Christmas 1971. One of my favourite memories. I was six, my sister, Shelley was four. The kitchen floor had been laid a few days before with brand new lino. It was pale blue, smooth as the surface of a winter pond just frozen over.
Shelley and I had ballet slippers. Knitted. Mine were purple, Shelley’s were pink. Neither of us did ballet, but we liked the slippers. The woollen slippers slid on the lino. We pretended we were ice skaters. We didn’t know any famous ice-skaters or the names of any of the technical moves but we could glide and slide and twirl.
We used to skate for hours, steering ourselves on the doorhandles of the kitchen cabinets, imagining ourselves on the largest winter lake in the world; fairy children performing for the fairy queen herself.
If the nights were really dark we would put torches at either end of the floor. Our shadows moved alongside us so that suddenly we were a troupe of skaters. If we waved our arms it was as if an audience sat in the mezzanine level of the kitchen theatre, shaking their woollen scarves in approval.
Sometimes the windows would freeze over. Ridges would form. White, icy steps up a mountain. It was like skating inside a Christmas card. We imagined we were little pop-up dolls covered in glitter, surprising the recipient of the card with our jolly Merry Christmas.
The years pass. We move on, away from childhood memories that disperse lightly as if they are made of the very air that formed them. The kitchen where we skated may not be there any more. The lino will have long been replaced.
But the essence of the joy contained in that simplest of games remains, lingering like a soft wind thrown down by the winter trees, sometimes behind us, sometimes beside us. Always present, dropping gentle as melting snow, at Christmastime.