Every now and then we sort of accidentally on purpose get an outing just completely right. The heavens align, the children have had enough sleep, pixie dust sparkles all over the usual chaos, and we have the kind of day that I just can’t not write about; mostly so that I can read about it on a dreary dark day in February when it’s pouring with rain, the girls have the most contagious bout of cabin fever ever known to man, all toys and games have been exhausted and I’m watching Doc McStuffins (again) while my inner monologue chants ‘this will pass, this will pass’, as my knuckles clutch the remote control ever tighter.
Last week we took Kitty ice-skating.
If you were to bump into my eldest daughter any time between now and whenever something else exciting happens (so that’s probably Christmas then) she will tell you:
” I went ice skating last night I did actually!”
It is a mark of how much she enjoyed it that it has not been displaced by Elma’s birthday (which may have included a few little somethings for her), Elma’s party, and the very great excitement of meeting Grandpa from the train.
When H and I first met at university we used to play college ice-hockey in the wee small hours of Saturday morning (because what else do you do when you’re 18 but stay up all night). H, veteran of local junior ice hockey teams throughout his youth was (and is) confident and stable on skates, and I gave it my usual customary combination of vast amounts of enthusiasm and very little actual talent (although I did once score a goal in ice hockey cuppers – a fact that I’m sure should be on my CV somewhere).
Suffice to say that when we came to decide who was going on the ice with our eldest daughter for her very first skate while the other stood on the sidelines with Elma to take several hundred photos to mark the occasion, it wasn’t much of a decision.
Webbs of Wychbold (the garden centre) have a small outdoor rink and a special Christmas café installed in the corner usually devoted to pansies and rambler roses. It’s a proper frozen rink (none of your strange plastic ‘ice’ here), little enough not to be overwhelming, but big enough to do a decent circuit without spending all your time braking, and they’ve put some real thought into running it. There are bob skates (dual blades) for little ones, all sorts of skating aids and every week day until the school holidays they have special Parent and Toddler sessions between 11 and 2, which I think are supposed to have fewer people on the ice.
Over population wasn’t really a concern though; our session had H and Kitty, two Mums with three children between them, and a couple of other adults. Not exactly crowded then.
We’d talked to Kitty about ice and how slippy it would feel for a few days beforehand, but nothing quite conveys that first feeling of your skates disappearing underneath you, and her first tentative steps took her straight into H’s arms for a big hug.
For the most part, she preferred sitting on her banana skate, fizzing with excitement while H chased away the cobwebs executing speedy loop after speedy loop (complete with cross overs at the corners, which I’d fall over just thinking about), in all that lovely open space.
She quite liked scooting the banana by herself, and coming by the rail to chatter away at Elma, but it wasn’t until the very end of our 45 minute session that she decided she was comfortable enough to have a real go at skating herself.
With the banana in front and H behind to catch if necessary, she oh so carefully pushed the skate back home, utterly thrilled at being upright on the ice.
Elma and I were the only people on the barrier, and the tiny miss gave every passing skater her most serious attention, only breaking into beaming smiles for her gingerbread man, and when she recognised her Kitty and her Daddy (“Dat!!”) passing by.
And as for me, I had my camera, gorgeous light once the sun came out, my beautiful baby in my arms, and the two other people who complete my world, zooming around in front of me with carefree happiness; what more could I want.
When Elma and I caught up with them in skate return Kitty was all pink cheeks, rosy nose, and big fat tears of utter dismay that it was over. I think she would have stayed out all day if she could.
Big cuddles, and a little lunch sat next to the sparkliest of silver trees watching the next session start to wobble their way around the rink soon restored her good humour; although she did spend a decent length of time explaining to me exactly where I had to go to buy her another ticket, and where to get the skates for the next session – I think she thought she couldn’t go again because I’d forgotten how!
Don’t worry little sweetie, even if we don’t make it back again this year, I don’t think it was your last skating session!