Skip to content

Training Wheels

February 25, 2020

NOTE: I am currently participating in a memoir writing program for seniors. At our last session we were given an assignment: using a combination of action and dialogue, write a short (300 words or less) story about the first time you tried something. This is my (mostly true) story. 


“Put it over your toes first,” Sharon said, guiding the strange metal contraption over her black and white saddle shoes. “Then slip your heel in.”

“Like this?” I copied her. Mine fell right off.

“It’s too long,” Sharon said, doing something underneath that pulled the ends closer together. “Try it now.”

“It fits.” I slipped the matching skate on my other foot. “Can we go now?”

“Not yet. You still have to tighten them.”

Sharon pulled a black shoelace, with a key dangling from the end, out of her pocket. She fit the key over a square screw at the front of her skate, turned it. The metal curves by her toes squeezed tighter. She repeated the process on the other skate.

“Your turn,” she said, handing me the key.

“How tight should I make them?”

“Tight enough so they don’t fall off.”

I turned the key until it wouldn’t turn any more, then gave it back. Sharon hung the shoelace around her neck and stood up.

“Get up slowly,” she said, reaching for my hand. “Walk a few steps first. Don’t try to roll too fast or go too far.”

She pulled me up. I wobbled a bit, took a few tentative steps.

“Look at me. I’m roller skating.”

“Not yet you’re not,” she said as she sailed off down Allan Street.

I lifted one foot, pushed gently with the other. The wheels beneath my feet rolled effortlessly. The street sloped downwards. I began to pick up speed. The wind tugged at my pigtails.

“I’m doing it. I’m doing it.”

A few seconds later I saw Sharon standing by the side of the road, next to the schoolyard. As I flew past, an important but unasked question popped into my head.

“How do I stop?”



  1. March 31, 2020 6:45 am

    I have such great memories of roller skating with just such skates in the sixties! We used to skate on the paved terrace in front of a row of shops opposite our house – after closing time of course. Sometimes the owners would still be about and they were convinced we would go crashing through the plate glass windows – but we never did!

  2. February 29, 2020 9:59 pm

    We didn’t have paved roads/sidewalks when I grew up. The only skates I had were ice skates. I suspect it was easier to stop on ice skates!

    • March 1, 2020 8:14 am

      Stopping on roller skates was a matter of tipping your toe downwards – not unlike putting the ‘picks’ on figure skates into the ice. But with ice skates, you could also slow down or stop by pushing them sideways – that doesn’t work with roller skates!

  3. Melody DeBlois permalink
    February 26, 2020 6:24 pm

    The very first thing I thought of was “Brand New Key” I hadn’t thought of that song by Melanie in years. Now I want to hear it! Margo, this post reminded me of when I first learned to ride a bike. The very same thing happened. I didn’t know how to stop and ended up plowing into a parked car. Ouch!

    • February 26, 2020 6:48 pm

      I had a couple of pretty badly skinned knees after my first attempt (I was wearing ‘pedal pushers’); I basically made myself fall down to stop!

  4. February 26, 2020 6:07 pm

    Great story!! I thought of that old song, Brand New Key too. Ha! Growing up in the country, I had no sidewalks to learn how to roller skate on, but we had an old pair of roller skates just like that photo that my older sisters used when our family lived in the city.

    • February 26, 2020 6:47 pm

      Our house was on the corner of the main street in town (we lived at the outer edge) and a road that went down towards the lake (Allan St.) The sidewalk only went part way down, so we always put our roller stakes on at the end of the sidewalk and skated on the road. We generally managed to stop just before reaching the lake but it was pretty close sometimes!

  5. February 26, 2020 12:29 am

    Reminds me of that song by Melanie Safka, Brand New Key. Nicely done.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: