As I started packing, I was rummaging through closets looking for things to wear in 90 degree heat with 90% humidity, along with 60% chance of rain. Hanging from several of our closet doorknobs, like passports to history, were most of the credentials we have collected over the past few years. Of course, that gave me a perfect excuse to avoid the work that I need to do and sit down to share thoughts.
In the beginning, it all starts innocently enough. There is the local competition, then one a few hours away. There are the ones that require an overnight or two; that's followed by three, four, five, seven nights. There are hotels, meals, coaching fees, car, bus, train and plane fares. There are competition fees, practice ice, costumes and music. Boots, blades, warm ups, club jackets; gloves, gloves and more gloves. There's Starbucks, Subway, Chipolte; food to go and food on the go. Once you get to qualifying competition, there are event tickets, too. But what is left after all of this is the ultimate reward....the "Credential."
I remember our skater's first credential: 1996 Kodak Junior Olympics in Illinois. I remember my first official chaperone credential. It was 2005 US Nationals in Portland. We still have both tucked away for posterity. What comes to mind when I think about that first lanyard and laminate is how it made me feel. This was a rite of passage. I was the parent of a competitive skater. Move over world! I am a person to be reckoned with! I have a dog in the fight. I have a credential and I (think) I know how to use it! Having that piece of fabric and embalmed paper around my neck seemed to hold a special, mystical power. It has a bus on it; there is a hangar on it; there are other symbols that only the Divine Powers can decipher. It is skating cryptology for the Gods of the Ice. I am part of the inner circle now. There is no turning back.
Okay. Wake up.I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but the reality is it pretty much gets you into a building. Yes, it occasionally gets you on the bus; sometimes it gets you a meal and it definitely gets you in the arena door ahead of the throngs. What it doesn't do is get you a front row seat to watch your skater. Instead, you get to sit in the nosebleed section of the arena. Want a seat? Like the other mere mortals, buy it. If you think you are entitled to a seat, just wait until you encounter the arena usher doing his or her job who tells you, "You can't go down there without a ticket. I don't care who your kid is." (I'm NOT kidding!)
What it does get you is recognition worthy of an ingenue. Fans walk past and in hushed tones whisper to one another, "I wonder who that is?" You start to form cliques (and we don't know anything about that in skating) with other credential holders. Like Harley riders on the highway, you wave at one another as members of this secret society, even if you don't know who the heck you're signaling to. You seek them out in the concession stands and find a corner where you can all be together and feel comfortable. It is herding instinct; it is Jonathan's Swift's Modest Proposal.
Of course, I over exaggerate, but only slightly. That first credential is validation of your skater's dedication. Just remember, when all is said and done, that like most things in life Shakespeare said it best:
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
However, Shakespeare wasn't a skating parent, so I think I'll hang it up for the night and continue packing. Tomorrow is another day, and then like Jackie Gleason, away I go on a 13 hour plane ride. Granted, this is a bit different because I'm headed to four sold out shows in Korea with a total of 48,000 screaming and adoring fans in attendance. And this time, I'm not paying for my plane ticket, lodging, meals or seats. Thanks to my skater, that's the rite of passage I've reached, and I'm glad for it.
So,move over William. It's my sound and fury. And while in the overall scheme of things it may signify nothing, I'm glad to be the idiot who gets to strut and fret and cast my walking shadow upon the backstage in Seoul next week. In the past 22 years, I've earned my idiot stripes and I'm proud of it!
Oh, and when I enter the Kintex Arena, I won't say the "M" * word; I promise!
*For those of you that are not theater types, you can't enter a performance hall and say the name of the play I quoted because it is considered bad luck.