It is early on a Friday afternoon and the rink is dominated by adults. A young couple poses for pictures in front of a tree decorated at the Pump House Gallery. Teenagers, still in their school uniforms, sit on the bleachers with skates on, daring each other to get on the ice.
Unlike opening night, there is none of the gospel music, none of the carols, that could make a person who does not celebrate Christmas feel like an outsider. Instead, sounds from the Red Hot Chili Peppers set the mood.
The ice is not pitted yet from hours of abuse from the blades. There’s no slamming into the boards, no wiping out from stopping too quickly the wrong way. Nobody is standing against the wall, Facebooking the moment instead of living it.
Men in suits exit the rink. An experienced skater takes to the center, where she spins — intentionally — for all to see. A few youth from High School, Inc. have inched onto the ice. Two of the boys go slowly, still only in the phase of treating skates like sneakers: stepping, not gliding. A third, distant from the others, has more grace. He’s gathering the courage to show off. Schoolgirls, ranging from slightly wobbly to completely uncoordinated, join.
“Get your phone out of your ass pocket,” one high school student tells her friends, in the way that only teens can be helpful. She explains how their devices will meet certain doom when they inevitably fall down. The girls take heed. Phones are moved to safer pockets.
The boy with grace begins to zip around the rink, top speed, glancing at the girls to see if they notice.
Eddie Vedder‘s voice replaces that of another musician whose prime predates the birth of most now on the ice. Around 2p.m., the demographics of skaters has shifted from the lunch crowd to the after school set. Vedder sings, “do I deserve to be” and is cut off mid-sentence.
A toddler, helped by his grandparents, enters the rink.
Bing Crosby sings the weather report.
Time to go.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.