Ever since I was a kid, I've loved watching the Olympics. Even when the television images came in a bit fuzzy on our small black and white screen, I've found myself lost in the drama and the beauty of all the events. Figure skating was my favorite.
Of course, I wanted to be an Olympian. Fat chance. I was a klutz. Still in our backyard and neighborhood, we kids did our best to imitate the real athletes.
Luckily, we had a frozen swamp between our house and our cousins' home. And even though we were dirt poor, we all had ice skates. Mom scratched pennies or got us hand-me-down skates. It had to be worth it for Mom to get us out of the house.
When on the ice I pretended to be Peggy Fleming. She was so elegant when she performed, and I wanted to be like her. One year, I got brand new skates and I was ready to become a star. Never mind that mine were hockey skates, I was sure I could mimic all the tricks I saw the Olympians do.
On the ice we had obstacles that no skating rink had. First, usually a dog or two followed us outside. Laddie and Flinger could get in the way, but Flinger (a lab) was always ready to help pull anyone across the ice. Anyway, a skater had to watch out not to trip over a dog.
Cattails and other vegetation could also end a stunning performance. And a curious skater like my sister, who investigated little spouts of water, could find herself up to her knees in freezing water when thin ice gave way.
Still we skated. Our parents even came out and skated with us some days. They were the ones who kept the ice clean of snow. But most of the time it was only us kids out there skating, and sledding, and falling ... and falling.
As I skated, I saw myself as one of the pros. I could skate forward and backward. I could even do an arabesque of sorts, holding one leg up while still moving forward. A bit of a spin could also be accomplished with my hockey skates. If I was lucky I got all the way around once. Still, I dreamed of having skills like those seen on television.
We even had our own version of pairs skating. My cousin, George, would grab my hand and would whip me around — if I wanted to or not. If we had the entire neighborhood out on our skating rink, a wicked game of crack the whip would take place. Let me tell you, a skater never wanted to be the end of that whip. I remember flying off the ice, out of control, and ending up in a snowbank.
Playing with my cousins could be risky business. Once I had George on one side of me and his sister, Chris on the other. They each took an arm, lifted me, and flipped me over. Too bad they didn't hold on long enough to get me all the way around. I ended up falling on my head — ice skating can be hazardous to your health.
Of course, I got in a good lick now and then. For some reason I took a thick icicle off the house and clobbered George with it. I didn't mean to hurt him. We had just had a snowball fight, with me on the losing end. It seemed the thing to do with that icicle. George ended up seeing stars after that playful hit.
Love for skating woke me up early on school days for a quick spin on our patch of ice. No one else was around on those mornings, so I could dream without being disturbed. The cheers I heard were all in my imagination.
These days I don't dream of being an Olympic skater. I don't have the knees for it. Curling is more my speed. Still, I wouldn't be very good at it. Just trying to walk across our icy driveway is enough of a challenge for me. I do like watching the game. Too bad you have to have cable to see it this year.
Though I'm not an athlete I still appreciate all the effort that goes into being one. Though I cheer for the winners, I also cheer for any who participate. They are all dreamers like me, except for one thing. They have talent.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke.