Skate Bells and Blizzards

December 16, 2023 at 7:50 p.m.
The author was excited to buy her new ice skates but not excited to get caught in a blizzard
The author was excited to buy her new ice skates but not excited to get caught in a blizzard Lois Greene Stone

“Thanks,” I nodded as the bus driver handed me my paper transfer almost before my nickel slid into the slot.

About fifteen minutes later, Flushing Main Street was reached. I opened my little purse, bought at a nearby Army-Navy Store, and touched my transfer. The bus made its way to the large terminal.

Giddy, I exited and found the specific vehicle going to Jamaica. I hadn’t yet learned in school that Jamaica was also an island in the Caribbean. For me, it was a neighborhood in Queens County, where only a sporting goods store, called Davega, had perfect ice skates. The shopping center on its main avenue made Flushing Main Street seem very tiny. I, alone, was making the trip.

My paper transfer was accepted, and the bus left the station. I played out scenes in my mind: long cotton laces would be mostly removed from the white tall-leather shoes, and I’d string bells through the fabric at various places. I’d knot the laces to make a shoulder strap and that’s how I’d carry these precious things (with their rubber protective covers for the sharp blades) to the indoor ice rink in Flushing Meadows Park. The ice rink was part of a building used, about a decade before, for the World’s Fair.

The very, very best was going to be taking the Long Island Railroad a few stops to a town called Great Neck where there was a perfect rink for teens. Also indoors, it had a sitting area (before the ice-skating part) that had a fireplace and hot cocoa. And that rink had a great place in the center to spin, and special couples-dancing music during the day. It was small, compared to Flushing Meadows Park’s, but I really liked the long country walk from the railroad depot to the rink.

“Jamaica Avenue,” the bus driver reminded some of us who were absorbed in thought. I exited.

Transporting a big box containing the ‘magical’ items, including a skate-hook with a blonde wood handle so I could get all the sections of shoelace tight against the eyelets and keep my ankles stable. The clerk put coarse twine around to secure the box lid, and, almost magically, I had a secure grip to carry the box back home. My mother could reuse the handle; she’d like that.

Wearing a velvet skirt I’d handmade from excess drapery material used in my parents’ bedroom (back then there were no leg-covering tights for girls), and assuming the radio alerting New Yorkers of a possible blizzard meant nothing, I met my skating friends in Great Neck. But the owner closed the rink earlier than scheduled and told people to go home. December 1947 was fierce, but we made it to the train in that depot. The rail cars couldn’t move, however. Being young and silly, we didn’t mind lack of heat, and there was no way to communicate with our parents but, truly, we didn’t think of anything but our adventure… at first. Very-very-very slowly, over hours, the train got us as far as Bayside when the conductor finally said it’s midnight and this train was not going to move anymore. One of the boys, who actually lived in that town, said he’d make sure I got back to Flushing safely. We trudged through snow higher than I’d ever seen. My legs were quite numb from the cold and my ears were competing with my legs’ sensation. At one in the morning, I rang the doorbell.

Of course, my parents didn’t yell at me, but hugged me, glad I was safe. They offered to have Lenny sleep over. He said to phone his parents, but he’d continue his walk home, although that was going to take about another hour with the weather conditions.

My parents warmed my ears, my legs, and gently stroked my head as I told them not about the darkness and cold and hunger and exhaustion of the walk but about my wonderful ice skates.

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