And away she goes
Her voice shook and she grasped at me frantically, her little feet slipping in every direction on the rented ice skates I laced up just moments before. She looked like a cartoon character about to take off running.
I grasped her right hand tightly with my left. On the other side, I held firmly onto Loaf, who was struggling even harder to stay upright on the slick ice.
We inched along the edge of the rink, Peanut clinging to me and the wall for support, me serving as the anchor, the girls twisting and flopping and occasionally falling on either side of me. Every now and then I'd catch a glimpse of one of their faces - eyes wide, cheeks and noses pink from the cold, an expression mixed with wonder, fear and thrill.
I have no idea how long it took us to complete one loop around the rink - but it was a long time. Faster, more experienced skaters whizzed by us multiple times - boys in hockey skates, girls in skating skirts and almost every other child on the rink wearing a helmet (it never even occurred to me to bring their helmets; I haven't been in an ice rink for over 20 years and no one wore helmets then. Anyway . . . just one more reason why I won't get Mother of the Year again this year).
We moved slowly, me giving as much coaching as possible, trying to watch their feet, hold them up and not get pulled down myself. We finally reached the door from which we entered the ice and unanimously agreed to take a break. We sat on the bench and watched the other skaters circle for several minutes.
"See how they push with their skates?" I offered. "See how they go?"
Soon, they were both eager to give it another go. We stepped out onto the ice, me gripping them on either side.
"Let go, Mom," said Peanut. "I want to try it myself."
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Yes, let go, Mom."
Slowly - carefully - I loosened my grip. She wobbled - both arms sticking out searching for balance, helicoptering wildly. She nearly fell, but held herself upright. And then, she pushed. Just a small push - a step, really, but enough to propel her forward a few inches.
Loaf was still struggling horribly, so I held tightly to her, all the while keeping an eye on Peanut. I kept my left hand at the ready to catch her if she went down and every so often she did. But she recovered quickly - regaining her balance and restarting the slow shuffle that moved her along the rink's edge.
Then, something happened with Loaf. She turned suddenly and I lost my grip on her. She slid onto her side and lay there, unhurt, but looking up at me helplessly. Somewhat stunned, I pulled her back to her feet and brushed her off. By the time I looked up, Peanut was several feet ahead of us. Gliding forward a bit unsteadily, but nonetheless completely on her own. I watched the back of her pink coat moving farther away from me - her legs shaking like those of a newborn foal learning to stand for the first time - shaking and quivering with uncertainty, not yet knowing those legs were born to trot and pull and gallop.
It took my breath away, watching her like that. She turned just then and smiled at me, so very, very proud of herself, and something in my chest popped - a combination of delight and loss so sudden and strong it felt like an electric shock.
I grasped Loaf under her arms and held her in front of me, skating quickly to catch up with Peanut.
To catch up with her. The girl who couldn't even stand on this ice an hour ago.
We circled one more time - still slow, but a bit faster than our inaugural lap. Peanut on her own and Loaf and I following in tandem. Mother supporting the younger child, while the older gingerly, but assuredly, finds her own footing in this world.
And so it goes.