Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Stroll Down Memory Lane

If you don't already know it, I was one of eight children growing up. I was the baby. By the time my memory of childhood kicked in, the two eldest children were on their way out the door and the third in line was about to get married. I have vague recollection of life before Kindergarten.
I know my sister Maureen would be able to clarify how old I was when Dad built an ice rink in our backyard. That would be the same year where I got double bladed ice skates for Christmas. My trainer skates. I would dream of taking figure skating lessons and being able to gracefully twirl and leap like Peggy Fleming.
Our community park district used to freeze the tennis courts at the park less than a mile away from our house. It sat along the Kankakee River which provided a picturesque backdrop in the snowy winters. We'd bundle up and sling our skates over our shoulders and make tracks to join the neighborhood kids. The older boys would line up barrels and attempt to jump them. I would stand off to the side to cheer on my big brother Mike.
The park district also provided wood and fuel, I assume Kerosene, for a bonfire. The fire was always unattended. It was left to the skaters to stoke the fire and throw more wood on when necessary. Oh, I'm sure there was a park worker or recreation director that would check it from time to time. Because I was with my older siblings, I was at their mercy of when I could return home. Despite being bundled up like Randy in "A Christmas Story," I would get chilled if I wasn't in motion.
I distinctly remember one occasion when I realized I had the best guardian angel ever! All the kids were on the ice jumping barrels, practicing their spins or just lazily skating along socializing. I wanted to go home, but my big brother was in the heat of barrel jumping. The fire was dying and wasn't radiating enough heat for me to feel the warmth. I sat on a large log waiting for a grown up to come stoke the fire. As my shivering increased, so did my need to be resourceful. I spied the can of Kerosene. I had watched the older kids do this plenty of times. It was a piece of cake! Making sure no one was around to see me, I lifted the big can and unscrewed the cap. The smell was overwhelming. With my wool mittens still on, one hand on the handle and the other on the base stability .... I made a sweeping motion to hurl the liquid from the can to the dwindling fire. With a big slosh, the liquid went onto the fire and on my mittens, boots, snow pants. WOOOSH! Flames rose to the tree branches and I dropped the can. Fortunately, it didn't topple over and spill. I gasped and denied ever doing a thing when I was asked what had happened. I know I reeked of lighter fluid or Kerosene or gas. I can't recall what happened afterwards. I only know that I was scared back to my senses and never touched another fire like that again.


  1. Ice rink in your own backyard!!! I tell you, I have such a deprived childhood. :D

  2. Ice rink in your backyard that is fantastic. We have a baseball field here that they flood and freeze for the winter and it's pretty awesome to see how many still go ice skating there.

  3. I loved ice skating as a child and I was beyond deprived - no such rink existed in my back yard.

    I am also glad the Towering Inferno was averted!! ;-)

    As always your blog touches my heart... thanks for sharing!

  4. I loved ice skating when I was a kid! My elementary school used to pour water on the soccer field and freeze it into an ice rink when it was super cold. OMG we had so much fun! I hadn't thought about that in years....thanks for the stroll.



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