Thursday, December 17, 2009

Skating on Thin Ice

It is so cold today here in Massachusetts that I am reminded of a family story. As I am the author of an upcoming book on Digital Storytelling for Teachers, I am beginning to think about my genealogy in the context of a family history story.

My maternal grandparents lived near Roger Williams Park on the Cranston/Providence line in Rhode Island. [Bird's Eye View] Much of the park is a preserved area of woods and a lake and a lovely zoo. The winter this photo was taken, the weather was cold for a long period of time, making it safe to skate. This is the only photo I can find of me skating.

My grandmother bought me ice skates for my birthday and my father, ever the sportsman, wanted to teach me to skate but he didn't own any skates.

I can still see in my mind's eye, my grandmother telling my father to go up in the attic and look for her son's ice skates. My uncle, who died by his own hand, was not married very long when he died, so many of his belongings were still in her attic. She did not look up from her Christmas baking to tell him that. I don't remember my uncle but he was alive in my lifetime. He was charming, handsome and personable. No one could believe he was dead.

My father located them and put on several pairs of socks to get them to fit snugly and off we went, camera in hand, to the lake . I can't say that this is that day as I am actually skating but you get the idea. See my father's shadow? I can't believe my father is dead. Where have the years gone?

Dad sat me down on a park bench, put on the skates and told me he needed to practice a bit. He stepped onto the ice, never fell down, and proceeded to skate forward and backwards. I was mesmerized. I didn't know he could do that. He was really a good skater. I mostly fell down.

After we came home, over hot chocolate, my dad told me about his childhood and how skating was a big part of it. His father, an immigrant from Scotland, made curling stones out of the granite he mined for work. He taught my dad to skate and how to play hockey and curling. It was the only time my father had nice things to say about his father.

As that paternal grandfather also committed suicide (which I didn't know at the time), my maternal grandmother said little but listened intently. After I went up to change my clothes, I heard them talking but couldn't make out the words from upstairs. It was just a murmur of voices with no laughter.

The conversations about suicide were few from that point on. The subject was like skating on thin ice.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

That's a very sweet and poignant story, Midge. You must have some mixed emotions about that day.

BTW, did I ever tell you that I used to "do" edtech when I was a teacher? I was the District/Site Tech chairman, member of CUE, ISTE, etc. Almost went for a M.A., but quit teaching to be a mom. Can't wait to read your book when it comes out!

Hope you're having a wonderful holiday!

~Elizabeth
Little Bytes of Life