In my family, like in many other Black families, at least when I was growing up, there were two things that every child was expected to learn without question: how to dance, and how to roller skate. Yes, roller skate. That’s what came from being born in the 1970s, during the height of disco roller-dancing in rinks across the nation. That’s also what came from having two teenaged big sisters who dragged us younger kids to the rink weekend after weekend. The roller rink, with its shiny, polished floor, flashing colored lights, and giant mural painted on the far wall, was almost like a second home. For years, my siblings, friends and I whizzed around to popular songs (including my all-time favorite skate song, Pour Some Sugar on Me). We watched in awe as the jamskaters danced around the circuit, boogying and bouncing and swaying their hips to the rhythm like the skates were just an extension of their bodies. We did wheelbarrow races and the Hokey Pokey and Shoot the Duck contests. Occasionally, the DJ would turn on a slow jam, which meant hand-in-hand skating for couples, and a Slurpee and popcorn break for us wallflowers.
My own kids, by contrast, have rarely been to the roller rink. So a few days ago, thanks to some coupons and a surge of parental guilt, I decided to correct that mistake.
“But Mo-ooom!” whined my two youngest kids. “I don’t know how to roller skate!”
“Look,” I said, “You are half Black. And Black people skate. So you’re going.” Like my sisters before me, I dragged my kids to the rink and taught them how to lace up their skates. They hobbled after me to the floor, where I pretty much wished them good luck and whizzed off. My two oldest kids quickly remembered their skills and were soon coasting around the floor with me, having fun. My 9yo, however, turned out to be a wall-hugger, barely budging from his spot. He refused to let me guide him around until at last, I transformed into Meanie Mom and threatened to take away his computer game time for the rest of the day if he didn’t spend the next hour trying to skate. I know, I know – probably not a move that would win me Mommy of the Year Award. But hey – it worked. And by the end of our skate session, he was edging forward without clutching the wall.
For the most part, though, we all had a terrific time. And I was so surprised by how little the rink has changed over the years, from the flashing lights to the mural to the music. Of course, now they are playing One Direction instead of Def Leppard, but still. My only complaint was that I had to really work to control my speed with so many little kids on the floor. Once, I actually managed to run over a little boy who cut in front of me. Eek! Luckily, he wasn’t injured. Perhaps one day soon, I will venture out to one of the adult-only skate nights, which are filled with other people like me who remember those early days of disco skate and jamskating, and who still dance their way around the circuit, bouncing and swaying to the music.