When I first began writing a column for the
Dispatch, I was a little afraid that I was
putting too much of my own story in the sketches
of life in Rocky Ridge.
But then someone gave me an issue of a
stamp-collecting magazine and right there on the
front page, the editor said something like:
"In sharing our hobbies, we also talk about
our own lives. So you get to know us." So
then I figured my approach was all right!
I have been away. Gettysburg, Randallstown,
work and more work. Now I’m back in Rocky
Ridge. I haven’t had a chance to see what is
going on now in this small town. I thought I’d
just reminisce a little.
It seems like lots of people in this area
talk about how much colder and how much
"worse" the winters were long ago,
compared to now.
That is something I, too, seem to remember.
And lately I’ve been remembering a vivid
picture from childhood here in rural America. I
don’t remember how old I was, but it was the
first year my growing feet were big enough to
fit my mother’s slender white ice skates. I
was overjoyed! And they were so pretty!
My brothers had some old brown leather hockey
skates my grandfather had given us, and they
took me up to the old fire pond behind Mt. Tabor
The pond was thick with ice, and I remember
the thrill of setting out there on my own while
my brothers played between themselves. I don’t
remember having difficulty getting the hang of
it–it seemed to come naturally. And I thrilled
at the smooth gliding, and the bumps in the ice,
and the heart-stopping when suddenly a cracking
let loose in the silence.
But the time I remember best–and this plays
like a silent movie in my psyche–and a
treasured memory among them all–is one night
when we went out to the pond.
We walked up through deep snow, following the
trail in the field, and trekked through the
square and down over the hill. I don’t
remember first getting there. I just have the
feeling of the sacred dark, and the stars, and
being far out there on the ice, complete in my
And there on the shore, a bonfire. It seemed
as if the whole town of Rocky Ridge was gathered
around this climbing flame, laughing and
talking, and their joy carried over the ice. I
could feel the joy and the gaiety even though I
was way too shy to approach the circle around
the fire. Years later I was told that Bobby and
Kenny Mumma got out their small yard tractors to
clear the pond of snow for just such gatherings.
And that it happened other times, as well.
I just remember that once–feeling far, far
away–with the scritch, scritch of my blades in
the night. And the fire on the shore. Warming my heart in the dark.