Harper and I are holding hands as our skates click on the ice. We are taking little steps, not pushing the skates as we should. Harper thinks that the faster she moves the better she will skate, and I am trying to tell her that if she figures out how to glide, if she moves slowly, she might get it. But Harper won’t let go of my hand.
“Don’t let go. Don’t let go, Mommy.” So I hold on, and we clunk around in the Town Center, music playing overhead and a Christmas tree lit up and standing tall next to the rink outside. Harper’s laughing and laughing, “I’m ice-skating, Mommy! Don’t let go of my hand, Mommy! I love ice-skating!”
At one point, a girl skates to the center. She is wearing pink skates, leggings, jacket, mittens and a scarf to match. She starts to twirl and her pony tail shoots out around and around chasing her but never catching up. While she twirls faster and faster her arms slowly raise up until they are above her head reaching towards the Christmas lights, or maybe the stars.
“I want to do that,” Harper says.
Harper asks me how she can twirl and I tell her that first she needs to let go of my hand, but she doesn’t want to do that.
“I’m afraid I’ll fall,” she tells me.
“You might fall, but you might find your balance too. Can I show you?” We skate to the side so Harper can hold on to the edge while I show her how to push slowly with one skate, my arms out to the side as I glide. I put my feet in fifth position so I can turn around and face Harper.
“See? You want to try?”
“No. I don’t want find my balance. I want to hold your hand.”
So we hold hands again and skate, Harper giggles and I think about balance. Should you try the harder tricks if you haven’t found your balance yet? Do you need to master balance before you add more? What if you haven’t and you want to try a hard trick anyway? How much will it hurt if you fall?
What if your heart is beating faster and faster for the thing you think you might try, and you know that not trying it would hurt more than trying and falling?
John Mayer sings on the radio overhead. “Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood,” he sings. I have those words above my computer next to a Rilke quote: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us, in its deepest essence, is something helpless that wants our love.” I didn’t discover Rilke’s words by myself, I learned them from a friend. A friend who knows I want to write. I wonder about John Mayer and Rilke and fear and balance as I hold tight to Harper’s hand while she laughs and skates. “I love this, Mommy!”
Behind us, there is an oncoming scream that ends in a thud, and then hysterical laughter. Harper and I turn to see a girl laying on her back, holding her stomach because she is laughing so hard. A friend skates up to her and asks, “Are you OK?”
“Yes!” She is still laying on the ground, laughing. I wonder if the ice is starting to seep into her back and she will stand up soon.
“You have to be more careful,” this girl’s friend says. “You gotta learn how to turn so you don’t ram into the wall.”
“I know, but I’m having too much fun!”
Her friend helps her up and together they hold hands until they’re in front of me and Harper. The girl who fell yanks her hand free and begins to skate, crazy fast and towards a wall again. Harper starts to laugh and moves her feet faster. She can barely stand and if our hands come undone, she will fall to the ground. I don’t think she cares. I realize at this point that I am the one holding her hand.
The next morning, I am driving to the gym. It’s early. So early that the traffic lights in our neighborhood blink yellow. There’s not enough people out now for the use of red light/green light. Hours later, I will drive Hadley and Harper to school, obeying the traffic lights that will be no longer blinking. Now, it is just me, and I make my way down the street alone, probably one of the first people to drive this road today.
During my workout, the instructor has us try an exercise that incorporates balance and lifting weights. She explains how to do it, how many reps we will complete, that the exercise will last six minutes. We worry about this, to which she says, “Yes you can.” Then she adds that this exercise can be completed with a partner. “Find your balance or find a friend,” she says.
I think of the ice-skater who twirled beautifully in the center, and I think of ice-skater that fell. I think of Harper who believes she can ice-skate and can’t wait to get back to the rink and try again.
I don’t know if I can complete this part of the workout without a partner, but I decide to try. I decide that finding my balance is part of the fun in learning the trick.