The lake, which happened to be in New Jersey, froze over often in those days. When the green flag went up, the ice became a pre-teen meeting place, the volunteer fire department sold donuts and hot chocolate, and spotlights played in the dark. Somehow we would find each other, skate in twos and threes to the dam and back or make a chain and crack the whip and send a skater hurtling off somewhere into the night.
Then Janis would come out of the house she lived in by the lake. Sometimes she wore a little skating skirt and always the prettiest matching mittens, hat and scarf knit by her mother. She would walk to the lake's edge, daintily sit on the bank, pull the rubber skateguards off her shining blades, and slip on to the ice.
Janis took lessons.
Well, to be perfectly fair, Janis did more than take lessons. She also made figure eights. From the corner of our eyes we would watch her, as she skated rings around us, figure eights. Flying camels. Spins. Sit spins.
Actually Janis, whom we always thought to be rather shy, was a champion. A junior champion, but still.
And it was with some disappointment that we heard at the age 14 that Janis was giving it up, all the early morning trips to a skating rink in the city, the endless coaching and even the trophies, and becoming an ordinary girl like us.
IT WAS YEARS LATER that I learned not to dig the toe of the skate into the ice to push off.
I am not trying to be like Janis, but it would be nice to know how to do more on the ice than crack the whip.
That's the reason for the lessons. A friend, who at times relates to me on a pre-teen level, has been persuaded to take them, too. And even though there isn't a friendly local lake, there is the local ice rink.
For weeks before the lessons began, my friend and I sent clippings to each other: a picture of a skating outfit cut from Glamour magazine, with the words "Go Jo Jo" scrawled next to it. A photo of a chorus line in the Ice Follies, the women in feathers: "Do we have to dress like this?"
The night after the first lesson my husband got a review, or maybe a revue.
I found myself humming the song of the amateur, Lady of Spain, as I showed him how to turn around like a dancer while moving, to skate backwards, to brake and not fall over. He thought it was a good thing, a great thing, better than jogging. He said something about glow.
That was another thing about Janis. She had a very rosy face.