Elegy for a Vanishing Pastime

Every so often I come across someone living a life I wished I’d lived, who’s written a piece I wished I’d written. I came across such a person and essay today in the New York Times. The piece is called “Elegy for a Vanishing Pastime,” and it’s by Charles McGrath.

Here’s the lead:

IN the New England of my youth, back when we still had winter, ice — the kind you skate on — was as reliable as the calendar. It usually turned up overnight, smooth and glistening, the week after Thanksgiving, and it lasted, with perhaps a minor thaw or two, until Washington’s Birthday at least. What you did every day back then was skate — which is to say, play hockey. After school, your mom dropped you off at the pond, the lake, the frozen river, the flooded playground, and she picked you up when it was dark. On Saturdays she made you a baloney sandwich to take along, but by the time you remembered to eat it, it was frozen hard as a puck.

Talking about the ice this winter:

While it lasted, though, the ice was as good as it has ever been — as black and hard as a mirror. Your skate blades left marks like an engraving tool, and the surface was so free of ripples that if you looked down you could see plump orange carp cruising under your feet like submarines.

And if that hasn’t persuaded you, you’re an idiot here’s the end of the piece:

… it wasn’t nearly as much fun as skating outdoors. Nothing is — or nothing you do in daylight, anyway — and it’s sad to think that the practice could one day die out, another casualty of global warming. Archaeologists dredging the pond someday in the future may come across a puck, a waterlogged stick — maybe the very ones we lost this year on Martin Luther King’s Birthday — and wonder how on earth these implements ever found their way to such a beautiful and unlikely place, where fish swim and waterfowl congregate. People then will still skate, I trust, and still play hockey, but not with the same freedom and the same joy. Something will be gone from our collective muscle memory.

There’s even a slide show. Go. Read. Now.

(Image credit: Flickr user Eastick East)

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