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I suppose my love affair with figure skating all began on my 11th birthday. Sometime between Christmas 1997 and my birthday in February of the next year, I told my mom explicitly what I wanted to do for my birthday. I specifically remember where I was seated in my room when I told her. I wanted to go to my grandparents’ house (a 3 hour drive away). I wanted spaghetti. I wanted ice cream cake. I wanted to watch TV (a luxury we only got on visits to grandma, as we didn’t watch TV at home).
I don’t remember if I knew the Olympics were on the horizon or not or if that was part of my intent.
Now, my parents weren’t exactly the type of parents to say yes to our every whim and request, especially if travel was involved. But on my 11th birthday, I got everything I wanted. The trip to grandmas. The spaghetti. The ice cream cake. And the TV.
That evening, on my 11th birthday, an American girl just 4 years old than myself won the gold medal in women’s figure skating.
Maybe 11 is a really impressionable age. Maybe it’s that it was my birthday. Maybe it’s because she was from my country. Maybe it’s because she was young enough to kind of be my peer.
I’m not really sure what happened that night, and I know the enormity of that moment did not touch me until very recently.
I can’t tell you one gift I got for my 11th birthday. I know I had spaghetti and ice cream cake and I got to spend my birthday at my grandparents house. Those things I remember. But the presents? Couldn’t tell you.
But I remember watching Tara Lipinski win gold.
And I remember that the next night, I was supposed to be sleeping on the living room couch. But I heard Sarah Brightman’s “Time to Say Goodbye” and came back into the living room to watch more figure skating (before I was tucked back in a few moments later).
I may or may not have spent nearly an hour the other day trying to find who was skating that program so I could watch it again.
That’s the extent of my memories. Grandparents. Spaghetti. Ice cream cake. Figure skating. Tara Lipinski’s gold medal. (Oh and bobsledding.)
My love affair with Olympic gold medalists date back to my Shannon Miller infatuation days. Maybe it’s because we owned a TV that really only came out of the closet for the Olympics, but I guess I grew up assuming that every girl wanted to be an Olympic champion. Of course, I knew I would never actually be one.
I never asked my parents for lessons or begged them to take me skating (at least from what I can recall). They were already paying for private school and private music lessons (my other passion). I guess it never really occurred to me.
Fast forward four years. I remember a few things about the 2002 Olympics. I remember what our living room looked like. I remember that my mom didn’t like watching the ice dancers.I remember feeling something deep while watching pairs – although I can’t recall who was skating or what exactly I felt. I remember that for the next year, whenever I imagined my future children, I had a baby girl named Sasha after Sasha Cohen.
Between the 2002 and 2006 Olympics I stepped on ice for the first time. Our homeschool group set up a skate time, maybe every week or every other week. I don’t think we went every time. It was maybe 1 year, maybe 2 – a few weeks out of the winter.
I remember my skates from Goodwill. I remember that it was hard. I remember that my arms and chest always hurt the next day from all the flailing I did. I remember that most of my friends could already skate and that I couldn’t. More than that, I remember that the girl I wanted to be my best friend and the guy I had a crush on could skate and I couldn’t – and they were in love with each other so they often skated together.
I remember feeling alone and cold and tired and wanting to feel while skating what I felt while watching skating…but that it never did.
Fast forward to the 2006 Olympics. I remember that my Bible college RA had a TV in her room – because our college was “liberal.” I remember that one weekend I stayed on campus instead of traveling the two hours home. I remember it was “that weekend” – my birthday weekend when my now-ex-boyfriend had promised he would come propose to me. I remember the girl in my dorm who got proposed to that weekend and sobbing on the top bunk of my bed. I remember that my heart was breaking and skating made me feel ALL THE THINGS. I remember staying up late in our RA’s room watching figure skating and Pride and Prejudice. I also remember mattress surfing and feeling alive and happy for the first time in months – until I broke my big toe and was reminded yet again just how painful life can be.
Then there was that one time I went skating in 2007, with Brother #3:
And that one time I went skating in 2009, with Brother #1:
Thus was the end of my illustrious skating career.
Back to the pros…
I completely skipped the 2010 Olympics because even though I was newly married and pregnant with our first kiddo – I still didn’t have a TV.
Then there was the 2014 Olympics. I remember skating a lot more clearly this time. I remember Jason Brown’s ponytail. I remember being torn between Scott & Tessa and Charlie & Meryl. I remember liking Scott & Tessa better because Tessa’s dress was prettier, but still rooting for the Americans, because patriotism, duh…
(Now I have no allegiances…I want them all to win!)
