My daughters are both figure skaters. I’ve written of my frustrations with this activity before (I hesitate to call it a “sport”), but they enjoy it, and that counts for a lot. I wish I had something that important to me when I was a kid.
When we were away for a couple of weeks on vacation, they didn’t go anywhere near an ice rink. That suited me just fine, but my teenager has a skating competition coming up in a few days. She needs to get ready, which involves working with her coach, running through her routine, and getting a feel for what she’s going to do in those two minutes when the judges are watching her.
The first step toward putting a routine together is picking out some music. We agonized over this last year, but settled on a medley of songs from Cirque du Soleil. We had gone to see this particular show, named Quidam, when my wife was pregnant, and my daughter was still in utero. So I suppose that makes it special for me, and perhaps for her, as well.
I was at the skating rink, reading from a book while my daughter and her coach were on the ice. I heard the first notes of her music, and I closed up the book and started to watch. And I had the strangest experience, as one musical bit gave way to another and she glided across the ice. I essentially ran through her life’s ice-skating progression in my mind.
Her first time on ice skates came when she was about three years old. We rented some skates and went to an outdoor rink near where we live. She cried the whole time, as I was trying to make her believe she was having fun. And somehow, someway, she started to enjoy skating. There have been lessons and skating shows and competitions and synchro team activities over the years, so much so that I can hardly remember a time when she wasn’t skating. I never would have thought that, all those years ago.
As the music moved along, and she went from place to place doing moves that I don’t know the names for, I felt a bit like Kevin Spacey’s character in American Beauty. At the end of the movie, as Lester is watching his life drift away from him (sorry for the spoiler, if you haven’t seen it already), he sees his daughter, not as she was, but as a young girl, if only for an instant.
I felt the same way in that moment, as if my daughter wasn’t a teenager on the ice, but a five-year old who was happy to be learning how to do something new. The years of practice–and the time and financial expense that has accompanied it–didn’t matter, at least at that moment. It was a nice moment to have, and I wanted to try explaining it here.
Once the music ended, I was quickly jarred back to reality. My daughter realized that I was watching her, as opposed to reading a book, and she gave me a scowl. Teenagers have appearances to keep up, and having a parent with an interest in what they’re doing runs contrary to that. Fair enough.
Perhaps one day she’ll understand all that it takes to get her on the ice. Those things can be quantified and counted, if I ever really wanted to know what they are. But the reward, from my perspective, is something that couldn’t be held in my hand. So I’ll keep it in my heart, instead. Maybe that’s not a good economic trade-off, but on a human level I’ll take that wherever I can find it.