Suzanne's Brownie troop went roller skating last night. I was a little apprehensive, since Suzanne has gone on record as not being totally with this whole Brownie concept ("They only have GIRLS!" she reported after her first meeting. "Where are the BOYS?"), and has disdainfully remarked that most of what they do is girly-girly stuff that she, as a tomboy, has no patience for. Also, Suzanne has never been roller skating, and I am not one to teach her. I can't roller skate, much less ice skate, and my back hurts enough already without my going out of my way to hurt it any more. Then again, Suzanne had mastered bike riding with very little effort (is there any feeling in the world better than the instant you let go of the bike and watch your child glide off without training wheels for the first time?), so I thought maybe roller skating would be easy for her.
Well, yes and no. She put on her skates and wobbled uncertainly to the rink, stepped onto the rink's surface, and promptly fell on her butt. Got up, fell again. Got up, fell again. By this time, I was expecting a storm of tears--this is a kid who can turn on the waterworks over the fact that her big sister's upper lip lifted .0007 mm in what looked like it might have been the beginning of a sneer--but no: there were no tears. She clung to the wall of the rink and tried to get a feel for the skates, but her feet kept going out from under her. A nice young man who worked for the skating rink came over and tried to help her stand up. He spent 10 minutes with her and then glided over to me. "I think maybe she needs lessons," he said.
I looked at Suzanne. Her face was flushed, her expression determined. She managed to claw her way back to where I was standing, grabbing the wall the whole way, and when she came within earshot I expected to hear her say, "Mommy, I want to go home!!" What she actually said was, "By the time I am done with this I am going to be a PRO."
She must have fallen--oh, I dunno, 30 times in the next 90 minutes, in every way and every direction imaginable: forwards, backwards, doing a split, sideways, in slow motion and in a wipeout. At one point she took a fall so hard on her elbows that you could see a bruise starting, and within minutes the area was swelling. I got some ice and urged her to knock it off for the evening. "NOT YET?!?!" she pleaded, so I said, okay, just a few minutes more.
We'd gotten there early, when there were only about 7 or 8 skaters out. By now, though, the rink was a madhouse. The music was pumping, the lights were doing their disco thing, there were music videos playing on a huge screen, and there were probably 200 people out on the rink. This was Girl Scout night, so it was an exceptionally well-behaved crowd (I've been there on Saturdays, when the clientele makes a group of Roller Derby queens look like a United Methodist Women's afternoon tea)--but even so, it was like the Beltway during rush hour. Suzanne just kept on truckin' out there--falling and getting up and, eventually, learning to stand with confidence, and then move a few feet without taking a tumble, and then even letting go of the wall for a few seconds....And by the end of the evening, she was actually moving pretty well on the carpet, though the slick surface of the rink was still treacherous for her. She was not upset by her failure; she was just determined to get better. She didn't look to see who else was falling down--she just looked to see who was out there in the middle, having fun, and I could see the wheels in her head turning: she was figuring out how long it would be before she could join them. She cried once--when she fell on that injured elbow and re-injured it.
When it was time to go, she surrendered her skates reluctantly. "I feel like I'm still skating," she said dreamily on our way to the car. "Mama, when can we go back?"
Have I mentioned that I adore this child?