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One Step Forward, One Look Back

Down time in the middle of a weekday is almost unheard of for me, but, thanks to the State of Vermont, I get it once a week for eight weeks every winter.

For the last seven years, Thing1 (and now Thing2) have been getting out of school at noon through most of the winter so that they can enjoy the winter sports that bring so many tourists to our area. The younger kids skate; older kids get to ski, and the ski resorts get to train a new generation of instructors and winter sport ambassadors. It’s popular with parents because it’s a cheap alternative to indoor phys-ed, but it’s also an almost iron-clad excuse to leave work or other responsibilities for a few hours each week.

Siting in the warm room at our local skating rink is social and relaxing. I love to reconnect with people I only wave to in the school parking lot as I watch Thing2 glide from wall to wall more steadily each week. But, as relaxing as it is, every week, it also reminds me that, as firmly planted in the Vermont lifestyle as I have become, I have not completely let go of the city girl that left Boston 13 years ago.

Today the rink is deserted except for the few families from the elementary school. The kids flow in and out of the warm room, eating between lessons as parents, unconcerned about stranger danger watch and read and chatter.

For some reason, however, even surrounded by people I know, I still find myself falling into patterns of behavior that were once obligatory in the city and suburbs. I always keep my purse zipped and wrapped around me. When I go to the snack bar, I close any computers and bring things with me – and I can see the snack bar from my usual spot 15 feet away.

Some of my paranoia is founded in experience. A lack of vigilance at a Boston restaurant led to my wallet being stolen right out of my handbag and my guard being permanently alert from then on. Days like today, however, I have to stop my looking back from making me turn back.

I doubt that I will ever leave my door unlocked like many of our neighbors do, but today, surrounded by parents of schoolmates and kids that I know are (most of the time) well-behaved, I consciously made the decision to take a step forward. Thing1, now four inches taller than his mother (he keeps track) and a bottomless pit came in requesting a top-up for his snack. He had to run to his lesson, and, alone again, I got up. Without a backward glance I sauntered to the snack, leaving my fear on the table with my computer and my bag. As luck would have it, only one thing was missing when I got back, and it wasn’t the bag or the computer.