February 15 Proud: When’s the last time somebody told you they were proud of you.
I’m really starting to not like this prompt thing. What the hell kind of shit is that? I’m looking for writing prompts, not a “How To” manual on writing crappy, feel-good, new age journals. Then again, it’s a writing prompt and not a thesis paper, so I’m assuming that I’m free to take my words wherever the subject prompts me, which may or may not conform with the stated subject. That said, I’m pretty sure that the last time that somebody told me they were proud of me was my girlfriend telling me how happy she was that I started playing hockey again after so many years away. I think she can see the mix of pride and fear that I had to vault over before lacing up my skates for the first time since the Clinton administration.
I’m one of those people who hates being a beginner, even when I am one. Before last April, the last time I skated was probably the early-90s, when my buddies and I would rent the ice on a Friday night after work. We’d hit the liquor store on the way over and then skate, pound beers, smoke weed and generally burn off a week’s worth of steam until we were done. Then about fifteen years ago, I dislocated my left ankle in a horrifying, stomach-turning sports injury that pretty much derailed my sporting life. Even though I hadn’t skated in several years, I realized that I had just lost the option of picking up hockey again should I ever be possessed to return. Even though my ankle healed exceedingly well and intellectually I assumed it was probably stronger now, the thought of skating hard and having to use my left foot to suddenly stop filled me with blood-draining terror. It still does.
But then last year, as a San Diego Gulls season ticket holder, I was invited to skate at the Valley View Casino Center for a Founder’s Day event. I’m not entirely sure why, but I decided that I’d give it a try. One of my friends had taken up hockey recently and with the Gulls back in San Diego, I was attending games regularly and watching more and more hockey on TV. Somewhere along the line I got the itch again and the day before the Founder’s Day deal, I broke down and dropped an eye-watering amount of money on a pair of new skates. The next night, I laced up my snazzy new skates, stepped gingerly onto the ice and…I was fine. Well, “fine” meaning I didn’t wipe out, crash horrifically into the boards or slam into any innocent bystanders. I was shaky as hell but I had a blast. The bright glare of the ice, the crisp chill in the air and the feeling of the blades crunching across the ice gave me an instant and thoroughly familiar high.
The next day I went back to the sporting goods store and bought all new gear. I signed up for a beginner’s clinic and by the end of the week I was playing again. I’m several area codes from pro stock but I’ve stuck with it over the past year, joining a couple of adult leagues, hopping into pickup games with friends and going to stick times when the schedule allows. Just last week, I was looking at our league’s web page and decided to click on the Stats tab to see how I was doing. I figured I’d be right there in the middle of the pack, which would have been more than OK. I would have been stoked. But I had to look twice after the page loaded — I was actually leading the league in points. It didn’t matter that it’s a glorified novice beer league – it’s what it represented in the context of the past year. I’d spent the past twenty years telling myself I’d never — could never — skate again. And it was only ten months ago that I wobbled around the ice, barely able to stop on my ankle. But all we need is the flickering glow of possibility and everything can change. When I told my girlfriend that I was leading the league in points, she told me that she was proud of me. So there you go.