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23rd June
written by Mombo#9

As the summer competitions line up on the calendar, I find myself once again loading the skates into the car.

By skates, I don’t mean 2 boots and 2 blades, sharpened the week before so they are Goldilocks ready (not too sharp and not too dull), but 8 Zuca skating bags containing 16 boots and 16 blades. Once, hearing horror stories of skates going to Toledo instead of Boston, I shipped an old pair of my daughter’s skates to Portland for Nationals “just in case.” They arrived ahead of us to the hotel and greeted us like a bouquet of flowers, although the smell was a bit different. It was comforting to know we had a back up in the event the airline lost our luggage or sent it on a Hawaiian vacation.

The eight Zuca bags belong to a theater of ice team that my daughter is coaching. The girls and families are flying instead of driving over the rivers of Pittsburgh and by the cornfields of Ohio. We are driving to spend “quality time together.”

For me, this trip will not have the treasured costume bag of old that offered the added benefit of providing aerobic exercise for me by being the same weight as a large medicine ball. I often “brench pressed” the twenty pounds of sequins into the overhead compartment. No, this trip is my first real opportunity to be a spectator.

I am going to witness the story, as told through motion and scenery, on the ice. Prior to the ice dancing, my daughter was a member of a TOI team. Their most memorable program was when they portrayed 16 bits of static that performed to the seemingly scanning radio. The team wore hooded black velvet one-piece costumes that were individually and uniquely decorated with piping and thread of red, gold and white. It was the only time that hair was not important and did not need to be coiffed to be able to go from a tight bun into a swing dance style in a matter of minutes.

“It’s nice that I can help in some way for this production,” I tell my daughter as we load up the car. “I know how difficult it is to trust someone else with your skates. It’s like we are the Pony Express or the armored car delivering the goods. We’re like the FedSkate Xpress.”

My daughter looked at me for a moment before commenting, “You really are ‘the skate is half full’ type of person, aren’t you?”

“Well, I try to look on the bright side of things — the light in the tunnel so to speak.”

“No problem there. These are 10 year-olds Zuca bags. Most of them have blinking wheels that will be flashing for all of the 500 miles.

I smiled as I shut the back door. “Maybe we should hang up a sign: “Troy, here we come!”

“Maybe I should drive,” my daughter murmurs.


17th June
written by Mombo#9

Datebook: June 14th, 2010

As the thermometer rises to the mid-nineties, most people’s thoughts turn to the delights of multi-vented air-conditioning, grape popsicles, and the ambivalence of selecting iced-coffees.

My thoughts turn to “mind choreography” and music selection for show programs for ice skaters. To be fair I think my resume would warrant a little “look-see” if given half a chance. I have been the parent of a competing ice dancer and hence I had the privilege each season of paying for the original choreography by various former Olympic skaters, then paying for the changes by the regular coaches who had to “tweak” the transitions and lifts, then pay for the changes in the program after the first competition of the season after a panel of judges gave feedback that ranged from “fabulous” to “it doesn’t work for me.” (Sometimes this also resulted in costume changes but that’s another Mombo!) The final product was hardly identifiable from the original version — much like the third Harry Potter book and subsequent movie.

As a witness to the process, I think I could cut out a few steps, no pun intended, and offer a team a polished idea right off the bat. And it’s not as if I don’t have any dance experience — I did dance off-Broadway in my youth. . . at the York Little Theater in York, Pennsylvania.

“I have a great idea for a program,” I tell my daughter. “It’s actually very trendy in the way they made a movie based on ABBA songs, and created musicals around Elton John, Billy Joel, and The Jersey Boys.”

My daughter is polite but does not hesitate to ask the burning question: “Who would you think would skate to this idea?”

“I don’t know. A team who is willing to see the beauty in symbolism.”

My daughter sighs. “No one is going to skate to Prince. Or Tom Jones, or that Talking Heads remix you have of ‘Burning Down the House’ and ‘Psycho Killers.'” (I attempt to stare her down, but she launches into other rejects of seasons past.) “No gravel-voiced Joe Cocker or Brian Adams telling everyone how to really love a woman.”

