About twenty years ago I decided to take my wife and kids on a different way home from church; instead of the predictable route, I went a completely different direction. After about fifteen minutes of aimlessly wandering along gravel roads we came across a For Sale sign in front of an old farm. Since we weren’t in the market for a new house, I surprised everyone by turning into the driveway. I immediately fell in love with the place, and shortly thereafter my wife did too. A few months later we moved into our new home.
That kind of thing reinforced my adventurous spirit. I will often take a different way home – not really a shortcut – more of a “Let’s see where this road takes us.”
Last week I was driving out of Le Sueur, a Minnesota river town about thirty miles south of Shakopee when I decided to take a different way home. I took a quiet county road that seemed to disappear into the woods. Unlike other times when I explore and experiment, this time I was looking for something.
Many years ago there was a roller-skating rink just outside Le Sueur and I was pretty sure it was on this road. I remember riding a school bus several times during my seventh and eighth grade years to Le Sueur to go roller-skating in a school-sponsored activity. It was a big deal – we didn’t have as many entertainment options available as kids do today.
Kids would pile out of the bus and into the arch-roofed roller-rink. Lines would form for the rented skates (black for boys and white for girls), which were handed out with speed and accuracy. Back in those days there was no such thing as in-line skates – these models featured four wheels on two axels. The street shoes we wore in were placed underneath chairs with confidence that they would be there later.
I wasn’t a very good skater, or at least a very good stopper; to stop I would crash into the walls or the chairs, and sometimes the concession stand. The same people who had handed out the skates staffed the concession stand, and again they did their job with precision and quickness selling fountain pop and candy.
Sometimes the disco ball would sparkle, other times there was just a black-light highlighting white clothes and white teeth. We would skate around and around in a big circle to the music from the fifties, sixties and seventies.
Sometime during the event, and without warning, a woman would announce over the loud speakers that the rotation was being reversed (from counter-clockwise to clockwise). I found this particular skate to be initially awkward and yet refreshingly different; it never lasted long and we returned to the normal way of doing things.
As I rounded a corner I saw the old arch-roofed building. No school buses, no kids running towards the doors. The building was now being used for a warehouse or some such thing; I cringe when I consider the condition of that smooth wood floor and the carpeted walls.
I pause for a minute, close my eyes and imagine what once was and will never be again. Even though those days are gone, I still hold on to the memories, the songs and what I learned – sometimes you need to change direction before you get home.