The Skates Of Our Fathers

Are you tired of ice skating stories yet?

If you aren’t, you probably haven’t been paying close enough attention. Or you’re just passing through Spokane on your way somewhere less new-retro-figure-skating cool. But if you are from here, and you are tired of skating stories, then I recommend you avert your eyes, because here comes another one.

Or maybe not, because this one isn’t about triple axels or sold-out arenas or multi-million-dollar community influx. It’s about strapping the slats on those tired dogs of yours and hugging the walls at the one and only Spokane Ice Palace.

Hold on a second. There are likely some of you who don’t know (as I didn’t) what on earth I’m talking about when I use the moniker “Ice Palace,” and that’s likely because the last time you visited “that ice skating place at Riverfront Park,” you were concentrating too hard to staying upright to notice much besides exactly how little control a person can have of their own feet when metal blades connect with Zambonied ice. Again, I’m not really describing you. That’s me on the ice, attempting to photograph my children without breaking the camera, but utterly incapable of letting go of the penalty box railing during a particularly appropriate rendition of “Rubber duckie,” as sung by Ernie. (I say appropriate because I’d brought all the kids to this outing, including my nine-month-old boy, who was safely tucked in a friend’s arms as I made my attempt at skating infamy. And yes, I actually had a rubber duckie in my pocket. Not particularly comforting at the moment, but there and mentally noted nonetheless.)

A few thoughts occurred to me as each leg seemed to discover its own independence and set off for friendlier grounds: 1) I could die; 2) I could be at home right now; 3) If I were at home right now, my kids wouldn’t be having the time of their life out on the ice; 4) My children-even the five-year-old-are skating circles around me; 5) If I am ever able to reach the exit gate, I’m going inside immediately and ordering an espresso; 6) Playing with the rubber duckie may actually be more my speed-it really does make bath time lots of fun.

For those of who aren’t familiar with this year’s changes at the Ice Palace, you heard me right. I said “I’m going inside.” You probably think I made a mistake. “The Ice Palace I remember doesn’t even have an inside.” Given that they do have an inside now, you might even think it’s completely chicken of me to go inside when I could be freezing my axel off in the bleachers (especially considering that this is an article for Out There Monthly-I trust my editors will be lenient). But I have a perfectly reasonable excuse. I have a nine-month-old, for crying out loud. He needs me. And thank the god of all things frozen (my fingers, for example), the Ice Palace’s newish inside is a perfectly serviceable place for resting and eating and thawing out, so it’s not just one of the top ten outdoor skating rinks in the country (as noted by a giant banner above the ice), it’s also one of the top ten skating rinks in the country with enough smarts to know that it actually gets cold out there, top ten or not.

As if led by the hand Kimmie Meissner, I was eventually able to make my way onto the mats and into the clubhouse without much more humiliation than I experience on a regular day. (They don’t call it a clubhouse, but they really ought to. It’s actually the Pavilion food court, but it may as well be the Taj Mahal for someone so arse-on-ice averse as myself.)

My kids continued to have the time of their lives. Given that there is now room at the Ice Palace for penguins and chickens alike, I’ve signed them up for weekly skating lessons. While they learn the ins and outs of becoming a human projectile, I might just sit in the clubhouse with my espresso and a paperback. Maybe I’ll finally have time to finish reading Citizen Vince.

See you there.

The Ice Palace is open throughout the month of February and into early March.

For more info visit:

Terry Bain’s new book, We are the Cat is available in bookstores.

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