Tag Archives: roll with it

Roller Skating in the Different Lane

My first pair of roller skates, a gift for my eighth birthday, looked very similar to the ones in the picture except the toe clamps on mine were a bit larger and covered with red vinyl. I loved having roller skates. We lived at the top of a hill in a suburban residential neighborhood in L.A. County, and I would skate down the hill on the sidewalk, occasionally crashing on random front lawns when I got going too fast (notice the absence of toe brakes on these things). I would spray WD40 on the metal wheels when they got so gunky they wouldn’t turn evenly. But after a while that didn’t help much.

And then Xanadu came out when I was almost 10. I wanted nothing more than to have a pair of leather shoe skates, preferably white, like my friends had. I was as embarrassed by how my old metal skates looked as much as I was frustrated by how often the wheels got stuck. After a while a friend of mine received a new pair of skates for her birthday and offered to give me her old ones. They were white leather shoe skates with orange wheels and toe brakes! I was ecstatic and figured with these skates I would finally be able to learn to skate backwards (impossible to do when wheels get stuck).

I had to loosen the toe brakes and turn them around because my friend had worn them down to nearly nothing on the front. But for a girl who had managed for almost three years with no brakes at all, it wasn’t even an issue. They did, however, come in handy while learning to skate backwards. I would spray WD40 on the wheels and man, those skates were fast. They were a bit big, though. I had to stuff the toes with paper towels so that my feet didn’t slide around too much. By the time I grew into them, the toe brakes were completely gone and I had started using the sides of the wheels to brake, so the wheels were getting lopsided and I would thunk, thunk along instead of roll.

And finally, I think for my twelfth birthday, I had my own pair of new white leather shoe skates. They were beautiful, and they fit me for about a year. And when I grew up and had kids and my nine-year-old son indicated an interest in roller skating, I bought him inline skates that were adjustable (I specifically researched this). Because I had learned a few things from roller skating, and not just the need for them to be adjustable.

I learned that sometimes one skate is operating fine and the other skate becomes stuck. One skate is going along, functioning, and the other skate has some issues. The other skate is a long-term single parent. The other skate has a special needs child, or a spouse with a terminal illness, or a family member with an addiction. The other skate has lost its job or has a significant disorder. And so, gradually and over time, the other skate gets stickier and stickier, until you have no choice but to drag it along or to go in circles.

Sometimes you can trade off doing those things for years. For a while you keep dragging the stuck skate, trying to move forward. Then you get tired so you let the stuck skate stay put while you keep making half-circles around it, wishing that it would become unstuck. Finally you sit down and put a bunch of oil on the stuck skate. You’ve already done that, but you can’t think of anything else to do. So you get up and drag the stuck skate so you can keep inching forward.

But there’s something interesting about that. In order to keep moving forward, you have to push off using the stuck skate. You go forward a ways and then you have to position yourself so that the stuck skate can provide the leverage to propel you forward again. Yes. The stuck skate can actually help you move farther (and in a different direction) than you would have otherwise gone.

So accept that your stuck skate is the way it is. For however long it will remain in your life, learn to work with it. You are stronger because of it. And without it you wouldn’t be the person you are today.