I shake my head “no” although her slide show of my previous considerations offered to her coaches — and discarded like an out-of-tune Bolero — still has tender spots if touched too roughly.

“I told you this is a new idea. I’m thinking of a compilation of Bruce Springsteen songs.”

She closes her eyes for a moment, perhaps visualizing my dream.

“There are just so many songs to choose from: ‘Glory Days,’ ‘Human Touch,’ ‘Dancing in the Dark” and then ending with ‘Working on a Dream.'”

“Mom, I don’t know anyone who could skate to that.”

“I know. It is avant-garde and not for the average skater. It would take a Charlie & Meryl-type of team.”

She puts her head on her arm resting on the table.


This did not seem like a rhetorical question although there did seem to be an odd strain in her voice, so I answered the query.

“Because we need to capture the passion and the pursuit at the heart of performance. There is that one place in ‘Human Touch’ that you wait for, where a lift across the shoulders and then a flip to a cross-carry spread eagle would be a crescendo of visual and auditory sensations!”

“Dear God,” she murmurs into her tanned and toned forearm.

“Anyway,” I continue, “I think this is a better idea than the contrasting Mary Shelly/Edgar Winter ‘Frankenstein’ concept.”

She looks at me finally and takes a deep breath.

“Mom,” she starts and then pauses. “Mom, I think maybe you should move this planning to a Theatre on Ice team. Your ideas seem a bit too. . .” She pauses again. “. . .too sophisticated for the rigors of the ISU requirements. I mean, where would you throw a waltz pattern in the middle of ‘Glory Days?'”

I ponder her suggestion. “I don’t know. That is a complicated process — multiple skaters, patterns, props.”

“Exactly! And it has to tell a story.”

“What will Charlie & Meryl skate to this year? Don’t you think I should at least offer them the opportunity. . .?”

“No, and if you do, please use an assumed name.”

I feel a bit deflated by her seeming lack of insight.

“Plus,” she adds, “you get a full six minutes for Theatre On Ice. You might get to add a few stanzas of ‘Queen of the Supermarket.'”

Silly girl, I think. That opens the door to “Pink Cadillac.”


8th June
written by Mombo#9

“What is the matter with you?” my daughter queries as I clear my throat and twist the phone a degree above my mouth and swallow.

“Nothing,” I say, but even I hear the break in those two syllables so that the word clings to the ear as if I had retained some of my southern ancestry dialect. “I mean, nothing really. It’s just that Prince is 52 today. And Tipper and Al Gore are getting divorced.”

There is silence from the other end, but I know we have not lost the connection. My daughter is just processing what I realize must be signs of “high alert — mom is reflecting.” Her iPhone is probably opening a new window as she sends her brother a “code red.”

“OK,” she says finally, “and that is important because. . .?”

“Well, Prince was always the pinnacle to me, the cutting edge of sensitivity and talent, the anti-star who was a star. You know I always wanted you to skate to ‘Raspberry Beret'”

“That was just so I could skate around and toss a pink sequined hat on the ice. The lyrics are a bit risqué for ice arenas and ten-year-olds.”

“But it would have been uplifting! And now at 52, Prince wearing purple velvet, driving a little red Corvette and talking about ‘U Got The Look’ is just a tad bit, well, dated and out of place. It’s like those people and tabloids who announce each year how old Elvis would be if he were alive. No one would want to see a bloated 80-year-old Elvis grinding his hips.”

“Mom, I know this is going to come as a shock to you, but generations have survived without Prince, and in fact your generation wasn’t ‘All Hail Purple Rain’.”

“Oh they were. Just like yours, there are naysayers now about the boy bands, but everyone knows the words to “Bye, Bye, Bye” and they sing along if no one is looking or in the car with them. And on top of that, the Gores — married 40 years and they are just quitting — retiring if you will — from their marriage. What kind of message does that send?”

