‘Shoot the duck’ always looked easier than it actually was. I guess that was because our instructor was actually an ice skater.
“You want to get down really low on your strongest leg and then hold your other leg out straight like this,” she said, pulling back from the group of about a half dozen of us kids huddled together in a cluster.
She took a few long strides on her skates and then crouched down, her left knee pulled into her chest, her right leg straight out in front of her as she continued to glide along the ice.
I’ve always loved this time of year. Each November, my sister Uzma and I anxiously waited for the pavilion at the shopping center just around the corner from our childhood home to magically turn into an ice rink. We’d hurl ourselves out of bed on Saturday mornings (which we never did the following day for Sunday School!) eager to get to the Reston Town Center for ice skating lessons with our friend Juhi, whom our sweet instructor always called “Hoo-Hee.” I guess our instructor thought she was being really culturally aware by pronouncing the ‘J’ in the little Spanish girl’s name like an ‘H’. Only that little Spanish girl was Indian. So there was that.
The town center was my favorite place to be during the winter months. As holiday season approached the cozy downtown-like outdoor venue transformed into a classy winter wonderland that smelled of snowflakes and hot chocolate. Each year as the weather started to cool, I knew that we’d be at the ice skating rink every weekend; we’d get hot chocolate from the little stand next to the skate rental shop and we’d stick around after class practicing all the new skills we’d just learned — like backward skating.
I remember how exciting it was to skate in circles around the rink and wave to my parents who stood on the outskirts each time we passed them. Some Saturdays, my sister and I would pretend we didn’t see them. If we made eye contact, they’d motion for us to get off the ice since it was time to go home.
While my family has never celebrated Christmas, we always enjoyed the atmosphere of holiday cheer at the skating rink – the sparkling lights lining the walkways and the giant Christmas tree in the middle of the square.
As winter approaches and the smell of snow fills the air, I’m reminded of my family’s tradition of ice skating every weekend. My husband and I live in New York now, and while there’s so much to do in the city – the Christmas shows, holiday markets, window displays, and of course ice skating – I don’t think anything can ever compare to being back home in Northern Virginia, lacing up my ice skates and sipping hot chocolate.
This year we plan to visit Virginia for the New Year, and I can’t wait to pass my childhood traditions on to our three-month-old baby boy. The skate shop probably won’t carry skates in his size, so maybe Daddy and baby can watch from the outskirts of the rink, while Mama practices backward skating and finally masters ‘Shoot the Duck’.
This post is part of the Favorite Holiday Traditions series, sponsored by Betty Crocker Cookies.