Imagine you’re the oldest of four children in your family. The younger siblings get most of the attention, but your mom doesn’t want you to feel neglected. So when you’re five or six and more babies are coming along, she asks if you’d like ice skating lessons. The first time you take to the ice, something clicks. You’re hooked.
That’s what happened with Fern Forest Treehouse guest Caitria. The firstborn is always special. With the first child, everything changes. The bond is strong and enduring.
When Caitria turned ten, Julie wanted to do something special for her. A night in a treehouse—just the two of them—seemed the perfect thing.
When I was growing up in Virginia, I knew nothing about figure skating. My brothers and I played outdoors in the nearby creek or in friends’ yards. Parents didn’t spend a lot of time ferrying their kids to practices unless the teams were part of a school program. I didn’t put on ice skates until I moved to Vermont and fell in love with a hockey player. I was determined to learn to skate and started by holding onto the boards as I wobbled around the ice. Then the hockey player put a stick in my hand and I leaned on it to skate. I fell a lot. Ice is hard and before long I was speckled with bruises. When I got a little better, the hockey player bought me hockey skates. Without the toe picks, I kept falling forward. Then (because he loves me) he came up behind me and pushed me—fast. He thought it would be fun. I screamed and waved my arms. My hair flew out behind me. He laughed. When he stopped, I went to the bench and took off the skates. They’ve been gathering dust in the cellar ever since.
I wish I’d gotten hooked the way Caitria did. As she grows, Julie buys her spiffy new figure skates. She also gets to wear glittery little costumes when she performs in front of judges. And no surprise—the judges like her. She’s strong and fit and pretty. When she does axel jumps and camel spins, double toe loops and a layback spins, the judges smile.
Caitria is has such potential that Julie enrolled her in a school for athletes so she can take academic classes on campus and spend the rest of her time on the ice. She practices five hours a day and would skate longer if she could.
This fall Julie wrote us that Caitria would be participating in the New England regional competition at Burlington’s Leddy Park where, coincidentally, I gave up the idea of becoming the next Tonya Harding. Caitria did so well that she qualified for the finals. We were honored to be invited and drove in to watch. The excitement in the rink was palpable. For each skater, parents and siblings in the stands applauded and whooped. Several fell. Others glided lyrically.
When Caitria and three other girls came out to warm up, we recognized her immediately. She looked beautiful in her red sequined skating dress, dark hair knotted into a tight bun, eyes shadowed with glitter, her hands snug in her lucky pink gloves.
It had been a year since Caitria had stayed at the Treehouse, and now she was eleven. She was stronger and more confident than when we’d last seen her. When her turn came to perform, she skated out and took her starting spot in the center of the ice. The music began—a forties tune, peppy and classy. Her routine was flawless. The audience erupted in applause.
Afterward, Caitria came to the stands to say hello to us—to me and that hockey player I married. I could tell as he was watching Caitria that he was hankering to get out on the ice and do a few twirls himself, maybe chasing an imaginary hockey puck. But he held himself back.
Before we said goodbye to Caitria and Julie, we hugged Caitria and gave her a bottle of Vermont maple syrup to take home to Massachusetts. She's off to Boston soon for more competing. She's ready. She's psyched. You can be sure we haven’t seen the last of this little skater lady.