We got there at one. I thought the lessons started at 1:20, but I was wrong. They started at 1:35. Selam was beyond excited to be there.
We signed up, paid, and went to get her skates, then she changed into snowpants. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. The room got more and more crowded. The kids covered the range from leg hugging toddlers to swaggering pre-teens. Selam started chattering with everyone she met.
Finally, it was time. The kids and parents pressed to the rink. The teachers let one child at a time onto the ice. Parents took spots to the sides of the rink. The bleachers were still covered with snow.
Selam went onto the ice smiling. The smile quickly went away, though, when they took away the little pusher. She clutched the edge of the rink. She tried desperately to find her group, but the chaos was hard. She stopped every adult she could find. I could see each of them pointing her in a different direction. She’d diligently try to scoot in that direction, hugging the wall, only to be sent in a different direction. It was so hard not to be able to go out there and help her.
Finally, all the kids were on the ice, so I went up to the woman who’d been checking each of them off and said,
“My daughter is having a hard time finding her group. Can someone help her? She’s in the blue group, but she’s out there all by herself.”
I pointed Selam out.
“Well, she’s assigned to the wrong group then. She should be in red.”
“The 8 and 9 year olds.”
“But she’s six.”
The teacher skated quickly off and found Selam and skated her over to the blue group–a group she’d already been to one time. They were already involved in the lesson. My heart went into my throat for her. But dang it if the kid didn’t take off trying to catch up with the group. She fell 3 times but she got into the group. I saw her talking with the teenage helper. Back and forth, back and forth, the kids went “marching” on the ice. Over and over again, Selam fell. Each time, she’d pop back up, ear to ear grin. The teacher had them doing a “head, shoulders, knees and toes” thing. The group was always, always ahead of Selam and one other little boy. They’d go soaring off–most of them actually skating, and Selam, the little boy and the teenage helper would follow. But that little girl just kept getting up, and continuing to do the “head, shoulders, knees and toes” thing even though she was doing it all alone. The other little boy who was struggling didn’t even try.
The parent chatter clued me in. All of the kids in the group except for Selam, the boy, and one other girl had been in lessons since November. They didn’t recognize that I was her mom, which was fine, because I got to overhear them talking about her. There’s nothing better than hearing that other people think of your kid as “plucky” and “unstoppable,”particularly when she was out there doing the head shoulders routine all by herself. The small cluster of parents groaned every time any of the kids fell, but then cheered when each one got up again, some of them tear stained or wobbly.
Suddenly, it was free practice time. The teachers went to the middle of the rink with a box. All the kids swarmed the box, and grabbed stuffed toys. They thew them on the ice and skated after them, trying to pick them up while skating. Selam was way far from the center of the rink, but when she heard that stuffies were in the offering, she bolted to the middle, got herself a stuffed cat and started practicing picking it up. She fell about a thousand more times.
A boy skating really slowly backward crashed into a tiny little girl in shiny white boot skates. The two of them landed in a tangled heap on the ice. Once they both got up, Selam made friends with the boy, and tried to get him to teach her how to skate backward. She can’t go forward more than 5 feet without falling, which obviously means she’s ready for skating backward! She made it a few tiny steps backward and looked at me, two thumbs up & an enormous grin. Then fell.
The teachers yelled that it was time for the lesson to end, and the large crowd swarmed to the exit. True to form, Selam was at the end of the pack. As soon as most of the group was out the door, she took the opportunity to slowly, slowly turn herself in a circle.
“How was it, Selam?”
“It was AWESOME! I even learned how to skate backward and do a spin!!!!”