It’s cold today, and it’s been cold for a week. If I were ten years old, I know where I’d be headed, right about now.
With my ice skates in my hand–yes, come on, grab your skates and come with me–I would go to the little swamp behind Mrs. S’s back yard. An enormous weeping willow tree hung over it, and beyond it was a palatial estate like a movie star’s. They had an in-ground swimming pool: in those days, a sign of fabulous wealth.
The swamp is frozen over. We walk out onto the ice and follow a stream leading deeper into the woods. It opens into a little round pond, and some of the other kids in the neighborhood are already ice-skating there. Off with the shoes, lace up our skates, and join in the fun: it’s just big enough for half a dozen kids to play crack-the-whip.
You could, if you liked, follow the stream all the way into the middle of the woods, until it grew too narrow for any proper skating. But the pond is more fun. It’s only a stone’s throw into the woods, but it seems much farther because it’s so quiet–except, of course, for the noises made by all of us playing and whooping it up because it snowed last night, heavily, and there is no school today.
We are unsupervised. We are free. We are having a blast! And if the need arises, we’re only three minutes’ walk from the nearest house with adults in it. We’ll skate until we’re too cold to skate anymore, and then it’s back indoors to warm up and maybe play a little Monopoly. It’s about a hundred times better than the best day you would ever have in school.
And the day, at least for now, is ours.
I wouldn’t trade that little frozen pond for all the fancy indoor skating rinks on the planet.