Johnny’s World: The Ice
Falls Church News-Press: Seventeen years ago, it was freezing. Seventeen years ago, they were all snowed in by a terrible blizzard. Seventeen years ago, in Amish country Pennsylvania, if there was a blizzard you weren’t getting out of your house for at least a week because the land was forgotten by snow plows and salt trucks. Seventeen years ago, a sunny day came along where the ice that covered a bleak cornfield glistened in the late afternoon sun. Seventeen years ago, my feet were covered for the first time by leather and steel. Seventeen years ago, I took my first step onto the ice, in the most unlikely of circumstances, yet dressed head to toe in dreams.
For 17 years I have watched as my family and those closest to me have sacrificed, prayed, and applauded my journey. As a young person, I was able to connect on a very real level with my mother as I watched her see things that a girl from Oxford, Pennsylvania wouldn’t normally ever have the chance to see. I watched her eyes light up the first time she saw Red Square. I got to see the way her mouth puckered when she tasted her first French crêpe. I watched her glasses fog up when we ascended the Great Wall of China and we shared a disconcerting walk late at night through a tunnel in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. My mom hugged me through fences, cried with me over good and bad, and – audible maybe only to me – screamed every time I took the ice. Until now, I’d never told her I could hear her because I didn’t want her to stop. I had the incredible gift of showing my mother the world, and I worked hard to give her a son she could be proud of.
My brother and father watched from the sidelines for a long time as my mom and I jetted around the world. They attended funerals we couldn’t, enjoyed ski vacations while mama and I were in Norway, and raised the dogs we all got as a family just so I could chase a dream that was so unfathomable to everyone but us. Figure skating stole a lot of my childhood, and it also robbed me of much of the joy in helping to raise my little brother. My father has had health issues that I could never truly understand, as I was never around enough to console him or help him around the house. Though I grew up loving the men in my family, and having them love me, we never got to know each other as grown-ups.
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