by Tonia R. Blair, a member of Get Your Wordsworth
What does one call a dream that actually came true but not as originally visualized?
Back in Poland when I was about 9 or 10 years old, my parents allowed me to go home from school by myself. Till that time I had to walk home (from school) with Inka, my two years older sister.
During the autumn, the streets of my city, Lodz, were covered with leaves in hues of yellow, orange, brown, from maples and other trees that lined the streets.
I loved the rustle of dry leaves when walking to and from school. But my thoughts were running ahead to winter. Sometimes as early as October, cold weather would arrive, and very often in November we would have snow covering the ground. The carriages pulled by horses would be converted to elegant sleighs with thick blankets on the seats for people to cover their legs. That’s when my dream of having my own skates with white, laced boots and skating outfit, would return to me. When the water pump in our courtyard froze and as part of our daily chores, Inka and I began carrying a large bucket of water from the building up the street that was more modern with its water coming out from a faucet, I knew the ice skating rinks would open soon. There were two in the city located in small parks encircled by a picket fence, high as a person.
Going home from the Vladimir Medem School about a mile and a half from my home, I would make a detour to the skating rink. There I would stand transfixed, my face against the fence, looking through the slots. I saw girls my own age, their braids blond, auburn, brown, flopping in the wind, gliding smoothly and effortlessly over the mirror- like ice with their arms swinging. The music was playing waltzes and the electric lights were illuminating their faces. They looked so beautiful. After a while I would become aware of the terrible cold. My face was wrapped in a giant shawl, except for my eyes. Steam from my breath formed tiny, little ice crystals on the outside of the scarf.My fingers and toes were getting numb, but I could not tear myself away from the sight. The girls looked so graceful in their skating outfits. White laced boots, matching leotards, ballet-like velvet skirts trimmed with fur, fitted, short quilted jackets with fur collars, angora wool matching hats and scarves framing their faces. Some older girls in the center of the rink, figure skated, spinning on one foot then floating to the rhythm of the music. When I finally broke away the images stayed with me, obliterating the gray, drab houses and factories lining the streets on the way to my home.
I kept dreaming of my very own skates and skating outfit. But what color outfit? My eyes were brown, my hair was dark blond. I was thinking of light navy with white trimming, with a white soft angora hat and matching gloves with fingers, not mittens. Then I visualized how I would walk to the skating rink with my friends, laughing holding the skates in my right hand, occasionally brushing the soft, white angora scarf away from my face that was blown by the wind. I would come home half frozen with red cheeks but cheerful and happy. My mother would unbundle me, rub my hands with her long, warm fingers. Then she would rub my toes to unthaw them. Later while eating the barley soup with thick slices of dark bread and butter, I would tell her how exhilarating it was to glide over the smooth ice.
I knew thought that my parents would never be able to afford such luxury. Around that time our 19-year old cousin took my sister and me to see the film with Sonia Henie. I thought that was the most beautiful skating I ever saw. With the passing of time more urgent, practical dreams eclipsed those youthful fancies. Then in the 1960’s when our sons were about 8 or 9 full of spiritedness, my husband thought it would be good to introduce them to skating to give vent to their unhampered energies. So one sunny, cold day we picked them up from school and took them to the Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park. Once I saw the gliding figures, my old fantasies returned. So on our second outing, while Vachel was fitting the boys out with skates in the shop right on the premises, I ordered a pair of beautiful, white figure skates for myself.
Vachel was my first skating teacher, and from then on we skated almost every winter, long after the boys left home. I still have the skates in their original Riegell box. Every so often I think of giving them away but when I take them out of the closet still so white with shining, sharp blades, I put them back into the box and place them next to my husband’s speed skates for another year to look at.