Monday, July 28, 2008

Let's Keep Rolling

Friday and Saturday nights were always roller skating night in Harrodsburg during the 1970s. The Mercer Roller Rink was located in the rectangular building right inside the fair grounds, which is currently used for the Mercer County Fair Floral Hall. The door way would always be clogged with kids coming and going, waiting to pay the entrance fee, or getting a hand stamp to be able to reenter the building.

Once inside the door, the entryway opened into a large room that was the roller rink proper and the sitting area. On the left side of the sitting area, plain folding chairs were lined in rows two deep, turned to face the rink. Coat racks were along the south facing wall, and the bathrooms were behind the chairs. On the right side of the sitting area, benches lined the partition between the skating area. The ticket booth opened into a concession stand on this side of the building. Pepsi, potato chips, and candy bars were a few of the refreshments available to satisfy cravings during a long night of skating. The Pepsis came in glass bottles and there was a bottle stand located down the center of the concession stand. The floor of the skating rink was concrete, so you can imagine the number of broken bottles that accumulated over the weekend.

As I mentioned, the floor was concrete and this included the skating area itself. Not only was it concrete, but there was a huge crack in the floor that ran north to south on the lower portion of the rink. This crack had been filled in, but it left a little hump that you could feel through your legs as you skated over it. Everyone grew up learning to adjust their skating style to accommodate the hump in the floor.

Records played all night: the Jackson Five, the Osmond Brothers, Chicago, the Eagles, and John Denver, just to list a few. There was always a song to skate to, from the fast ones to the slow ones. Normally, the slow ones were limited to the couple’s skate, when the lights were lowered and the disco ball was shining. I loved skating during a couples skate and I would try to skate with Duane or Steve Flora, Mike Grubbs, or one of the other boys who I had grown up with. There would also be all girl and all boy skates, backward skates, and three-ways. Occasionally, we would start a train, and I would love to be at the end of the train because you got slung around the rink really fast at each turn. These types of trains didn’t happen often, because we would usually get called down for reckless skating. I also liked to skate circles in the center of the rink.

I can remember my daddy taking me skating at the Mercer Rink when I was very young. He started out working at Corning Glass Works when he and mom went to housekeeping, so every summer we would go to the Corning’s Outing. Several years it was held at the Mercer Fairgrounds, right after the fair when there were still rides available for entertainment. The skating rink would also be open, and daddy would take me and Brent inside to skate. I think I loved skating so much because I could tell how much my dad loved skating.

As my skating ability improved, we started going to the roller rink more often. After I got my first pair of skates, I was able to practice at home. I think I was eleven the year I got my skates for Christmas; I couldn’t wait to go skating with them. That first night skating, I used some of my Christmas money to buy green pom-poms for my skates. I thought I was hot stuff. Within a few weeks, I would have five different color pom-poms on each skate. I kept my skates clean and polished, and I would oil them regularly, especially after skating in our basement. I learned to skate in circles by using a support pole in our basement, holding on with one hand and skating myself in circles. I had many crashes because of dizziness, but I eventually mastered the skills enough not to make a fool out of myself in front of my friend.

When I started dating, my trips to the skating rink started to decrease. My boyfriend didn’t know how to skate, and he didn’t want to lean. He had no desire to spend the weekend skating and listening to music, and he would get jealous if I went without him. So to please him, I backed off from skating until I was no longer going. I don’t remember when I eventually stopped going, but I had not been for a while when the Mercer Roller Rink closed its’ doors for good.

All three of my children like to skate, but most modern roller rinks have wooden floors. I have tried to become adjusted to wooden floors, but I missed that old cracked concrete floor at the Mercer Roller Rink. The wooden floor makes me fill like I’m running over hundreds of cracks in the floor, instead of one big crack. Hindsight being 20-20, I wish I had taken advantage of the last few weeks the roller rink was open to store up memories of the place. Instead, I keep the memories I have locked up in my heart and I occasionally let them out to tell my children about the fun I used to have.

© Bobbi Rightmyer July 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy Sweet 16, Christine Nicole

I remember just like it was yesterday, I was bringing her home from the hospital, all five pounds and 10 ounces of her. My third born … I was much more relaxed and at ease, compared to my actions after the birth of my first daughter. I was responsible for another human being, one that would depend on me for her every need, and would always be precious to my heart. I knew more about child rearing at this point, but what if I ended up scarring her for life? Could I protect her from all the bad in this world? I was still learning how to be a good parent, but I was no where near perfect.

