Screaming on thin ice
FRIDAY, January 15 – I’m angry with myself. I should have known, should have seen it coming. Damn it, how dumb can you be? Last week Eamonn came home from skating lessons spitting fire. The instructor was way too strict, plus his leg was bothering him. ‘You know what,’ I said this morning, ‘I think I’ll go with you.’
So I went along on the school bus, as a volunteer. I simply couldn’t understand why he didn’t enjoy the skating. There were only four Friday trips to the ice rink and it would be a shame if he missed out on the fun just because of a strict coach or his leg. It didn’t make sense. When we got there, I helped the kids with trying on the skates and tying their shoelaces, including Eamonn.
He was out on the ice for a total of thirty seconds. His leg hurt too much and he looked as if he was about to burst into tears. Convinced that he was grossly exaggerating, I loosened his shoelaces and sent him off again, but he refused to go. I tried mild persuasion. No luck. When I ordered him back onto the ice, he totally ignored me.
Then I ostentatiously ignored him, thinking that that might help. On the contrary. As I walked away, he disappeared behind a wall and that’s where I found my youngest, hunched over and leaning against a bench. He tried to make himself as small as possible, all the while crying his eyes out. I put my arms around him and then he began to talk.
‘I don’t want to go skating because it reminds me too much of Mom.’
Fuck, fuck, fuck, I screamed inwardly. Suddenly it was all clear. Jenn had adored skating. She would have gone along as a volunteer, sneaking in a few laps on her own. Whenever she caught sight of an ice rink, she was there in a minute. Last fall she had already been looking forward to the temporary ice rink on Museum Square.
Not long ago I came across her ice skates in a big bag at the back of the living room closet. How stupid was I not to have seen on his face what was going on? He continued, ‘When we were living in the States and in England, Mom always came along with me when I went skating and afterwards she always had a chocolate bar for me. That’s why I can’t go skating with the class.’
I hugged him even tighter. Tears were running down his face, faster and faster, and I was crying, too.
‘It’s okay, kiddo, it’s okay. I understand, and it’s okay.’
But I couldn’t just leave it at that.
‘Don’t you think that Mom would have wanted you to go on enjoying skating?’
‘Yes, but right now that’s impossible. I just can’t do it.’
‘Then that’s okay. You don’t have to.’
We clung to each other until I suggested going for a walk around the grounds of the skating complex. In the restaurant I bought a chocolate bar for him. He was looking better and he even gave me the last bite. One small step forward, after that enormous dip.
When we got home, he suggested that maybe the three of us could go skating together sometime. Just Sander, Eamonn and Papa. ‘Good idea,’ said Sander, so that’s settled.