It’s come on slowly, but now that it’s here, staring me down, it’s hard to breathe. I’m sitting alone, listening to 90s flashback hits and the clack of roller skates at the last skate night of the school year. I am finding it more difficult to ignore the hideous black and neon starburst carpet than the gaggle of moms sitting ten feet away. Watching my oldest struggle to go around the rink once, twice, in his dingy rented skates.
He loves these nights. Talks about them for days, weeks, beforehand. Wants to know which of his friends will be here, and talks to me excitedly about who has confirmed their attendance on the way here. We’ve gone to several of these since starting school last year. The first time it was brand new, and we shared the excitement of me showing him something I’d loved as a kid. By the end of the night he had gone from barely taking a step to making it around the rink on his own. On the way home, I’d told him how proud I was of him that he had not given up, even when he fell so many times. He’d asked me if I was going to cry, and I did.
Tonight we’re early. We get his skates and I tell him I’m not feeling great, and won’t skate if that’s okay with him. He agrees, and heads out onto the rink. I watch him struggle for a while, waiting for him to find his rhythm. He never gives up, this kid. After while I decide to go out with him, bite the bullet and rent my own skates, plus buy a pair of socks since I lacked the foresight to wear any. I catch up and skate next to him for half a lap or so, helping him up after the 3rd or 4th time he fell. I give him a few pointers – one foot out and back to center, stay off your heels – and as I start to skate away from him I hear from behind “I was doing great before you came out.”
“Oh.” It’s all I can manage, just a single syllable. I leave the floor, sit further from the moms so they can’t see my face. They seem to blissfully ignorant of the fact that their kids don’t need them. That mine doesn’t need me. I’m pretty sure my heart is actually bleeding, I am consciously reminding myself to take breaths. In. Out. In. Out. Just keep breathing.
“Mom, will you skate with me?” Hell yes, baby. Yes I will.