When I was a kid living on Pond Street in Leominster, I can remember riding by Rockwell’s Pond on the school bus, peeking out the window as I pressed my nose against the cold foggy glass, hoping and praying that the ice was finally frozen and safe to skate on. All the neighborhood kids would wait in sweet anticipation for our frozen playground to take form. When the ice was finally ready, and the word was out, we wasted no time. We would rummage through our attics or basements for our skates. Some of us didn’t even need skates. We just wanted to hit that ice before anyone else did. All the kids would meet up at the corner of Newton and Pond and make our way down the street with our skates thrown over our shoulders. The cold air would hit our cheeks, causing them to tingle when we laughed. The boys would juggle their skates, a shovel, and their hockey sticks dreaming of skating like Bobby Orr. The girls would imagine spinning on the ice like Dorothy Hamel; after all we all had her haircut. The snow covered street would be quiet and still except for our giggles, and the clickity-clack of the blades of our skates hitting each other as we trudged along on the unshoveled sidewalk.
When we finally made it to Rockwell’s Pond we began shoveling to mark our territory. Our parents couldn’t get us to shovel the driveway, but when it came to claiming our ice, we shoveled like mad. The older kids would still be in bed at this time, so we didn’t have to worry about them dominating the ice and forcing us to play goalie, which often meant target practice for them, and bruises for us. Once we were done with clearing the ice we would lace up our skates, but we never seemed to tie them tight enough, not like a Dad or an older brother would. That only left us with burning ankles, but somehow we suffered through it. Our dull blades would glide slowly over the rough bumps of the ice until we got the hang of skating again. Slowly other kids would begin to arrive, setting up make-shift goals, and other kids would gather hoping to get to play some hockey. We would skate until the street lights came on, hands frozen and toes numb. It felt good to unlace our skates and let our achy feet free. We would then gather our gear, exhausted and hungry, and make our way back home, too tired to talk, but each one of us wondering what was for supper that night. There was nothing better than seeing the warm lights of your mom's kitchen glowing in the dark as you made your way through the icy night to your door, your mittens frozen stiff, your nose running from the cold. Walking through the kitchen door you found sweet relief as the warmth of the kitchen enveloped you, the chill of the day forgotten. Only to do it all over again the next day.