Tag Archives: roller skates

♪ Don’t Blame It On The Sunshine ♫

“To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development.
When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so.  Now that I am fifty I read them openly.
When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
~ C.S. Lewis

I recall with clarity the day they arrived, in a plain brown box with my mother’s name typed on the bill of lading.  I knew what the box held; I’d been waiting with barely suppressed anticipation for weeks.  Though I knew the contents, when it came time to open the package, my heart was beating a mile a minute.  I dug through the crumpled, buff-coloured packing paper, and there they were: my new Dominion roller skates.

I spent the first hour half-skating, half-clumping around the apartment, which had laminate in the kitchen but was otherwise carpeted in a durable berber.  I didn’t know at the time that my skates would leave black scuff marks all over the kitchen floor, and I sure as heck wasn’t yet at a point in my life where I knew how to get them off, either.  Caught hell for that, if memory serves.

Funnily enough, I can’t seem to bring to relief the memory of my first visit to Roller Gardens, the local rink, with the new skates.  I must have been bursting at the seams, standing in the line up waiting to hand over my $3.00 to while away the afternoon, when the other suckers renting their skates had to pay $4.00.  I must have had them bump into my shoulder as I carried them,  laces tied together, toward the lockers.  I must have thrilled to the feel of them  on my feet as I did them up (only halfway, which was de rigueur), sitting on the bench with my friends.  But for whatever reason, I cannot compel the mental images to come back to me.  Perhaps, like so many other special events in our lives, the time was so exciting that I simply lost myself in the moment.

I remember so many other things, though; the smell of the popcorn wafting from the snack bar, the brick walls in the bathroom, the rough feel of the carpeted floors, benches and half-walls, the latter on which my friends and I slouched while we waited for the next song, or flew into when we found we didn’t have time to stop.  I remember the music very well; Grandmaster Flash, Michael Jackson, Styx, The Clash, The Oak Ridge Boys, Chicago, Pat Benatar, Kim Cairnes, Blondie, Men At Work, Toni Basil.  I could go on, but you must have your own memories to draw from.

I remember the clothes I’d wear – the Gypsy Jeans (later replaced by Angels Wing) that had an embroidered roller skate on the back pocket.  I loved the t-shirt transfer kiosk at the mall, and with my birthday and Christmas cash bought myself both a lippy Rocky Horror Picture Show tee and one that featured a traffic light and the words “I May Turn Red, But Don’t Stop,” the ultimate meaning of which was lost on me until an older boy named Sam tested the theory and was promptly and indignantly rebuffed.  I also remember that once, while frantically ironing one of the two shirts in the minutes before I had to leave for the rink, I made an ill-timed swoop, and scarred my unprotected belly with the hot metal.

There were a lot of people I knew who went to Roller Gardens, and because we weren’t indoctrinated into the high school clique mentality as yet, groups were fluid and friendly.  I also met a ton of kids from the local Catholic school, and crushed on a few of the boys; I recall one of them looking exactly like Chico Tyrell from The Lords of Flatbush, which I would have found hilariously funny, had I known at the time.  (I doubt he’s aged as well as Perry King, mind.)

The main pal I attended these marathon skates with was Tracy.  I loved hanging out with her.  We’d sit in her room getting ready, generously applying our Faces #65 frosted pink lipstick that we all carried at the time.  She was the one who’d introduced me to the B-side of Terry Jacks’ Seasons In The Sun.  “You have to hear this!” she’d squealed, pulling me in to her room and closing the door.  I still remember the first line: “Put the bone in, she asked him, at the store…”  The song was, ostensibly, about a girl who goes to the butcher, asking for a bone for her dog, who’s just been hit by a car, but Tracy had clued in to the double meaning.  She was always on the lookout for comedy, that girl, and readily found new material.  She was a treasured friend.

I can’t pinpoint when the allure of the rink began to wane, although it must have been before the end of grade nine.  I was mad for J., who was a year older than I, and starting to discover high school social life, and I suppose roller skating every weekend eventually ceased to be ‘cool’ for me.  The once-revered skates found themselves back in a box.

Cut to 1989.  I’d been living in Toronto for a couple of years, and was putting my tiny apartment through a well-needed purging.  During the process, I’d found my Dominion roller skates, in the bottom of a bin, smushed and stale.  Later that day, I stopped off at the local Goodwill and unceremoniously dropped them down the donation chute.

I think about that day, and wonder if I were uncharacteristically unsentimental at the time, or if perhaps, much like the day I first took the skates to Roller Gardens, life had swept me up and made it difficult to focus on important moments.  Or maybe (and most likely), now in my forties, I am attaching significance to an event that had none, for me, at the time.  But I can’t help but feel that by casually discarding the skates, I missed the opportunity to commemorate three important epochs: first, my carefree and joyous Roller Gardens years; second, my transition from child to adolescent when I moved on to more teenager-ish activities, and third, the moment as a young adult that I’d felt I had to ‘let go of childish things.’

How hasty we are, when young, to cast away all that identifies us as being young!  So eager to prove ourselves worthy of the perceived seriousness of grown up life.  Makes me chuckle, now.  I’m sure that the nineteen-year-old me would be mortified to know that older me, the homeowner, the mother, the grocery shopper, would be all too delighted to have those Dominion skates back today, and, euphoric and unashamed, skate up and down my street all the day long.

__________________________________________________

“Put the bone in,”
She asked him at the store
“‘Cause my doggy’s been hit by a car
And I do want to bring him home something.”
“Put the bone in,”
She begged him once more

“The meat from the pork is sweet
Give the bone from the pork meat to me.”
“Put the bone in,” she begged him
As she paced around the floor
“Put the bone in,” she yelled out once more

“Put the bone in,”
She asked him at the store
“‘Cause my doggie’s been hit by a car
And I do want to bring him home something.”
“Put the bone in,”
She begged him…once more.

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Filed under Canadiana, Ephemera, Nostalgia