by Pam Gross
It was a vaguely familiar feeling—a feeling of freedom experienced a lifetime ago. Motion. Speed. Wind. Excitement. Small but present danger. Oh, yes! That same exhilaration that comes with competence. I was doing it! I was rollerblading on the boardwalk at Seaside, Oregon, on a glorious late summer afternoon. Two miles of flat, smooth pavement, sunshine, ocean air. I couldn’t help my smile; it was as ridiculously relentless as a yellow happy face. My body moved with relative ease and a modicum of grace. Push, glide, push, glide—don’t lift the feet so high. Swing the hips. Oops! Too much push means too much glide. Let’s get more control here. Up and down! Up and down! Miles and miles—every once in a while picking up the scent of a cigar as I once again whizzed past my husband reading Tom Clancy on a bench.
Getting tired, I informed my husband that on the next pass I wanted to stop.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll be ready.”
Stopping was not a skill I had mastered at that point. As I approached him, I slowed to a more manageable speed. He stood up, swung his arms wide, and enfolded me in a great hug.
“I am your stopping post,” he whispered.
I thought, Yes. What a wonderful metaphor. You are my safe stopping place.
I sat for a while on the bench enjoying the moment. Some teenagers sauntered past, talking quietly among themselves. The last, a young man of about thirteen, looked admiringly at my skates, bent down, and murmured just so we could hear, “Cool blades.” Then he picked up his pace to catch his friends. My husband and I said in unison, “Cool blades?” And we laughed.
Then the sunset zealots began converging like football fans on Super Bowl Sunday. I hoisted myself off the bench to make the most of the fading light. Up and down, push and glide. Lost in the exquisite rhythm and the elegant air, I almost missed them. But out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a bicycle surrey pulled up close to the boardwalk. Four women nested there comfortably in that distinctly female way of companionable silence. I thought they were completely absorbed by the inch‐by‐inch disappearance of the day, but as I moved past, almost out of earshot, I heard the soft call of support: “You go, girl!” To acknowledge, I signaled a “thumbs up” and continued on.
Now, whenever I put on my skates, I hear the young voice saying, “Cool blades,” and I smile. When I think of my husband as a safe stopping place, I smile. When I recall the soft call of support, I smile. I’m sure glad I didn’t take seriously those people who predicted, “Rollerblade? You’re nearly sixty! You’ll kill yourself!”
Kill myself? I’d say I was perfectly alive that day on the boardwalk.
The routine of what might be called the safe, predictable life has a way of wearing down wives and husbands. Too many years spent in that same office with the broken air conditioner, mowing that same lawn with the crabgrass that never goes away, scraping the ketchup off those same dishes, and making the same lunches for seemingly ungrateful children can leave married couples bored and restless. What’s the solution?
One answer is to open your mind to the possibilities around you. Learn a new skill… study a new subject… take on a new hobby… pursue a new adventure. Think about what you’ve always wanted to try, then do it. You may even find yourself rollerblading down the boardwalk—and loving it.
- James C Dobson