“I don’t know. They are the frontrunners for going green so I guess this is just another form of recycling. They aren’t throwing each other out by having an affair; they are recognizing the value and offering it up for someone else.”

I inhale but find I have nothing to say — or perhaps too much to say.

“I mean, this isn’t like when we were at Nationals in Portland and you went into a funk because Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt broke up, is it?”

“No. Well, I guess this is like both ends of the spectrum. I mean, at one end you have this beautiful woman who has similar interests as her husband — acting — and doesn’t wear a vial of blood around her neck, and she still loses her husband to another woman. And on this end, a couple who have been together for 40 years, who are openly affectionate. . .it just makes you question how you can ever get it right.”

“And. . .what else? I sense there is something else.”

“And,” I breathed out a long sigh, “And Jaime Sale and David Pelletier have decided to divorce but they are still going to work together.”

“Ah. But they have a child, so it is good that they are able to work together professionally and establish a peaceful relationship and environment to co-raise their son.”

“That is good, but it is still a bit sad. Prince would have asked, ‘How can you just leave me standing alone in a world that’s so cold?'”

“Mom, you get so sentimental but please don’t quote anymore Prince songs. I guess your generation was raised on too many movies with happy endings.”

“We all want some happy endings.”

“You just don’t want the song to end. If you love it and if the costume is spectacular, you don’t want it to stop.”

“That’s not a bad thing.”

“No. No it isn’t. But if one thing doesn’t end — or change — how could you ever experience the next good thing? If Prince had stopped with that berry-colored beret, you would never have had an 8-track of ‘I Feel for You’.”

I give her that but suspect she is being a bit more cheeky than just tongue-in-cheek.

“And,” she continues, “I think there may another royal wedding in England soon, or that’s what the rumor is. And there are still plenty of happy and long marriages: Ron Howard and his wife, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Denzel and his wife Pauletta. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.”

I nod though she couldn’t see me.

“And don’t forget Jenny and Todd. They are still great on and off the ice.”

“That’s true. And I’m sure they must have skated to at least one Prince song in their career — if only for a show program.”


Comments Off on Datebook: June 7, 2010
24th May
written by Mombo#9

I imagine the ISU is really a microcosm of our own local government, where before every session someone gets a senator to sponsor a project they hope to make into a bill.  Recently, for example, there was large group in our community lobbying for dogs to have DNA markers established so when an anonymous pile of doggy doo-doo was found on the grassy lawn of a canary owner, the owner of said canine could be identified.  The logic and expense of this seemed lost on the crowd of enthusiasts and local headlines announced the “Scoop On Poop” meltdown that still garnered a 46 ‘yah’ vote.

So with this type of dementia floating around the universe it almost seems normal that the ISU would put some verbiage into proposed changes that seems, well, counterproductive.

The hype of which I speak is, of course, the proposed idea regarding music selections:  “Music Must be Uplifting.”

“What does that mean exactly?”  I asked my daughter.

“I think they don’t want anything political or controversial coming across the arena sound system.”

“But, soulful angst is the backbone of Ice-dancing.  How can we take out the open-mouthed pleas to the stands, the arm thrown across the brow?  Is it all to be Topanga Red lipstick smiles now?”

My daughter continued to look at her computer screen, probably hoping like the Macy’s Customer Service representative that I would go away with my complaint about inferior thread quality in a Marc Jacobs jacket (which resulted in the sleeve unhemming after two wears).

“And who decides this? What is too emotional?”

My daughter looked up from her Mac.  “I doubt if it will be a parent.  You have cried at each of my programs.  It will probably be a new component of the Technical Caller.”

“Oh my gosh, remember your little red and white dress, and you pretended to play the piano…that was so adorable.”

“See, your eyes are welling up now.”

“But will a technical caller have time to know all the nuances of the music, the symbolism, I mean even if this seems we are reduced to Disney music and National Anthems, there are many emotional connections to these pieces—I mean in Disney just look how many mothers have died to leave their little girls in a boorish patriarchal…”

“Mom, you are reading way to much into this.  This is really very literal.  ‘Does it have an uplifting quality’ is really the only thing in question.”

