It's Saturday morning and I'm aggravated that I'm not thrilled by that fact.
Once upon a time, when I was a kid living in the old house I'm selling off now, Saturday morning was a treasure chest full of adventure. It was a time of extreme freedom -- the parents slept in or enjoyed close to absolute silence, refusing to allow the world to wake them for any outside nonsense. Brother was occupied with the cartoons on TV. It was understood by everyone that Saturday morning was MY TIME to escape, to slip out of the house silently, respectful of the home ritual.
Such a long time ago now, it seems. The sun crept into my bedroom windows, like other mornings, but on Saturday it was greeted with unusual enthusiasm. Before it rose above the level of the carport, I had slipped on my jeans, a shirt and my sneakers. I had tiptoed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and comb my hair, and if Mama was awake I gave her a kiss before running out the back door.
For years and years, Saturday morning meant dashing over to my best friend's back door. I timed it -- I managed to get it down to 43 seconds from my back door to hers. Out across the driveway, down to the corner and turning to cross the street. Sprint to the third house, rounding her drive, through the swinging wood gate and up the wood steps past the sleeping collie, Ranger. We could have cut 20 seconds off of that if the back gate to her yard had worked.
Her family had much the same ritual of silence on Saturday mornings -- certainly harder to achieve with her younger twin brothers. Both households were more than happy to see us from the back heading out the screen door.
Once we escaped the houses and were outside the perimeter (the "code of silence" extended to some unseen line -- we figured it was the elm tree on the other side of her neighbor's house) we were off and running to the Conoco gym, three or four blocks away.
If you've never seen the old Conoco gym, I can only describe it as a haven without compare for the kids of employees. There was an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool with a retractable sun roof and two diving boards, shower rooms and a gymnasium. Ralph usually sat in "The Cage," a tiny diagonal office of sorts that held wire baskets where folks could check in their clothes while they swam. Ralph also handled skate rental and candy sales, so we always kept him busy.
Saturday morning was time for us to skate. My friend always had her own pair of boot skates, a fact that I envied. I used the clamp-on skates for years. Eventually, she outgrew her white boot skates, and being the champion friend she is, passed them on to me. They were exactly my size! I thought I was in heaven the day she first let me wear them -- white leather boots with about a hundred holes and hooks to lace up, wheels with ball bearings and perhaps most important, toe stops!
She and I had spent so many Saturday mornings skating that we got to be really good. She was always a little better (I still say it's because she had boot skates all along, but no, that's not sour grapes AT ALL.) The skating time usually included an hour and a half of free skating, which meant all-out, fast-as-you-can, make-the-loop-around-the-gym skating. When we wanted to show off, we skated backwards. When we really wanted to show off, we would alternate, forward, backwards, forward.... one foot, spin.
After we'd worn a groove in the wood floor during free skate, Ralph or one of his minions would start the weekly contests. Everyone was lined up in little groups and challenged as a team to skate to the far end of the gym, do situps and skate back. The next challenge was to skate down, spin three times, skate back. Then skate down, make a box turn on one foot, skate back. Each challenge got a little harder until usually it was just the two of us competing.
When everyone else got bored, we'd move to the badminton court and use the painted border for even more intricate challenges.
Finally, at noon, Ralph would stop the record player and blow the whistle to tell us to clear out. It was time for him to run the big fluffy mop over the gym floor before the men came in to play volleyball or fill the pool tables way down at the far end.
We, of course, were not allowed to play pool until we were 15, but the day that happened, they could never get us off the tables. See, this was my chance to have an edge. I turned 15 in April and my friend couldn't play until July. Heh, heh.
Now, here I am, 49 years old, on a Saturday morning. No more rituals of silence. No one else left in the house to kiss goodbye as I dash out the door. No friend waiting for me, 43 seconds away. No more skating. No more competitions.
Instead, the lawnmower calls. I have to take advantage of a dry morning to work on the yard so I don't get a citation for maintaining a nuisance. Oh, I've already abated the tall grass complaint, but I'd like to go beyond that to make the yard look nice. I'll spend some time pulling Virginia Creeper off the house, then spraying the roots with Round-Up. This stuff is going to choke me someday, probably soon. It already managed to pull an old TV antenna off the house.
Wish I could figure out how to make it a contest. But I'm afraid it would win. It's had more practice.