Voyageur, October-December 2021 issue

Page 20

A Pair of Skates By Greg Beatty Illustration by Natchariya “Mai” Beatty


f you give a boy a pair of skates, he’ll want a stick and a puck to go with it. You’ll buy him a stick, and then a helmet, gloves, and the rest of the equipment. The boy will ask you to drive him to practice, and to watch his games. The games will be played in different towns and cities, and each year they’ll be further and further away. Sometimes, it’ll take longer to drive to and from the games than the one-hour game that is played. You’ll start the car on cold winter mornings and clear the ice from the windshield for weekend practices. Hauling hockey equipment will stink up the car on the way home, and maybe it’ll be the boy if there were no showers at the rink. You and the boy will arrive home late in the evening. Dinner will be waiting, maybe cold on a plate at the table. Weekends are spent freezing in hockey rinks. The dank smell hangs heavy in the air, dim lights cast shadows on the few people in the windowless rink. The hockey seasons get longer every year, more games and practices interrupt your hobbies, interrupt your social commitments, and interrupt your work deadlines. Office parties will be excused, maybe your birthday too. You’ll do the right thing, and your sacrifices won’t be recognized. You and the boy will talk about the game, and it will be fine if he doesn’t thank you for your time. The years will pass by. The boy will wear a new team jersey each year, with matching socks. You’ll complain about the cost of equipment, especially hockey sticks. It seems the boy breaks one every week. But the boy will be learning new skills and, playing on a team, he’ll be dedicating himself to something bigger than himself. The boy is learning about teamwork, having fun, getting good coaching, and occasionally a bad referee that shows him life isn’t always fair. As a goalie, the boy will make the big save. In the boy’s mind, he’s just like Tony “O” Esposito, and he beams with pride. Games will be lost, sometimes on the boy’s account. You know, but the boy doesn’t, that the boy will learn more about himself from the losses than the wins. The boy will learn too, foul jokes and a mouthful of swear words in the dressing room. You’ll learn something else that you didn’t want to know. This is no longer your generation. Your adoles-


October-November-December 2021

cent dreams have become as cold as the rinks you wait around for the boy. If you’re marking time, you’re making a scrap book of photos and news clippings like the one your father made for you. Occasionally, you’ll go downstairs to the basement, turn on the light, open the closet door, and look at the row of skates that you’ve been keeping. None of them will be worn again. But you don’t throw them out. You pick them up, one by one, and wipe off the dust. You think to yourself that first pair looks smaller each year. And then you stop putting skates in the closet. The boy has become a man and laid his hockey stick to rest. And the father knows that the boy-man might feel that time has been wasted. The boy’s dream ended; the boy-man didn’t make a career in hockey. But you knew that didn’t matter long before the boy did. When you give a boy a pair of skates, you give him a chance to live a dream, and friends, and teams, and to develop a talent, and a chance to make his name public, and a chance to fail, and to pick himself up and try again. And the boy will have this journey because you gave the boy a pair of skates. And then, many years later, the boy will write this to say, thanks for the skates, Dad.

Greg Beatty Greg Beatty is Canadian with a US law degree. He has worked in Asia for several multinational companies and law firms. He is member of the Advisory Council of Thailand Regional Forum (gregfieldbeatty@

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