While other kids were learning to skate my mom was using me and my sister Marsha,in old white cotton socks, as floor wax buffers. No accusation of any type of abuse is to be construed here. We were happy to be of use. It was thrilling, it was exciting, and if it was work we certainly didn’t think so. While other young girls started their first figure skating lessons, in what we believed must most likely be freezing cold arenas with cranky old ex-hockey players ordering them around, we enjoyed the privilege of pirouetting and attempting our figure eights sans skates. We had all the adrenaline surging thrills and spine jarring spills a kid could ever want on a slippery surface. It just happened to be the new oak flooring that graced our living room, bedrooms, and hallway in that first little white bungalow that my father built. It had only two bedrooms and he built it for $3000. in 1949, just after he and Mom married.Mom was just eighteen at the time, and as all of us kids came along
one right after the other in a great big hurry, she was still very much a child at heart. She was constantly thinking up ways to keep us occupied as children as there was really not a whole lot of room in that little house. We would pretend that the couch was a big canoe and that the floor was a big lake during the time it took for Mom to apply all the paste wax on to it. It stayed a lake for awhile afterwards until it dried enough to buff it. That lake was full of hungry crocodiles, so we would have to stay up there with our dollies and blankies and wait until Mom climbed up into the canoe with us. Then she would tell us stories or sing us songs. We never questioned how it was alright for her to be down there on her hands and knees in the middle of the lake with all the crocodiles while she applied the wax. Our mother had some kind of special magic I guess, something that made her safe as she worked in the middle of all that danger.
That same pixie dust made us believe that once the wax had dried it now had suddenly become a skating rink. This had to be the warmest skating rink in all the world, and the only one that had a big boxy propane stove at one end of it. Because the basement floor wasn’t cemented yet, a step that was skipped earlier to save money, there wasn’t any other place for it to be. So we got to come down off the couch and skate around in our socks, in our 90° arena, laughing and running, and sliding and falling, and getting up and sliding some more. Mom told us we were Olympic Gold medalist skaters like Barbara Ann Scott. We didn’t know who she was, but one Christmas we had been given some chocolate coins wrapped up in gold foil in our stockings, and if the prize she won was really like a big one of those glued onto a ribbon then she must have been pretty special.
After we finished with our figure skating practice it was time for speed skating. We would each hang on to one of the big rolled arms of the couch and push, push, push with our feet, pumping back and forth a mile a minute just like Hans Brinker trying to win those silver skates, in the the big race on the frozen canal in Holland. We knew how badly he must have wanted those skates because in the story he and his sister only had skates made out of wood. That was just about the same as having skates made out of old cotton socks. When we had done all the hard work of polishing the floor with our sock feet, with all of our sliding around from one side of the room to the other, Mummy said she was proud of us for all our hard work. She wasn’t even sure she needed to do anything else at all, except maybe just where the silver airplane ash tray holder was sitting, and maybe under the little cherry wood telephone table where we couldn’t slide, because the top of it was just about at our middles. The only way we could ever get the wax off there would be to slide back and forth on our bums, but then our pants might get so slippy we could fall off our chairs at supper, so we didn’t.
Then Mom she sent us off to bed to have a little rest for awhile. For once we didn’t mind at all, because by then were so tired we didn’t even feel like talking or even waking up Keith or Baby Jeannie, who were still having their naps. Then we heard Mummy start up the electric floor polisher that she kept in the hall closet, but just to do the spots we couldn’t reach, because we had done such a good job!