When I learned to roller skate, it opened up a whole new way of life. My life hadn't been very long at the time - maybe about six years. I suppose learning to walk may have felt as good, but I have no memory of it, so it doesn't count.

The skates I wore had a wing nut to adjust the length of the metal soles. They had metal wheels and shoe clamps, and a leather ankle strap that threaded through a metal heel plate. They were sturdy things and required sturdy soles on good leather tie-shoes. They were heavy enough that a child could build sturdy legs by wearing them, too!

Once the foot in the sturdy shoe was placed on the sturdy skate, the clamps on the sides near the front were adjusted securely onto the sole by using a metal skate key that fit over a clever little turning post. I could feel it tighten up until it felt safe. Then the key was left in the care of whatever parent had fastened it, and I was free to learn the art of skating.

It didn't take long. That feeling of freedom as I was propelled down the sidewalk under my own power was like nothing I had ever experienced. Faster and faster I went, learning to turn and how to maneuver my feet to stop. Sometimes I had to use someone's lawn a little bit to help slow down, but the neighbors were mostly kind about that.

There were patches of sidewalk that were better than others - smooth and quiet. Then there were those with the cracks regularly placed to form squares. Those made an interesting clickety-clack rhythm.

Sometimes a clamp would work loose, and a return to home base was necessary to ask for a tightening with the key.

Then came the day when that key was placed on a string that was then hung around my neck

I was trusted to be responsible for not only putting on and taking off my skates but for making any emergency adjustments that might be needed. By myself!

I skated off, pigtails flying, with that valuable skate key swinging from my neck. I felt like a real person for the first time in my life, and it was wonderful.

At least, that's how I remember it.

Lynn S. Turner is a Tigard resident who looks at the world in unique ways.

Contract Publishing

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