We’ve been out of LA for the last week because of Lucy’s “spring break” from kindergarten – actually, it’s the first of two spring breaks, which is something I certainly never had growing up. Then again, I did my homework on the back of a coal shovel and walked to school while gargling shards of broken glass, so my perspective is a little warped.
We spent the first part of the week on Mammoth Mountain, but I know “My Ski Vacation” ranks up there with Tylenol PM in terms of yawn-inducement, so I’ll skip to where things get interesting. First off, the drive over the Sierra Mountains south to Death Valley and Las Vegas… absolutely stunning. About as bizarre and breathtaking as I’ve ever seen, and you know me, I drive a fucking lot. At one point on the mountain pass, the road went to one lane without even a sign:
Our goal? Las Vegas, of course, for the Regional Ice Skating competition for adults held at the Fiesta rink, and the pressure was palpable. Tessa had been training for her two routines (one freestyle, one artistic) for months, and hundreds of skaters were participating. Between practices, she’d come over to the hotel and we’d do things like visit the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay:
actual shark swimming overhead
Tessa was a bit of a child skating star, winning several competitions when she was 7-8 years old, but stopped competing when she went to boarding school in Scotland, where I’m told there was ONE RINK in the entire COUNTRY. Skip forward thirty years or so, and I got her and Lucy some ice skates for Christmas – totally the wrong pairs, it turns out, but it rekindled something in my wife that was pretty fantastic.
For the last year, she and Lucy have been frequenting the Culver arena in LA, and when it came time for Regionals, my wife threw her hat in the rink, as it were. Like any intense microcosm, it always sounds a bit dorky on the outside, but when I got there, I fully understood how intense this thing was. Plus, I admit: I’m a sucker for other people’s passions. If someone loves garden mulch, Uranus or the tax code enough, I’ll always find their dedication addictive and join in.
As adults, most of us stopped being graded and number-judged about 25 years ago, and yet here are these skaters, willingly putting themselves in front of actual judges to leave a hero or a heartbreak. After three days, I started to hear the gossip, and know who they were talking about.
So Tessa did her dramatic program on Saturday, and said she made most of it up (although it looked gorgeous to me). Skating to “Golden Slumbers” by the Beatles, it was theatrical and heartfelt. Unexpectedly, she walked away with the silver medal, which I thought absolutely rocked the free world.
Then yesterday morning, she had her lighter program, this time doing choreography to “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. This might sound a little weary given our proximity to March, but Las Vegas was going through one of its coldest days ever, threatening to snow for the first time in four years. Tessa fell during one of her “waltz jumps” in warm-ups, and I was worried she’d tense up.
Instead, she steeled her will, connected with the judges, and skated her best performance against much stiffer competition. She probably won’t let me show her whole performance, but I’m going to sneak one of her spins on here just for fun:
After watching all the skaters, Lucy and I ran to the scoring results, and there it was: SHE GOT THE GOLD!
Of course, the lesson for the Lulubeans is to work hard, and it’s all about having fun, and even if you come in last, it’s still a fantastic experience… but the words tumble off the tongue a little easier when you’ve got the hardware glittering around your neck all the way home.