I was eight when I got my skates.
I don't remember the occasion for the gift...Christmas? Birthday? The dates are so close together anyway, one has always blurred into another becoming one giant month of gift-receiving for a girl whose combined wish list couldn't exceed a $50 limit for most of her rearing.
I do remember it was the year after I asked for - and received - (used) crutches.
Foreshadowing of her broken? Perhaps.
Each day afterward - and for about two years...for as long as they would fit my growing feet - I rushed to our peach hued, pre-fabricated home in Meadowlark Hills after school to slide the supple, creamy quads onto my feet, lacing them tightly around my ankles. I'd then sneak the Xanadu soundtrack on vinyl from my sister's collection - double album (that you can't find anymore), put the record on the turntable in the living room, and race across the kitchen linoleum to the top of the basement stairs and slide down, down, down to the safety of the unfinished basement concrete. On roller skates.
Hours I spent every day obsessively skating. Back and forth, around and around, backward, forward, twirling, leaping...
Had I spent those hours practicing piano, perhaps I'd be SOMEBODY now...
Or not. After all, I never made anything of myself on the professional rollerskating circuit either. But then, I never tried to be SOMEBODY at either one.
Most days, the music would run out long before my stamina would. And so, rather than run up the stairs - which is exponentially harder to do up than down - on skates to change the music1, I'd make up my own songs and sing them, as Kira might sing to Sonny (Xanadu reference, sorry), as I skated and skated...and skated. I wrote a few of the songs' lyrics down...on the backs of used envelopes, old homework pages, scraps of old grocery receipts...so I wouldn't forget what I'd composed the next day, the next week, the next month. So I could sing it. Again...and again.
Two decades later, a relatively grown up, college-educated Jane sat in the finished basement of a different house, in a different town, savoring what few childhood mementos from a single cardboard box marked simply "Jane" she had - a cardboard box filled after a frenzied garage cleaning by her mother. Nestled among the Legos, the paper dolls, the award certificates for "Highest Achieving Girl", the straight-A report cards, the tattered baby blanket sewn by her pregnant-with-Jane mother as her grandmother laid dying, too young, from cirrhosis of the liver, was an envelope - a battered, postmarked envelope - with a carefully penciled poem written in pre-cursive print on the back.
That poem - a song sung over and over so that she can still remember the tune - was about death. About dying. About finding peace among the dead.
And grown up Jane felt ashamed and embarrassed - rather than horror and grief - for 8-year-old Jane2 who had been and had written - and felt - such things.
1: The turntable and stereo receiver were upstairs. However, Blind Betsy also installed speakers - HUGE SPEAKERS - down in the basement...or maybe it was my brother, Franny, who installed them since his bedroom was down there...drilling holes through the floor to run the speaker wire.
2. Yes, I know I switched from 1st person to 3rd person. It seemed somehow right to write this way. Also, no. I'm not suicidal...now. I was once - somewhere between writing the song and discovering its lyrics. But never again. This is "From the Vault"...my memories.