The first few days, Christine battled jaundiced, so she spent most of her time lying in the cradle, which was in placed in the front door to catch the sunlight streaming in. She would sleep naked on top of a diaper so that the majority of her skin surface was exposed to the sun. Sunlight breaks down the bilirubin in the bloodstream and effectively does the same job as the “bili lights” found in hospital nurseries. That first week, we had to take Christine to the hospital every day to have her bilirubin checked, and then we went to Dr. Pam Johnson’s office for a weight check. As long as Christine’s bilirubin remained below a certain level, we could continue to keep her at home and I could continue to breastfeed. Many times, a jaundiced baby who is breastfed must be supplemented with formula to help remove the bilirubin – sunlight breaks down the bilirubin and the body's fluids help flush it out of the body through the bowels.

Needless to say, the first few weeks went by in a blur of eating, lab tests, and checking for stool consistency. She was so fragile and tiny, but she wanted to eat every few sours. Of course, one of the downsides of breastfeeding is I couldn’t be out of her sight for very long. Eat, diaper change, eat, rock, eat, sing, eat … days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and before I could stop to catch my breath, she was one-year-old. Planning that first birthday party was pure joy – Barney and Baby Bop. It seems so long ago.

The next thing I knew, she was in kindergarten. Where did the time go? I was so unprepared for helping her to learn to read and write. Amber and Marie learned to read and write quickly, but it soon became apparent that Christine was having difficulty learning to read. She was unable to sound out words phonetically; therefore she memorized all the words. When she would be reading and come to a word she didn’t know, you could watch her stop, look at the ceiling and mentally go through the files in her head. She would eventually come up with the word. But try and have her sound out the word, and she would be in tears within minutes.

Lucky for Christine, she had two wonderful teachers who helped us through kindergarten and first grade, Marsha Durr and Kay Mayes, respectively. Mrs. Durr was actually the one who thought that Christine’s lack of large motor skills was connected with her reading difficulties. Christine was very adapt at playing video games and using the computer, both of which involve fine motor skills, but she had difficulty jumping rope or pushing herself in a swing, both involving large motor skills.

So in addition to reading and writing homework, we began working with Christine to learn to jump rope, ride a bike, climb a tree, and push herself in a swing. As her large motor skills increased to the level of her fine motor skills, her reading and writing began to improve. By second grade, Christine had caught up with the other kids in her class and she was reading on a fifth grade level. She has never stopped and she is now in the top 10th percentile of her graduating class.

Just when I was certain Christine would remain 8 years old forever, she was preparing to attend the middle school. Now her friends were taking up a large chunk of her time. “Mom’s Taxi Service” was officially back into business again, and I began hauling her and her friends all over God’s green earth. Whereas, Amber and Marie wanted me to be silent and unseen, Christine welcomed my conversation in the car, and she and her friends enjoyed listening to the 80s music I was know for. It is kind of twilight zonish to have 12 year old singing to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, or Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell.

The day I had to help her decide on her class schedule for her first year in high school, I, of course, cried. She thought this was funny – “M … om get a grip!” But I couldn’t help it, my baby was growing up. She was a teenager with a mind, and strong will, of her own. No longer content to accept my suggestions on faith, everything had to be researched and one her way. Her freshman year was my first step at letting go. The school newspaper and year book took up a large chunk of her time. Working on the internet and listening to her music began to take presidency in her life.

In two weeks, my first born child will turn sixteen. I’m crying already, and each passing day just gets worse. Stuffed animals have been stashed away, Disney movies replaced with independent film, and musical taste now run to German and Swedish music. Riding bicycles has given way to her driver’s permit and the summer vacation is spent researching college options and working to build her savings account. These are things adults do and I am extremely proud of her, but I would love to keep her wings tethered a little longer.

We just recently completed her class schedule for her junior year of high school and she is looking forward to being in the new high school after fall break. I’m trying to be strong; I don’t want her to see me cry. I’m taking things one day at a time. This is the nature of things – you give them life, you raise them the best you know how, and then they are gone. All I can pray is that she will be healthy and happy and come home to visit every once in a while. In the mean time, I plan to spend as much time with this youngest child as possible before she heads into the great adventure that will be her life.

Happy Birthday Sweet 16, Christine Nicole Rightmyer – July 22, 2008.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, July 2008