After my mum died in 2010, I brought home boxes of papers from her apartment in Victoria. Everything was unsorted, chaotic. And most of it was unfamiliar to me. Like this photograph. I never knew my mother played hockey—she’s third from the right in the back row, the one with dark curly hair.
We lived in Spryfield, a suburb of Halifax, from 1963-65, and it was the first time my brothers and I skated. There was a pond near us—I think it was called Kidston Pond—and it froze quite early our first winter there. My mum pulled out an old pair of black skates for me to wear. I hated them. They were too big, for one thing, but black? The other girls wore white figure skates and swirled on the ice like dancers. A couple of them even had short velvet skirts and woolen tights that made them look like stars. My mum’s old skates were clunky, with dull blades, and I remember how sore my ankles were as I struggled to keep my balance.
She told us a story in those years in Spryfield: when she was a girl, her mother would put baked potatoes into her skates (those skates?) when she went off with them slung over her shoulder. When she got to wherever it was she was going—was it a pond or outdoor rink?—she put the warm skates on and tucked the potatoes into her pockets to keep her hands warm as she skated. Then, on her way home at the end of a cold day, she ate the potatoes. The story gave me another version of my mother, young and intrepid. But I never knew she played hockey.
I wish I still had the skates. In later years, I was given a pair of second-hand tube skates. Not figure skates—I was told tube skates were safer, though I have no idea why. Other girls whirled and swirled and I clumped along, my ankles touching the ice. I never loved skating though in later years I went a couple of times with boyfriends and once, memorably, on my 40th birthday here on the Sechelt Peninsula when Smail’s Pond froze during a particularly cold winter. Somehow we rounded up enough pairs of skates for our whole family, most of them for a dollar or two from the Bargain Barn Thrift Store in Madeira Park, and we spent an afternoon finding our feet on the uneven ice.
I’d love to know more about my mother’s hockey team. Who were these young women, one with a child (or younger sibling), and who were the men who coached them? Was this where she was heading with warm potatoes in her pocket and why would she talk about the potatoes and not the hockey? She looks to be about 18 or 20 so this is probably 1944 or 1945, before she met my father, before the skates got tucked away until a 9 year old girl needed a pair to glide across Kidston Pond on her ankles. I wish I’d known about my mum’s hockey career then. Maybe I’d have appreciated the skates for their own plain legacy instead of wishing them away, wishing for a grace that seemed possible then, if I only had white figure skates and a short velvet skirt.