Yesterday, I made my first-ever trip out to the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the rink out in Ballston where my Washington Capitals practice. I was not, as you might suspect, heading out to stalk get an up-close view of the players (though I wouldn’t have complained if that had come to pass), but rather to go ice skating with Jen and D, my sister-in-law and older nephew. D has decided that he wants to play Mites on Ice hockey at a Caps game, but there’s a glitch in his plan — he doesn’t know how to skate. Yesterday’s trip was his second time out on the ice, and Jen invited me to join them.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am going to come out right here and say I am a terrible ice skater. I always have been, even when I skated semi-regularly as a kid, and having not been on the ice more than once or twice in a decade or so has done nothing to improve my skills.
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
Things went remarkably well for most of our visit — a spill here and there for D, but nothing he couldn’t handle. Jen and I went around with him most of the time, each of us holding a hand, but he’d also let go for short stretches every now and again. Towards the end, we decided to take some pictures, and that’s where things went off the rails. We slowed down for a moment to let Jen snap one last picture, and D wobbled and fell just as a group of people came around the corner. I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough, and skated over two of his (thankfully glove-covered) fingers on my way down to the ice.
I can’t say with certainty which one of us freaked out more. D was, without a doubt, louder, but I was just as upset. I mean, I skated over two of his tiny little fingers. I hurt one of the little guys I love more than anything in the world. And worse, I did it when he was trying out something new, something that he liked, something that he really wanted to do. I was afraid I’d instantly ruined ice skating for him — squashing his dream of playing Mites on Ice, and thereby denying him his future NHL career. I was heartbroken.
Fortunately, D ended up being a real trooper. After what felt like an eternity of sobbing, he started to calm down. (In reality, he wasn’t hurt all that badly; one finger was bleeding a bit and both were clearly going to bruise, but they were definitely not broken.) Seeing an opening, I went straight for bribery, offering him chocolate milk in exchange for getting back out on the ice — knowing that it was critical that he skate at least a few minutes more so that he wouldn’t end up permanently afraid. He was reluctant, but eventually the lure of chocolate milk overwhelmed him, and we made one last circuit of the rink.
Once the skates were returned, while we waited for the customization on my Caps jersey to be finished, we sat in the snack bar and D had his reward. And thus, my status as a beloved auntie — as well as D’s future as a hockey star — was saved. Phew.
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