Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Falling into place by shaking it off...

"On your knees, you look up…you get strong...wipe your hands, shake it off...then you stand...every time you get up, one more small piece of you starts to fall into place..." Stand by Rascal Flats

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Winter Olympic Games, especially for women's figure skating. When I was 12 years, I taught myself how to ice skate by watching the 1964 Games on TV.

It was the year Dutch figure-skating champion Kjoukje Kijkstra of the Netherlands struck gold in Innsbruck, Austria.

I remember being perched way too close to the black and white picture tube, taking copious mental notes of her twists, her turns, her solid drives forward and her curvy strides backward.

Wanting to dance on ice just like Kijkstra, I studied her every move as she leveraged her body and glided around the glassy rink - the way she bent her knees, lowered her head and maneuvered her heels, toes and arms all in one glorious flow of athleticism.

The end of her performances signaled the beginning of mine. I wasted no time heading for the ice to mimic her, hurrying a bit, thinking I may forget the images I carried with me.

With a pair of skates slung over my shoulder, I stomped through winter’s long snowy shadows to Chautauqua Lake, one block straight down the hill from my childhood home in Lakewood, N.Y.

Arriving at the encrusted shoreline, I situated myself on a large rock smoothed by lapping waves now rendered still by cold air.

After wrestling ice skates onto my feet, I stood and steadied myself on dull silver blades. Ever so slowly and with abundant awkwardness, I inched myself onto the frozen plane. With no one else around, I was free to live out my skating fantasy. Ankles bending, knees aching, I clumsily forced my feet to move, tittering right, then left, right, left, right, left....

During many wobbly practices, my dream of one day gliding across the ice with some semblance of style and grace held me captive.

Spending hours stomping, skidding and marching across that bumpy rink, I carried a mantle of Kijkstra’s greatness. She was my supply. Her victory dwelt inside me. Nothing could discourage me.

With relentless hope and unchanging images of Kijkstra, I learned how to skate forward, backward and eventually progressed to half-turns and then full twirls.

And now watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, as I approach the age of 60, I am 12 again. I am perched too close to the television. My heart is in my throat. I see Yu Na Kim of South Korea win gold. I observe the courage of Joannie Rochette of Canada win bronze. I am taken up once again by a most powerful force that makes me believe I can do anything.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

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