, safely home, much wearied from hauling two very heavy rollerblades in a sturdy backpack that also housed my jacket, food, and extra things that wouldn't fit into the suitcase. I was happy to be home, but I was happier still to zip open my pack and see those shiny new blades ready to slip onto my eager feet.

As I gingerly rolled back to the bench, continents and lifetimes later, a huge smile crept across my face. I might have left those rollerblades behind years ago, but I had not forgotten how to dance on wheels. And somehow I knew that one day, I would be dancing once again. . .

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