ON THIN ICE

 

By Chryseia Brennan

 

Christmas gifts in my childhood household meant one big item, like a new bike, and other practical pieces: a new sweater, pajamas, a pair of jeans. I had wanted ice skates for the big gift for as long as I could remember. My frugal mother wanted to wait until my feet were done growing, preferring to rent skates when we visited a skating rink.

I loathed the old brown skates at the rink. They stank, and invariably were broken in at different angles than my feet. While other girls sported pink pompoms and laces, and sparkly knit overlays on their polished white skates, executing perfect backward figure eights and pirouettes, I raced around the rink as fast as I possibly could without crashing into the sides or unsuspecting skaters.

My feet were not quite done growing when I finally received them, but they would get me through my skating years. I remember eyeing the box, wondering if it could be large enough to hold them. When the paper came off and I lifted the lid, the wonderful aroma of new leather reached my nose. I’d never seen a more beautiful pair of skates! Even though they were “girl” skates, white, complete with a leather heel, they were perfect to me. Now I could run to the neighborhood tennis court, flooded for a makeshift skating arena when temperatures froze, and skate to my heart’s content.
It was winter break during my eleventh or twelfth year, when friends’ voices drifted into my morning. I downed toast and hot chocolate, grabbed skates and stick, and headed to Old Farmer’s Pond with a neighborhood ice hockey pickup team. It did not bother anyone, least of all me, that I was the only girl on the team.

The ice looked great, the first freeze coming on a perfectly still, thirteen-degree night to give us a mirror-smooth skating surface. The gentleman who owned Old Farmer’s Pond did not mind us playing on it as long as we stayed at the shallow end, which measured about three feet at its deepest point.

Skinny and scrawny, I flew over the ice, one of the fastest players, and earned my share of nicks to shins before the game was over. We had no helmets, no shin guards, and indentations in my tibia from hockey remain today. Deciding to have one last skate, I took off as fast as I could towards the other side. Arms and legs pumping in perfect rhythm, gaining momentum dangerously fast, cold and wind pushing tears from my eyes, skates barely feeling the ice… I closed on the other side before I knew it.

The color changed under the ice while I skated, turning murky green. Patterns flew out like lightning where my blades hit, and the sound of soft cracking became audible. As I neared the shore, the ice became firm and I slowed to a stop. Stephen Feathers walked up, smoking a cigarette. “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked. Surprised that the neighborhood bully was paying attention to me, I said, “Nothing, Skating.” “Okay,” he said, flicking the cigarette butt away. “But I wouldn’t go back the way you came. You’ll fall in.”

Looking back over the crackled ice, it was clear that Steve was right. It was impossible to skate back close to the shore, which was blocked by wood and vines. My best option was to either tip-toe on the tips of my skates all the way back, or take them off and suffer wet socks and cold feet, either way avoiding the pond. I hiked back carrying the skates, stuffed my icy feet into cold boots, and made for home. It took a few hours before I felt warm again, but was far better than falling into the frozen pond.

We are lucky here in Sturbridge to have several “Old Farmer’s Ponds” on which to skate, and we are driving distance to excellent ice skating rinks and parks. If skating on a local pond, make sure it is safe by drilling at least five inches into the ice. Ponds can freeze unevenly.

Like breathing life into the iconic holiday cards featuring skaters on frozen ponds from a hundred years ago, we breathe life into ourselves when we brave winter, inhale her chill, and glide, spirits free on the ice. Hot chocolate and cider to refuel us, we await the freeze and the opportunity to take the chance and feel the exhilaration, to keep the tradition alive: our Sturbridge way of life.

The Sturbridge Times

 

The Sturbridge Times Magazine has been publishing 11 issues a year, with no January issue, since July, 2007. Our parent company, Strategen Advertising, Inc., is a healthcare marketing firm specializing in medical practice development and marketing medical equipment. Our publication is unique in that it offers agency-quality advertising creative services to our local advertisers.

The Sturbridge Times Magazine is mailed to every home in Sturbridge and Fiskdale and in selected homes in 10 other surrounding communities. For advertising information, contact Paul Carr at 508-296-9299 or 508-450-8198. Queries for editorial submissions should be directed to: editorial@sturbridgetimes.com.

Sturbridge, Massachusetts

 

Sturbridge, first settled in 1729, by settlers from Medfield, was officially incorporated in 1738. The town is situated with Route 20 ribboning through, and Interstate 90 (Mass Turnpike) and Interstate 84 (heading to Connecticut and beyond) meeting in town. In the 2000 census Sturbridge counted 7,837 residents in 3,066 households (34.2% of which had children under 18), with an average density of 89.1 per square mile. The median income for Sturbridge families was $64,455.

 

Places of Interest:

Sturbridge, located on Rt. 20, is a “living museum" that re-creates life in rural New England from 1790s to the 1830s

Old Sturbridge Village, located on Rt. 20, is a “living museum" that re-creates life in rural New England from 1790s to the 1830s.

Tantiusques is an open-space reservation and historic site here in town.

Wells State Park is a 1,400-acre (570 ha) woodland park and campground located on Rt. 49. The park includes 10 miles (16 km) of trails and Walker Pond, which offers a setting for fishing, canoeing, and swimming.

 

Sturbridge has become a dining destination for people who travel from Worcester and Hartford, with many popular dining establishments such as the famous Publick House, Cedar Street Grille and Avellino.