Sometimes I get fed up with the continued coarsening of public life. Crude and graceless behavior seems to be socially acceptable these days. But just when you are about to give up on people, you see a glimmer of hope. One afternoon in 2002, I found a few examples of grace in motion, at an ice skating rink in Houston, Texas. These made an impression on me…
May 18, 2002 Saturday
At lunch I drove over to the Sharpstown Ice Center on Bellerive to watch ice-skaters practice. Most of them just skate in circles, but there are always two or three who jump and spin and are pretty good at it– they are not all Michelle Kwans, but everyone out there has me wishing I could do one thing, anything, so well. Just like there is never an ugly bride, there is never a young woman on skates who isn’t pretty and graceful. I envy everyone on skates, but especially the youngest ones, munchkins only two feet high who were practically born on skates– to them skating is as natural as breathing.
I talked to a girl, maybe 16 years old, a lissome redhead who is one of the better skaters out there. She has been skating since she was a child, but competitively for only three years. Skating is a family tradition– her sister, her younger brother, her mom, her dad and her grandmother all skate. This young woman wears out skating boots every six months or so. Every 48 hours of skating she has to sharpen her blades. She skates five days a week, with Sundays and Mondays off, and she is home-schooled.
I have watched her and a handsome fellow with a pony-tail glide together in an ice dance. He is her dance coach. He is thirty-ish and his manner with her is patient and always professionally reserved. He stands in the middle of the ice, hands behind his back, watching her skate; he gestures now and then as he directs her; but her never touches her except when he offers his hand as they begin a dance. There is also a tall, elegant young black woman, mid-twenties I guess, who skates… did I say skates?… she owns the ice with long, graceful, confident strokes, jumps and spins, and a very pretty smile.
I came away from there thinking that there is plenty of grace in people, but they have to learn it early and practice it often.