On Mireya’s 17th birthday we took a few of her friends ice skating. I love going to new places like ice rinks and climbing gyms and swing dancing because you get to come in as a stranger and glimpse a world that is completely different than the one you usually navigate. You notice things that probably happen all the time all around you, but you are too used to them to pay them any mind.

Here are a few of our observations from the rink:

1. Skating once every year does somehow make you a better ice skater. This year Mireya was not clinging to the wall for the first 20 minutes. Instead she made her way around the rink like a new fawn — wobbly, upright and not holding on to mom.

2. There is nothing more painful than watching someone’s second time on skates. Mireya’s friend, Hunter, made what can only be described as painful progress, much of which involved pushing off only with his right leg. He looked like a pirate with a brand-new peg leg. By the end, though, he was off the wall, and spent most of the time vertical-ish.

3. Some ice rinks have families of skaters. We saw many families, but one stuck out. There was a dad who spoke something that sounded vaguely Romanian. Not that I know any Romanian, but he reminded me of one of those Olympic coaches that defected to the US back in the day to teach tiny gymnasts how to flip in the air on legs like springs. Anyway, this dad was teaching his two daughters, both under 10 years old. The youngest was dutifully working on skating on one foot and the other older one worked on her turns while he carved around in an ice orbit around her. He would shout out Romanian-ish sounding instructions over the pop music in the rink, then take their hands, skating backward while they practiced their moves.

4. One member of the same family of skaters was a young man who wore a velveteen jumpsuit and a bedazzled hair band. He made a brief appearance, skating as if he was warming up for a performance, every now and then leaping in the air while the rest of us mortals worked on avoiding each other.

5. We also discovered that the star of Frozen, Elsa, lives on in the form of a four-year-old little girl. Complete with fluttering cape, blue velveteen gown with silver flourishes, and a hot pink helmet, she whipped around the ice like she hadn’t just skated before but likely had frozen the rink herself. We all watched in awe has she lapped everyone in the rink, arms pumping, and a gaze as focused as an Olympian.

We left the rink that afternoon tired, inspired and happy with our own modest progress. Someday we may manage to do a few turns, or maybe even skate backward. But for now, it’s nice knowing that to see a new world all we need to do is stop and wander outside our comfort zone. And maybe learn Romanian.

Winter Prosapio is a writer, working mom and Corporate Director of Communications and Government Relations for Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts.

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