“Okay, while I’m glad they are eliminating the possibility of me ever hearing anything by The Carpenters or Barbara Streisand, I’m not sure we can just blackline everything that does not have a Happy Ending.   Ice-Dancing is not playing on the Lifetime Network, sometimes it goes HBO or Showtime.”

She looks at her laptop and makes a face so that I suspect she is skyping her pain across the globe.

“I mean, look at your last competitive free dance, it was about a woman loving a man who did not love her because, well, he was a big jerk and took…”

“Mom, really?”

“I’m just saying, how is that uplifting?  It was so emotional and everyone in the arena was crying.”

“No, that was you crying and through your blubbering you thought everyone else was crying.

“It’s a story everyone identifies with.  Not a happy time.”

“But, everyone also understands that you get over it, you realize the guy wasn’t all that, and you move on.  You make yourself better.  You find someone better because you have grown.”

I look at my child, the wise one—the Sensei of love in the ice-dance world.  “That was so beautiful. “

She rolls her eyes and goes back to Facebook where I am pretty sure she is recruiting fans for the group “When will my mother stop being a Freak?”

“That would be a beautiful song if you put those words to music,” I add.

Her hands pause on the keyboard as she possibly considers my statement.

“Of course, you probably couldn’t skate to it.”


Comments Off on Datebook May 24, 2010
17th May
written by Mombo#9

Datebook: May 16, 2010

So again the slide rule on age consideration glides into view and hinges on the whims and mind-set of those holding the buzzers that sound the “yea” or “nay” for the vote. The difference this year, of course, is that the ISU appears to have considered the failure rate of the age-change that has been brought forth for the past few years and come up with a “Plan B.”

The concept of age and subsequent privileges and/or penalties has been bantered about since, well, forever. I imagine Plato asking his mother how old he had to be before he could wear a toga commando style and disliking her answer of “10.” He would pontificate about not being in swaddling for nine years and the practically of not needing to wear the equivalent of BC Underoos. She would give him “the look” and he would mutter under his breath, “Virtue is relative to actions and ages of each of us in all that we do,” and she would tell him to stop talking back and go clean his room.

Each year a group tries to bring a Senate bill forth that would raise the driving age from 16 to either 16 and 9 months, or 17. One group stresses the lack of maturity in the developing brain of a teenager that allows them to drive 90 mph on a wet road while texting, and one group, with a heavy lobby from the insurance industry, counters with the needs of youth to help work to provide income to the family. The same goes with the drinking age. One side argues that a young man can go fight for his country but not be able to buy a beer before he gets on the transport. The other side, supported by a large group of slovenly men who hang outside of liquor stores to procure alcohol for underage drinkers and subsidize their income, counter that young brains do not know that they cannot drink 21 shots on their birthdays chased by upside down keggers.

The ISU does not get the same type of fanatical debating. They just get a lot of head shaking and sighing.

Proposal A is simply that a junior skater must be 13 but not 18 by July 1 to compete.

Proposal B is that a junior skater must be 13, and girls not 18, and boys not 19 by July 1st to compete.

The reason for the rule change is listed as “Current upper age for junior seems too high.”

The ISU will never get red carpet seats for the Oscars with this type of bias. They would perhaps turn up a nose to spotting James Wood and Ashley Madison will their 39 year age difference, or snort at Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas with their quarter century age disparity, or shake their heads at Indiana Jones-Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart with their 22 years of separation.

It seems there will be no Cougars or AARP members on the ice in junior — male or female.

Their rationale is a bit weak to be sure. Are they really posing the concept that it looks bad? Or that the boys are malingering/loitering in junior? Did they consider the current statement to the world that girls, at 18, are “over the hill” and must move up to senior or not compete?

