Heather and the kids picked me up on the corner by La Via and we drove up to the 'Pincio' park. Haven had been given a set of roller skates by some Czech friends a few months ago and had been waiting for a helmet and padding (which she got for Christmas) to try them out. Tonight was the night.
So, as the Italian sun set a fierce pink behind her, she strapped on her skates and her helmet and got to her feet. Wobbly would be a good word to describe her as she clung alternatively to my arm and Heather's waist. She couldn't control her legs and was completely at the mercy of the wheels attached to her feet. As I watched her, I realized that in many ways, what we're attempting to create in this city is similar.
Many would advocate that we should have first told Haven that she needs to skate, after all there's lots of reasons! Then, some would posit, we should sit her down and teach her all about skating: the history, the fundamentals, the physical skills necessary, the safety hazards and precautions and maybe even the dangers of couple-skating. Next would come the part where we begin the structured lessons where she learns all the skills necessary to put into practice what she heard during the teaching. Finally, the day would come when we take her to the roller-rink and let her skate with all the others. You see, in this way, she avoids falling and hurting herself. She is not a danger to those around her. She also fits in - she knows which direction to skate in, what color skates to wear and how to blend in with the crowd.
There's a problem with this though. Most of the people here already know they need to skate and have been taught how to from a very early age. They've attended the classes. They've been gifted fancy sets of skates and safety equipment. They simply do it a little differently than we do. They skate to a different rhythm. Most of them don't skate very often and when they do, it is only because someone tells them they have to.
So we skate. Not because we must but because we love to. We skate and invite others to jump in the rink. We know we skate a bit differently, but that's OK. We have fun anyway. We learn from them and they from us. We hope they will catch on, that they will see why we love to do it. We don't do it perfectly, but we do it together.
I shake my head and Haven is stumbling toward me, with surprisingly few falls. A dad and two kids watch Haven closely, asking questions, curious. It's dark. We let Haven skate for a couple of minutes and head home. On the way home, Jacob keeps asking when it's his turn to skate.