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(edited because I remembered more)

This week's memory challenge is inspired by the Olympics.

Many kids are naturally competitive. I don't know how much it was about the competition for me as it was to prove to someone in authority (teacher/parent/etc) that I was the best and therefore "worthy" of something. (I had a lot of self-esteem issues as a kid and brought a few of them forward with me into adulthood.) So this week I'm going to try and remember all the various athletic competitions I have been involved in. Academic ones I'll save for another time. 

My very first experience with athletics was dance class with the Art Linkletter Dance Studio. The little studio bus would come pick me up and take me to class. I tolerated ballet but I loved tap. There was some dance to a song that had "duck" in it - I can't remember.

I played on girl's softball team in 6th grade but wasn't super good at it so I quit. I played 3rd and someone stole my brand new mitt. I never played softball again.

I started riding horses in the 5th or 6th grade, not mine at first. I helped a friend keep Lady, her husband's horse, well exercised.

One day Lady horse took off with me high in the hills of Martinez on day. I slipped from the saddle, my foot caught in the stirrup and I was drug for who knows how long before I fell loose. As if that wasn't enough I rolled down the side of a really muddy hill. That was the day of my first and only ride in an ambulance. I was sore, of course, yet no broken bones. What was the most scary was that I couldn't see. I opened my eyes and saw absolutely nothing. At the hospital it turned out that I just had scads of mud in my eyes and once they were flushed out, I could see again.

After that my mom decided if I was going to get hurt on a horse it should be a horse of my very own. Enter Sparky, half Clydesdale and half Quarter Horse.

He had no personality and was used to at 6'5" 50-year-old man riding him all the time. The perfect horse for a 12 year old kid, right? Not. He wouldn't even get in the trailer for us to take him to his new home and he wouldn't let me ride him so I walked him, and I mean WALK as in holding his lead, from Martinez to Concord (with a stopover in my grandmother's backyard.) He threw me more times than I can remember when I was being ditzy about him, not paying attention, and he'd grab the bit and haul butt from wherever we were.
I had him until we were hit by a car walking down Clayton Road. A girl had just gotten her driver's license and freaked out at seeing a horse on the road. She hit us and we just happened to be in the small unincorporated section which meant there was a long block of barbed wire. I went over Sparky's head into the dirt lot but he fell into the wire and wrapped it across one hip and around the other side.

It would have been months and months of therapy before I could ride him again and we didn't have that kind of money. And truly, we had no connection at all. My mom gave him to a place in Davis that taught vaulting. His big back was perfect for 2-3 kids work off of at the same time. The horse of my heart of was Sheikh, an older Arab that came into my life as an adult. With him I played with barrel racing and pole bending (our favorite.) Man I loved that horse.

At Mt. Diablo I was on the track team. I think the coach was a Mrs. Armstrong. I was pretty fast, loved to run sprints, but Susan Hewlett was faster. For the one year I went Ygnacio Valley I got a girls track team started over there too. 

I was also on the tennis team for one year. (How could I forget that?)

But that athletic event that occupied most of my childhood was roller skating.

I roller skated competitively (that's back when roller skates had 4 wheels, 2 on each side not in a straight line.)

I skated at Skate Haven Roller Rink in Walnut Creek, CA. The rink is long gone ( I think there's a Jiffy Lube or some such thing there now.) I started skating in the 5th grade. I went to a skate party that one of my teachers had organized and really wanted to start taking lessons. My mother said no.

I was a child with constant stomach aches and an intense fear of the family doctor.

They wanted to take x-rays of my stomach.

I said no.

My mother finally bribed me with some skating lessons if I went to the doctor. They didn't figure out anything wrong (and I drank gallons of Mylanta all through childhood) but I did get my lessons. My goal was to learn how to do the "shoot the duck" move.

(not me)

After that I was pretty much hooked on skating. I took Saturday morning lessons and then stayed at the rink the rest of the day. It was a while before I was old enough for my mom to leave me there for the Saturday evening sessions. She thought they were too "rough" with all those hippie type teenagers hanging around.

Soon I joined the rink's skating club and that meant getting to attend that Tuesday night club class. There was a uniform for the class and I remember being so excited when I got mine for the first time. Classes were taught by George Hammond and Peggy Harden. Soon Peggy became my personal skating pro and I was taking private lessons. In exchange for some lessons I cleaned her house and exercised her husband's horse Lady. For all of Junior High and the first 3 years of high school I pretty much lived at the rink. Once I was a member of the club there were skating tests you could take. Every couple of months there would be a test center at our rink and if you were ready to go to the next level, you could pay a fee and try to pass. There were tests for figures, freestyle and dance. Figures and freestyle were individual events for dance you needed a partner. If you weren't already assigned a partner you could get paired with a total stranger on test night. That was hard! There was an older gentleman, I don't remember his name, but he was always a great partner for me because helped me keep my nerves under control. I still have the little metal pins they awarded us when we passed a test.

Before long it was time to compete. I started off competing in figures, which is a single event. If you've ever been to a roller rink and seen those big circles painted on the floor, that's what you use for figure skating. There were various figures you had to learn to trace and, of course, stay on the line. Forward, backward, changing feet at the intersection of the circle, three-turns at a specific spot. I was good but not great though I did like the challenge.

