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Rolling back to childhood


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Inevitably, on Sundays, we would go to church in the morning and eat my grandmother's pot roast at lunch. We would go home and maybe watch some football. But I would watch the clock, only waiting for 1:45 p.m. When the magic moment struck, I would fling the shoestrings of my black SP 204 speed skates over my shoulder, race to my mother's car and gleefully head to Mr. P's Skateworld.

In a small city like Lumberton, the skating rink served as the social epicenter, at least for teenagers in the late '80s and early '90s. Between 2 and 4:30 on Sunday afternoons, we were free from parents and school, moving to Afrika Bambaattaa, Beastie Boys, Herbie Hancock and The Fat Boys in our own time. From these afternoon skates to all-night parties and even blackout events at Halloween, where everyone skated in the dark with glow sticks tied into their laces, Mr. P's was my weekend haven.

With the stay-at-home perks of the Internet and video game consoles, the importance and numbers of skating rinks seem to have diminished in recent years. Perhaps that's changing: According to The New York Times, roller skating is becoming an underground trend for hip Brooklynites. Durham should adopt it soon. It's also a new love of my 4-year-old son, Oliver.

On a recent rainy Saturday, we were sitting around the house watching some television. Oliver had just returned from the doctor, where he'd been diagnosed with a sinus infection. He was zoned out, but suddenly he leapt up and pointed at the screen: "I want to do that," he yelled, pointing at a roller skating character on television. For the next 24 hours, that's all we heard. Despite having a fever of 102.6 only that morning, he insisted. So on Sunday, at precisely 1:45 p.m., we packed up both children and headed out to the rink formerly known as Skate Ranch. (These days, it's hilariously called United Skates of America.)

As we walked into the rink, the hits of the past summer—Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," two of Oliver's favorite songs—blared from the sound system. He beamed. We paid our admission fee and grabbed our rental skates. Stacy and I took turns leading Oliver around the rink. We even rented a "skate mate," a newfangled walker made of PVC pipe that helped Oliver get around on eight wheels. Eventually, he got the hang of his new hobby.

But after a few trips around the rink, Oliver needed to rest for a spell. We sat on the brightly colored carpet and watched other skaters zoom past on the oval. At one point, Oliver looked up and asked, "What's that, daddy?" I looked around for the object of his fascination. "That silver ball on the ceiling." "Oh! That's a disco ball," I told him. "What's a disco ball for?" he continued.

I laughed and tried to figure out how best to tell him about those blackout nights, back at Mr. P's.


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