I remember Yulia’s red outfit and HER SPINS. I remember Evgeni Plushenko. I remember Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner.
I remember my 3-year-old dancing around the living room while the men skated on TV. (Click the link to watch 3-year-old Ezra’s moves while Kevin Reynolds skates in the background!)
Sometime between then and the following year, I found out that the 2015 US Figure Skating Championships were going to be held in my town. I bought tickets to the gala for my mom and I without even asking her.
I was an interested party in skating but I still wasn’t really a fan. I am kind of kicking myself because if I could go back and watch that same show now it would mean 100 times more to me. But that’s okay. We had great seats and it was still a night to remember.
But it wasn’t until the 2016 Olympics when everything changed. Now, perhaps you didn’t notice, but I’m sure that some of you did. Those of you who did are probably thinking that’s a typo because the 2016 Olympics were summer games not winter. And you are right.
This marks a turning point in my life because it was during the 2016 Summer Olympics when I stopped being a once-every-four-year spectator of my two favorite sports and actually started following them as a true fan.
At first it was just a lot of following the big names on social media and catching the re-runs. The first competition I remember watching after the 2016 Olympics was the 2017 US Figure Skating Championships.
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At this point, I was officially hooked on both sports. I began paying for Sling TV so I could get NBCSN, then switched over to YouTube TV just before the 2017 Skating Grand Prix Season.
As I’ve yo-yo-ed my way back and forth between gymnastics and skating competitions, I’ve continually asked myself the question, “Which sport do I like more?”
For a while, I decided that my answer to that question was “whichever I’m watching right now!” which was pretty much true.
But after the 2018 Olympics, then the summer break (and the return of Simone Biles, thank you very much), and then switching back to skating for the Junior Grand Prix and the Challenger Series and the Senior Grand Prix series–figure skating has edged its way deeper into my heart.
(See what I did there? #skatingpunsforthewin)
Gymnastics is amazing and phenomenal and puts me in awe. But I hold my breath and pray, “Please don’t fall, please don’t fall, please don’t fall…” and still feel really conflicted when I see what these young girls put their bodies through. (Not to mention all the Nassar drama.)
But skating makes me feel ALL THE THINGS.
I have never cried during a gymnastics competition but I cried when Alyonna Savchenko & Brunot Massot won gold. I cried when Scott & Tessa won gold. I cried when Hubbell & Donahue and Chock & Bates fell. (And I was heartbroken that Ziegler & Keifer didn’t make the free skate.)
I felt real and deep feelings because these people matter to me. Their programs matter. Their music matters. Their relationships matter. Their heartbreaks matter.
Not because I worship them but because they give to me in so many ways. There’s so much beauty and grace and so many metaphors to my daily life – the hard work of marriage especially. (I can and probably will write a whole blog post about everything figure skating has taught me about marriage.)
Sometimes I watch this video over and over just to be reminded…
If I grow old, well I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who’s growing old with you…
I love you til the end of time…come what may…
In the chaos of a testosterone and anxiety filled home–skating provides me grace, beauty, musicality, and a depth of emotion I can’t really explain. It’s such a release.
My boys know – husband included – if mama has skating on, then that’s priority #1. Because I don’t ask for much else. This is my thing.
Back in October I had an epiphany:
If I love skating something this much, why am I not DOING it?
So, on October 23rd, I messaged a fellow skating fan, boy-mom, and NC resident on Twitter:
Three weeks ago tomorrow, I stepped onto the ice for the first time since 2009. This was the result:
But with the encouragement of about a half dozen friends – some old, some new – three skating coaches, a few YouTube videos, and a heck-ton of practice…
I started an Instagram account for this new hobby of mine using the same username I chose for the USFSA “Fantasy Skating” League – yes, that’s a thing.
A Mom Can Dream
It’s something I say a lot. Tongue in cheek. Like when I talk about my kids eating their dinner, sleeping in on the weekends, or there being drive-thru everything just for moms.
A mom can dream…
As in yeah right. Dream on, sista.
But a mom CAN dream.
I have felt super silly and shallow for caring this much about a SPORT. A girly, frilly, sparkly SPORT. Because I’m a special-needs BOY MOM who has REAL LIFE PROBLEMS…
But a mom CAN dream.
A mom can figure skate…
That doesn’t mean that being a mom is any less important or worthy – or anything less than my highest calling. But it’s also okay to do something just for me.
I don’t have any huge goals like competing in adult leagues. I don’t even care if I ever jump. I just want to go out on the ice and feel a fraction of how it feels when I’m experiencing it as an observer.
I guess I needed to write this tonight because I desperately want people to understand why this is important to me. Because I’m a mom…but a mom can dream.