Ice Rink Memories

a row of food and drink vending machines
Snack choices at the ice rink have definitely improved in the last few decades.

For the past 13 years, I’ve been vicariously living through my child. It’s not hard to do considering I spent my formative years just a neighborhood away, in Upper St. Clair. This means anytime my daughter experiences something new, I draw up a comparison and prepare for her eyes to roll in the back of her head with a groan.

Our latest escapade revolves around the Mt. Lebanon Ice Center. Since the rink opened in 1977, it had been well established by the time I was a teen in the early ’90s. I know 30 years ago, during my teenage heyday, it served as a destination for independence, and I don’t think much has changed since then.

So, when my teenager asked to go with a friend during winter break, much to her chagrin, I insisted I join them to relive a little of my past. I promised to be a good mom and melt into the background.

As soon as we entered the rink, my nose picked up the familiar smell of fresh, cold ice as I relished in the familiar crispy atmosphere. Even the sounds flooded back memories of long-lost childhood—little kids squealing with delight and, at times, terror of falling. Sharp shiny blades on the skates filled the rink with sounds of swoosh, swoosh as the crowd glided in circles around the rink (until most of them slammed into the boards to stop).

After paying admission, we scuttled over to the skate rental counter. I chuckled at the realization that neither my child nor her friend had ever rented skates before. Myself and the two teens behind the counter offered them a crash course on trading shoes for skates. One difference I noticed from when I rented skates in the years past; all rentals now consist of hockey skates verses those old, brown, worn figure skates (with the flimsy ankles no one could ever lace tight enough).

Once laced up, I set my kiddo and her friend free to join the bustling rink of novices, proclaimed expert skaters, and actual experts. I silently stood back, amused while watching them lumber forward awkwardly. The girls crept onto the ice using the skates more as shoes than as gliding footwear. They clung to the boards and began their circuit around the rink.

Memories flooded back to me of the last time I skated there so long ago. Flashes of sticking to the boards like a refrigerator magnet filled my memory. On this front, nothing has changed from three decades ago. Inexperienced skaters clung onto one another for support, sometimes succeeding forward for a few more feet, sometimes bringing the other one down to the frozen floor, but always ending in laughter and giggles.

The crowd made their circuit on the rink while classic rock pumped over the speakers. Some of the same songs played during my middle school days creating a familiar feeling, bringing me back to Starter Jackets, scrunchies and carefree days. I scoped out the scoreboard and wondered if it was the same one posted high on the wall thirty years ago.

I scoped out the snacks after the kids were sent into the white, icy wild. There is where I noticed an upgrade from my teenage years. Vending machines lined the wall as well as an open area to purchase items with a computer system. An ATM also capped the end of the snack row. When the snack bar isn’t available (like it wasn’t the day of my visit), hungry patrons have a buffet of options for snacks and drinks to replenish lost calories from their adventures. When the Zamboni hits, be prepared to witness a mass-snacking session.

After a couple of hours, we wrapped up our day, gathered up our items stored in the quarter lockers, and headed home. One significant difference from my time skating in the ’90s compared to now revolves around personal technology. During our car ride home, I listened to my child share tales of others taking selfies, talking on the phone, and recording videos of themselves lapping the rink.

I’m okay with simply embracing the middle school memories.

Cell phones at the time resided in cars as non-portable bricks and they certainly didn’t take pictures. For me, I’m just fine jogging my memory and occasionally coming back–no phone needed.

Regardless of how the memories are stored, I hope these little adventures stick with my daughter so she can share her experiences with her kids, just as I’ve been doing for her. Maybe one day in the future, she’ll be the cause of her kids’ playful groans on her way to drop them off at the Mt. Lebanon Ice Center.