Today I enjoyed sleeping in until the late hour of 7 in the morning, accomplished only because there is now a house full of adults who can tag team one hyper 4-year-old.
Yesterday we finished our route from Denver to Russellville, AR, by way of Dallas Love airport. While a direct flight is available, it is needlessly expensive and requires flying on a carrier I refuse to do business with. Despite the 12 hour journey from house to house, the pace of travel was relaxed.
Russellville is a small town located northwest of Little Rock, Arkansas’ state capital.
Although the town has a local airport, we choose to fly into Little Rock due to availability of flights and carriers. Also located in Russellville is Arkansas Tech University, Arkansas Nuclear One, Tyson Foods, and ConAgra. The town is heavily reliant on manufacturing as the main employer, with half the population earning wages via manufacturing.
Originally the area belonged to the Cherokee tribes as part of their original agreement with the U.S. government. However, in 1828 the Cherokee located in this area were moved to Oklahoma and the region became available for white settlers. In 1834, a settler by the name of P.C. Holledger built the first house of what was to become Russellville.
As a Colorado native, all I knew of Arkansas during my childhood was it is a state somewhere in the South and where my stepmother grew up. About 10 years ago my father sold his business in Steamboat Springs, and 9 years ago he and my stepmother relocated here to assist her aging mother. Although we visited once before Vivian’s birth, we now come once a year so she can spend time with her grandmother and papa.
Sitting over a dinner of cheesy chicken enchiladas, we discussed what activities we can do. We decided, with our stomachs full of casserole, roller skating was a needed activity.
I haven’t roller skated since I was 12, and barely once a year then. Yet I am game to try and do almost anything when I’m traveling. According to my stepmom, the roller rink is a small, family owned establishment that is open maybe 2 hours a day and for private birthdays. As she said, “we aren’t really sure the hours, but I know it’s open on Saturday mornings from 10 to 12.”
Holiday house parties for our family usually means people get up when they want, fix themselves coffee and serve themselves whatever casserole was thrown in the oven by the first riser, and in general be ready by the agreed upon departure time. Since we keep different hours, the shower schedule seems to work out well.
A few minutes before 10 a.m., all but my father are in the car and ready to go. My dad recently had a hip replacement, so his activity is still restricted.
We arrive at the skating rink, and my low expectations are met by the exterior of a cinder block building with signage missing and poorly replaced letters. Entering the building, I almost walk past the ticket booth where we pay for entrance. Standing on the other side of a Plexiglas window with a circle for speaking and handing money through, I look into what appears to be the office. A row of 10 pairs of scissors hang to the right above the ticket seller’s head along a wall, and file cabinets overflow with paperwork and cardboard boxes.
We pay, and we funnel through to the small desk to order our skates. We step around a
family sitting directly in front of the counter and give our sizes to the same man who sold us tickets. Picking up skates that look two decades too old, Vivian and I walk towards a bench that sits along a gray cinder block wall surrounding the dingy cement roller rink. The two side walls and back wall are straight, forming a rectangle, while the front is curved, a pony wall separating booths and benches from the rink itself. In the bright mercury light, the rink belongs in a county jail.
Despite the well worn and lackluster appearance, we put on our skates and are excited to begin our adventure. My stepmom sits at a booth while I join my sister in an awkward dance of balance and orientation as we acclimate to wheels.
Having jumped at the chance to skate off with her daddy, Vivian returns to get a walker made of 7 PVC pipes joined into two sides of a cube in a 45* angle. Three wheels allow the pipe to become a support system for brand new skaters.
Then the lights dim, the music starts, and I remember the magic of skating rinks. There is only so much a business can do with concrete floors and gray walls, but when the black-lights shine on neon wall paintings and the music is blaring, no one cares about the near dilapidated building’s reality.
For two hours we skate in various ways, my husband moving quickly around the outside circle while Vivian shuffles back and forth in the center. I regain my wheel legs, though images of fractured wrists and concussions make unwelcome friends with my consciousness.
Then it is over. Lights come back on, neon magic is broken, and Vivian is left wondering why she can’t keep skating now that she conned us into pushing her and her walker in a faster circle around the edge. The adults of the group are each mentally thanking the restricted hours of the skating rink, as our thighs burn and strain.
The afternoon is spent wasting away, as tomorrow is hiking in one of the many natural parks around Russellville. First solid day is done. Though we are still early into this holiday, I sense how time will slide through my fingers.