Shooting the Duck
During the snowy winter of 1952, when I was eight, Mom drove me every week to Carling Arena for a figure skating class. She outfitted me just right, in a navy blue velvet skirt that just covered my bum, a white rabbit muff that kept my mittened fingers warm, and a pompom wool cap.
But those nasty nicks on the skate blades would confoundedly trip me up just as I pushed forward. Even when I learned not to topple over, I could never figure out how to shoot the duck. The ideal was to hunker down till you were nearly sitting on your sates and then to shoot one leg out like the barrel of a gun as you coasted along the ice. Not me. I would invariably end up on my bottom, my gangly colt legs galumphing out in front of me.
Barbara Shuttleworth was held up as a perfect example beyond any accomplishment the rest of us could ever manage: she was beautiful, blond, and a year or two older, skating graceful rings around us all in a swirl of perfection. Meanwhile, we watched and shivered glumly, the wet wool of our leggings entering the crisp air of the arena like an unwelcome, embarrassed dog.
But I had been given a dime and a nickel. My reward after class was a soggy and savoured cone of chips, the best chips ever, the paper cone soaked in salted vinegar, well worth taking mittens off for, and enduring my mother’s encouragement on the wet-bottomed ride home. She’d been an avid skater on outdoor ponds, and had unwarranted hopes for me.
Amanda and me, Toronto Island, 1976, from the cover of my book, “Some Talk Magic”, Ergo Productions. Photo by Elizabeth Cunningham.
And then… Amanda and her children, 2014! Through the generations…