“Hokey Pokey”


I am a klutz. I was a klutz growing up. I am a klutz now.

Enter my worst nightmare: growing up during the roller skating era. This was before rollerblades. Before rollerblades became replaced with scooters. Before scooters became replaced with electric scooters. And this whole time, the bicycle was laughing. This was old school. This was terrifying.

Every single birthday party I went to in my youth was held at the local roller rink.

I would linger in the sitting area while tying my roller skates onto my shaky legs. I would act like staying on the carpet was the most exciting thing to do. It never worked. Some grown up would grow weary of me eavesdropping on their conversation.

“Go out there,” I would be told.

I would make my shuffling way to the rink. Dread settling in my stomach like a day old biscuit that I didn’t want to eat. Each step, a bite scraping on my teeth. A slanted chew. The crumbs of panic sliding down my spine. I would grip the edge of the rink with my fingertips. The walls were made of carpet. Or carpet covered the walls. It mattered not. It provided enough of a texture for the end of my fingertips to grip into the edge. And around I would go.

It never failed.

“Let’s hear it for the birthday girl!” I would be halfway around the rink. My fingernails aching.

“Everyone in the middle!”

I would flatten myself against the carpeted wall. Strobes flashing to the fast beat of my heart.

“EVERYONE in the middle. You! On the wall! Get to the middle!”

One time, I didn’t move. I figured, “What could they do?” Let me tell you what they could do. They will turn on all of the lights. Everyone in the rink will stare at you. Some bored teenager will be sent to pry your fingers from the wall and skate with you to the center of the rink, where they will deposit you into a glaring circle of children. And without fail, “The Hokey Pokey” will begin.

It was easier and less dramatic to just let the inevitable happen. To let go.

And so the festivities would be put on hold as I creeped my way to the circle. Every eye upon me. Cold sweat clinging to my back.

I would finally make it there. And it would begin.

“Put your right foot in.”

My nightmare would pause and I could manage to fumble my way through the familiar song. A beat I could finally follow. A song that told me what to do.

But then it would be over. And just like that, I was in the middle of a tornado of children. Swirling by me. It was no wonder I was a prodigy at “Frogger.” I lived that game from the time I was eight to the time I was twelve.

As soon as I would make my way across the round room of pulsating horror, the party would be over.

Until the next weekend.

I never did get over my terror of the roller rink. But I did grow up. I realized that not loving to roller skate is not a flaw. It is not a social stigma anymore. In fact, if I showed my children a pair today, they would probably laugh. The roller skates to them being silly shoes with old fashioned wheels and nothing more. Not an object of failure. Just shoes. With wheels.

I know that now.

“And that’s what it’s all about.”


* I wrote this in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge. . The challenge this week is “moved by music.”

* Pictures of roller skates are from Target’s website. They are very cute…for roller skates.