Next Peggy started looking around for a dance partner for me. There really weren't that many boys my age at the rink so for a while she tried pairing me with her husband Fred. Soon another skater came along that was a better match for him. (Mercury Morden) and I ended up with another man nearly twice my age, Dan Alley. Mercury and I were on again off again good friends at that time, always depending on whether or not we had a crush on the same guy.

Things I remember most about roller skating:

Dan picking me up after school and taking me right to the rink for lessons.
Skating at the rink in Santa Cruz where the floor was warped.
Having to wear nylons for competition and how much they burned when you feel on the floor.
Locking wheels with a partner which always resulted in a really bad fall.
Meeting Kevin Wilson, first real boyfriend, at the rink.
Walking up to Foster Freeze for snacks in-between skate times.
Having a wheel come loose and roll across the rink....worse yet, having the ball bearings come out.
Buying Reva's old skating costumes.

I never was a shining star at roller skating but days spent at that rink are some of my most favorite memories.

Your turn. Tell me about athletics in your childhood.

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 7 comments — Leave comment )
(Deleted comment)
August 20th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)

I remember that too!
August 19th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
The roller skating sounds so fun! I always thought competitive skating would be cool, and used to gaze jealously at the girls with their own fancy roller skates.

I took ice skating in 9th grade, but after 4 months of lessons, the rink closed down, so I had to stop. I think I would have had to stop around then, anyway, because as we were getting into some tiny jumps, my knee was going out on me because of a torn cartilage from a roller skating accident in 7th grade! (Someone had knocked me down from behind at a roller rink, and then several kids fell on top of me. My knee would frequently either lock or collapse after that. Six weeks into 8th grade P.E., it was acting up so much, I got a doctor's note and never had to take P.E. again. I did later manage to take tap dance classes, though, which didn't strain it too much, and these days I never have trouble with it.) I just recently went ice skating again, and still thought it was fun!

I never played on any sort of sports team, and even avoided kickball at recess. I took trampoline classes once. My main memories of athletic competitions are Field Days--getting ribbons in things like the 3-legged race or obstacle courses--and also a soccer game my private school was supposed to play against another school, but they never showed up! We were all ready to sing the Queen song "We Are the Champions" to them, so we were bummed they didn't show up to challenge us.

I was generally considered unathletic and of course always picked last for teams (I'm sure it didn't help that I showed NO enthusiasm for playing most of the time!), but I remember being glad when I tried water skiing with a large group of friends, and was able to do it the first time I tried. I have done fairly well with things requiring balance. Oh yeah, I also remember that at the beginning of 8th grade, while I was still in P.E., my friend and I were the 2 kids in the whole school who could hold ourselves up in a chin-up position on a bar the longest. I think it was because we were both tiny and didn't have much weight to hold up! But it's embarrassing now to rememeber that I did that, when I have so little arm strength now I can't even start to hold myself up on a bar or do the monkey bars on the playground with my kids!
August 19th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
I am so impressed. The thing I hate about athletics is the competition--I am just lousy at it. I did play tennis in high school, but I just wanted to play. The worst were the matches between teammates, for place on the team. I didn't care where I placed, I just didn't want to play against my friends. And I do that weird psychological thing (still) where I can't win, because I get so worried about whether I will or not and how everyone will feel. Ick.

You HAVE to read the Sammy Keyes mystery where her softball mitt is stolen--I think it's SAMMY KEYES AND THE SEARCH FOR SNAKE EYES.
August 19th, 2008 06:23 pm (UTC)
Oooh boy. Athletics.

I have twelve older brothers and sisters. Yes, twelve. I'm the thirteenth baby. However, all of my elder siblings were into athletics. Football, baseball, basketball, cheering, dance squad, majorettes, track... you name it they were in it, and probably lettered/held a record in it.

I'm... not athletic. At all. Ever. Period. No. Not athletic.

But, there was a time I was. It just... wasn't normal 'athletics'.

I've said, several times, that I was trampled by a horse. Physical therapy should be an Olympic event. It really should. I had physical therapy for over two years because of that trampling. That was as close to 'athletics' as I ever got. (Sure, I ride, but just for fun.) I'd come home exhausted, discouraged, and mentally drained.

Physical therapy should really be an Olympic event.
August 20th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
I was more of a reader than an athlete. But I did go roller skating every friday night in junior high school. I never did tricks, really. I now wish that I had tried dancing back then.
August 20th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC)
I sucked. At everything. My parents were not active, and they actually discouraged me from being active and athletic. "Can I take gymnastics?" "NO! You are clumsy and will break your head open on that balance beam." I got picked last for everything in PE. I quit ballet class after 3 months when I caught pneumonia and my parents decided the air-conditioned studio was too cold for my delicate lungs. I didn't really take up any sports until after college (community football league, kickboxing, skiing, etc.) Wow, replying to your memory challenges makes me realize my parents really messed me up!
August 20th, 2008 02:01 am (UTC)
I played volleyball, softball, and basketball. All my siblings were very athletic. We were all on teams. But my favorite childhood sport, was good old fashioned neighborhood baseball, think "Sandlot." We had a game that just went on and on and on. We played in our back yard--an acre of grass. If it cleared the back fence, it was a homer. Ahhh, the memories! Mostly good! Mostly....
( 7 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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