I may be in a small circle that might suggest that the ISU should change the age requirements for juniors, but instead of lowering it for young men, they should raise it for the girls so the statute is equal: 21 years old for both. Each team could then decide when they had the skill and the time to dedicate to the rigors and demands of a competing senior team.

The vote will come and the vote will reflect the politics du jour and the opinions of the folks holding the buzzers. No vote will be made based on the scientific research for developing muscles and bones or other physiological factors. In the end it will be, as it is in almost everything we encounter in life, the opinion that answers the call of the vote.

Plato of course stated, “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.”

By that time, surely, he was able to make his own call on boxer, briefs, or sans, and could happily wander forth creating new quote for centuries in the future. We, on the other hand, will be stuck in the middle with a Plan A or B, when maybe it should have been C all the time.


9th May
written by Mombo#9

The second weekend of May is one that is anticipated with much speculation in many homes across the country — not the shock of getting a pink peony or a heady-scented hydrangea for Mother’s Day, but that of confirming after months of conjecture those national skaters that made THE ENVELOPE for funding for USFS.

The problem is they mix the analogies, symbolism, or metaphors in the process.

“What are you talking about?” My daughter queries when I raise the issue. She contorts her face into a look that foreshadows a “here we go again/drama class 201” expression.

I elevate my eyebrows in a “sit up and take notice of this bit of imparted knowledge” and “it is almost Mother’s Day, where is the ‘Queen for the Day’ love” rebuttal.

She sighs and settles back in the chair.

“I don’t quite understand the modern day marketing process anymore.” I glance at her as I pontificate. “I mean look at Geico. They use a lizard, cavemen, and talking money to sell their product, but that is confusing to me. I mean it is almost like they can’t make up their minds, so they throw out the top 3 ideas from some seeming college competition. It’s confusing!”

“It’s a gecko.”


“It’s not a lizard; it’s a gecko.”

“Well that just adds to my point of how confusing it is.”

My daughter is clearly holding in her frustration when she asks how this relates to figure skating and USFS team funding. “Geico isn’t even a sponsor, State Farm was. You’re getting confused.”

“I am not confused. I am merely pointing out that so many aspects in life now have thrown out the processes that help make life a natural process of the mind.”

My daughter sighs although she clearly tried to keep it in.

“I can’t trust a company that can’t make up its mind what mascot or logo to use. You just can’t mix concepts and that is what the USFSA is doing.”

My daughter now has her hand to her forehead and is shaking her head similar to my reaction when I get on the scale each morning.

“Okay. They use the ‘ENVELOPE’ analogy, which is fine, but then they introduce the ‘Tier’ subcategory. It just doesn’t work.”

Silence from my listener.

“Seriously, if they are going to use the image of an ‘envelope’ then they need to stick with that type of connective terminology. The mind would easily jump and fill in the rating system if they moved to the ‘stamp’ breakdown. For example: Envelope A. First Class would be the gold medal winners from Nationals, Second Class would be the other medalists, Third Class those behind them, and Book-Rate would be next in line.”

“You can’t call people ‘second class.’ That would be crude.”

“True, that analogy does bring in other connotations.” I paused before continuing, “Well, they could consider the size of the envelopes. Team A could be the 11 by 14; Team B the 8 by 10, Team C the number 5s and the Reserve Team could be the postcard.”

My daughter looks at me for a moment before commenting very slowly, “Everyone understands what the system is now, and it would be,” she pauses, “odd to change it now.”

“But it is so gecko/caveman/talking money-ish; it’s confusing and literarily incorrect.”

This is skating, not the Pushcart Prize for small presses. Imagine being the ‘postcard’ recipients. I mean it doesn’t even close. And they haven’t announced the reserve team yet; that will come later.”

“Or maybe they could do Priority and then Express — or is it the other way around? I always get those two confused. . .”

I think the ‘Tiered’ system works fine. Skaters understand it. It just identifies who is first , second and third by the results of the previous year. You are putting way too much thought into it and trying to make it an extended metaphor, which is not the purpose.”

