Sunday, January 12, 2014

-a birthday story
(for my son) 
The winter that my son transitioned from eight to nine years old,
 He discovered ice skating.
Sebastian discovered an incredible burning passion for ice skating.

At the time we lived close to the Frank Rizzo Ice Rink.
Neighborhood place
Tucked away under a highway overpass in South Philly.
Home of “The Rizzo Rats.”

Week nights Sebastian would “train” and “play” with a pee wee hockey team.
With inherent physical abilities 

(not inherited from me), he was a quick study.
In no time he was doing crossovers,
Skating backwards
Stopping on a dime.
Little and light, he whipped around the rink 

Waltzing the puck.

Saturdays we would skate there together.
Rather,he would zip circles around me as I slowly moved forward.
I used the sidewalls to stop.
On occasion I chanced a crossover.
Or two.

Sundays we took lessons at The River Rink.
 Located on the beautiful Delaware River.
Off a major highway.
Adults at one end.
Kids at the other.
I learned to slowly skate backwards.
I learned to stop properly (and without running into a wall)
I  learned to “moon walk”.
On skates.

Fantastic party trick. 
It was our winter of frenzied skating madness.

Sonja Henie

One Sunday the ice skating teachers asked everyone to stay after class.
It happened to be Sebastian's ninth birthday.
A special guest was coming to The Rink.
Along with the local news.
Melitta Brunner was a championship figure skater- single and couples. 
She had been a friend of Sonja Henie’s.
She had lost the Gold to Sonja in the 1928 Paris Olympics .
Melitta Brunner was coming to The River Rink.

I spotted her walking across the parking lot.
She had taken the bus.
A tall slight silhouette in white faux fur.
Knitted cap at a stylish angle.
Red ski pants with an uneven gait
Aided by a metal cane
After a recent hip replacement.
The Bronze medal glistened
From the ribbon around her neck.

There was a regal air about Melitta Brunner.

We gathered around her as she was putting her skates on.
“I make all of my skate covers.”, Melitta said.
She slipped the silver sequined covers over her pristine white skates.
“Vy is he vearing those skates?” she said.“Those are no good.”
Her thick Austrian accent was sharp.
Sebastian was wearing hockey skates.
I apologized for my error.

It was a glorious blue sky day.
The sun bounced off the ice.
We all held our breath
 Watching Melitta walk a little unsteadily to the ice.
Kids and news camera trailing after.

She stepped onto the ice
And like magic
Melitta glided
A slightly faded but graceful swan

The sun caught her hundreds of silver sequins
And her Bronze medal.
She radiated light.

We all caught her spirit.
The kids laughed
And skated with her
Back and forth
Across the rink

Melitta Brunner was a force of Nature.
Sebastian and Melitta Brunner

January 13, 2003

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