The first pond I ever saw freeze over was in the woods behind my house. It was small — ten feet at the most, but to my child eyes it seemed to stretch through the maze of trees. My dad used to take my little sister and me back there in the winter. He would hold our hands on either side of him as we waddled against the puff of our little pink jackets, our boots laced up tight. I remember peering out curiously from underneath a hat my mom had pulled too far down over my head. She would rattle off different warnings of caution while she lovingly strangled me as she wrapped my scarf around my neck. Staring at the white-topped trees, I would catch my dad staring at me. He had the same look of admiration and wonder as I did for the world around me.
As we walked up to the pond, I could feel the overwhelming excitement bubble over inside me. Although I had been skating on this pond for years, my dad always made it feel like the first time. He would drop our hands and run up close to the side of the pond. Throwing his hands up into the air, he would shout in his most sports-announcer voice, “Are you girls ready?” Then, doing a dance move that could only be described as “side- punch finger guns,” he would do a quick running man and reach out for us to grab his hands.
My dad would step onto the ice first, biting his lower lip, eyes darting along the ice as he patted his boot around in a half-moon shape. Then, as he hummed a little tune that I now realize was “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, he would put both feet onto the ice and slowly swivel around to face us. He would hold our little hands and pull us along the ice; every now and again he would stop and let us drift forward a little just to hear my sister and me giggle nervously. I was never afraid that I would fall or that the ice would break and I would fall through into the cold water. I felt so safe, almost empowered by being there with my dad, his hand engulfing mine, that I would get this overwhelming feeling of love for him and have absolutely no idea what to do with myself. I would want to scream, laugh, hug him, punch him, or wave my arms around wildly in the air all at the same time.
Now here I sit, older, staring at a pond far away from the one I once knew. The smell of moss fills my nostrils, mosquitos nip at my skin; nature’s symphony fills my ears. A wave of sadness washes over me as I realize this peacefulness is soon to be replaced by a colder kind of peaceful. The grip of winter is already wringing out the last drops of summer; leaves are turning and the air is brisk and dry. So I close my eyes and try to engulf myself in the moment, not letting any second pass by neglected.
I am thinking about the pond from home now, remembering my dad and his “side-punch finger gun” dance move. I smile at the memory of my sister and me waking up on a Saturday morning and running into our parents’ bedroom already babbling about the pond and going skating. I remember helping my sister fix her hat so she could see explaining to her all the safety rules my mom had just said to me, only in my own 4-year-old language. It’s hard to think about the passing of time, because once we acknowledge it that’s when we realize how much has gone by, and how little we have left. The fear is that the people in our memories no longer exist and we have been replaced by older, less-amused adults who close themselves off to the excitement of the unknown.
Jessica Goldstein is from Chestnut Ridge, New York. She enjoys swimming and is a player on the Geneseo Women’s Rugby Team. She also writes the advice column for The Lamron. When Jessica is not in school she lives at home with her parents and little sister and works as a lifeguard and swim instructor. To read Jessica’s advice column go to http://thelamron.com/author/jessica-goldstein/