As expected, yesterday’s storm was a bit overstated. We ended up with somewhere between 2-4″ of snow here in the Twin Cities, as the storm tracked mostly to the south, hitting Wisconsin, Iowa, and southern Minnesota. But I will say this about the weathermen, they were right about the temperatures. It is 5 degrees outside right now (Wednesday evening) and the wind is blowing pretty hard. Real winter has finally arrived. Driving the kids to school this morning we were excited to see a truck spreading water on one of the local rinks.
As I have mentioned before, one of the great benefits of living in Minnesota is the abundance of outdoor rinks in the winter time. Most of the local cities, and suburbs, build outdoor skating rinks every winter, although the recent economic troubles have caused a few to cut back. Luckily for us, our local town rink is staffed and maintained by the Rotary Club, so we will still have a place to skate this winter. The power of community.
As the temperatures drop below zero these next few days, 20 Prospect Jr. and I will keep a vigil from our living room window. Our house is on a hill, so we can look out over the rooftops, and through the bare winter branches, beyond the lake to the Water Tower that stands watch above our rink. The rink sits nestled behind a sledding hill, in the park behind the Middle School. When the rink is open the lights cast a wonderful white glow onto the belly of the water tower, and signal to us the start of skating season.
There are two hockey rinks, a warming hut, and an oval of ice laid down on the running track. When our supper has ended we will put on our long johns, pull a hockey sweater over our sweatshirts, grab our skates and sticks and head over to the rink.
It’s not a fancy place, and for that reason I love it all the more. The little warming hut stinks like old hockey gear, and the same elderly Rotarian is there most nights, sitting at his desk watching his portable TV. There is always a broomball game going on in one of the rinks, so the warming hut usually fills up with young guys, getting dressed, and trading laughs with one another like young guys do. We’ll hurry to put on our skates and step out again into the fresh air.
There is something sublime about gliding out onto that smooth ice surface for the first time each year. A few short strides, and a whack at the puck sending it cracking into the wooden boards, and the muscles begin to remember. On a Friday night it can get crowded, but most weekday evenings we have the place almost to ourselves. Circling the rink, passing the puck, racing from end to end, some nights I feel like these years will last forever.
This will be the first winter that 20 P. Jr. plays organized hockey. So far, all he has known are nights like these, skating under the stars. Watching him skate at practice he doesn’t seem to be the worse for it. I am always amazed at the seeming grace with which he moves. It is something all his own, which he did not get from me or Mrs. 20 P. Soon I will have trouble keeping up, and then I won’t have to let him score in these games of one on one.
And I know that someday, all too soon, these evenings together will disappear. He’ll be one of the big kids then, playing games of shinny while Dad watches from the side boards, trying not to get in the way. We are lucky to have this ice, and blessed to be able to share it. Sitting inside on this frigid evening, I am hoping for a long cold winter, and a lifetimes worth of good ice.