Shall we skate?

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  • Wollman Rink. Photo: Alexandre Breveglieri, via flickr

Remember all those wistful childish wishes? Choices were endless; boys wanted to be firemen, policemen, astronauts and cowboys, and girls wanted to be mommies, movie stars and ballerinas. I wanted to be an ice skating star. Actually, my parents named me for an international figure skater popular when I was born, Melitta Brunner, but I don’t believe the name penetrated my thought processes at the time. I did a lot of skating through the years, but the likes of Sonia Henie and Meryl Davis (a brilliant and beautiful American ice dancer) eluded me, and so I resigned myself to watching as many ice capades and competitions as possible.

Here in Manhattan we have scenic Rockefeller Plaza and Wollman Rink in Central Park, as well an enclosed skating rink on Manhattan’s West Side by Hudson River. These are all wonderful places to let your feet fly over ice as you circle the rink. If you even have a bit of an ability to stay steady and feel secure, the ice will be your friend and allow you to let your body relax as you skate. It is a truly great pleasure to skate alone or hold hands with another person.

Wollman lies on a valley as you enter from Central Park South. In a few minutes you descend and the whiteness of the ice appears and then the wooden enclosures with all the amenities you need for a happy time — shoe rentals, food court, lockers and benches.

It’s a little Switzerland in our Big Apple. It’s easy to forget and overlook, but it’s a hidden gem. Watching all the little eager kids make their way around and around, plopping on the ice on unsteady feet (when you are small falling is fun) as well people way over middle age in great shape traversing the ice makes me wish I had those beautiful white skates of my youth.

At least I have the wonderful pleasure of watching greats perform in person or via satellite. I can turn on YouTube, where I can revisit any Olympic exhibition I missed and catch segments of skating greats, like Britain’s Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean do their 1984 rendition of “Bolero,” one of the legendary pair-skating feats. Great dramas played out on the ice, dangerous stunts which sometimes led to tragic accidents as well as world success.

It’s all very exciting, but at this moment I love watching the junior members of the Wollman Rink perform their solos to music and twirl and jump and maybe climb a little closer on the ladder to fame.

The work of a skater is hard and unbending, and there is great personal sacrifice, but if you feel that fire, go for it and don’t give up. You may catch me in the crowd cheering.

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