“Fine,” I reply succinctly, “Since you are the skater and it meets your needs, I will also give it my ‘stamp’ of approval also.”


2nd May
written by Mombo#9

For many months, I felt like I should be in some type of “step” program. Not necessarily a 12-, but certainly something to redirect my focus from the 2-step, or pattern of steps, that makes up a dance. Particularly an ice dance.

My daughter had decided to go on to college and stop competing.

This after fourteen years of skating. This after competing from no-test to junior. This after competing from club level to Nationals. This after medals from Basic Skills to international. She wanted to find out what it is like to have a “normal” life.

I commiserated with “me” — this must have been what if felt like in the ’60s when children told their parents they were moving to Berkley to be a flower child. I commiserated with “myself” — this must be what it is like to have your child decide to be a piercing-and-tattoo model. I commiserated with “I” — next, she will probably tell me she wants to be a social worker.

I searched magazine covers and self-help book topics, but discovered I am a member of the forgotten group: the invisible tribe of maternal beings that traditionally held sequined ritual gowns, sharpened blades, and sought rhythms from the heavens. The mover and the shaker of traffic jams. Giving witness and solace to each practice and performance.
The mother. The mother to a skater who has moved on to a normal life.

And so I wallowed about. I bobbed my hair. I had a varicose vein dissolved. I layered my hair. I lost weight. I ate a leftover birthday cake from Safeway that gave a shout out to “Heidi” turning 10. I watched old skating tapes with half waltz jumps, and recent Nationals CDs. I ate Ben & Jerry’s from the carton with an ice-tea spoon. I ran marathons on the treadmill.

My daughter — the one who never skated senior, although she would have had a Grand Prix if she had stayed just one more year — my daughter — with the lovely edges and classic grace –my daughter –whom Elton John had certainly had in mind when he penned “Tiny Dancer” (never mind the year –Sir John transcends time) — my daughter…?

My daughter was doing fine.

She became the normal college GPA-seeking law school student who lives solo in a one-bedroom apartment with a walk-in closet. She began the normal life of eating zero fat grams and never putting anything processed or refined in her cupboard. She began the normal life of going on two cruises her senior year and at twenty-one, earning seventy-five dollars an hour — legally — for part-time work.

And this was how I found myself on April 15, tax day, standing at the ticket window at the Wilmington Ice Show, purchasing a $45.00 ticket to sit on a cushioned chair rink-side, in lieu of $10.00 to sit in the bleachers. My daughter’s Theatre-on-Ice team and some of her private students were performing.

When the first young skaters took to the ice, I gathered my cohorts — me, myself and I — and we had a grand little sniffling fest. Those big booted feet on tiny little limbs brought back memories of my sweet little brown-eyed, brown-haired girl. Just before one of us let out an audible sob that would certainly have caused half the six-year olds to miss their shoot-the-ducks and skid out of control, Tiffany Scott (the 2003 U.S. senior pairs champion and 2002 Olympian) poked her head around the curtain and gave me a wave. I smiled and then busied myself putting on lip-gloss, hoping the final result wasn’t something Joan Crawfordish.

The crowd was waiting for Ashley Wagner. But I, I was waiting for a glimpse of Her.

And finally, just before the third act, I found Her. The house lights waltzed off the natural chocolate highlights in her hair as she turned her focus to the ice …on a seven-year-old dressed as an orchid flower. The child was obviously asking direction or seeking assurance. After a moment, she nodded and then hugged my daughter in a tight hold that displaced petals and blooms — one of those deep grabs that elicits closed eyes and back rubs — and in that one fragment of time, the one blip of a second — my heart and body settled back into the comfort of the padded seat.

The woman sitting next to me had wildly applauded many young Nubian princes and pink sequined ladies in previous acts, causing me to move past mere polite acknowledgement clapping. She noticed my attention and anticipation drawn to the end curtain.

“Is your child in the show?” she asked politely.

“Yes. Yes she is. She’s one of the coaches,” I said in a normal voice.