February 20, 2009

Skating on the Lake
Suzanne Lehmkuhl-Beste

Well, it happened. For the first time since we moved here, there were perfect conditions for the lake to freeze as smooth and beautiful as glass. Young and old alike were out on the ice, ripping it up.

I played hooky from work this afternoon and took the kids to the lake. We got out the skates, hockey sticks and pucks. Not balls--what do I know about hockey? Even Cassie got on skates for the first time in her young life.

I'd never skated on "real" ice before. Sammy was more interested in the naturally occurring ice sculptures on the edge of the lake and he used his hockey stick to investigate those while Alida chased the boys around the ice.

Soon an older man started passing the puck with the kids. Between cradling Cassie, taking pictures, and tossing a stick for the dog, I overheard the man take a phone call. It sounded so important; he spoke about the Democratic Party, legislation, and other pressing concerns of the day.

I looked closer and saw it was Howard Dean, wearing an old hand-knit hat and rumpled cold weather gear. He had on beat-up skates and looked comfortable just being on the ice and playing with the kids, coaching them. He finished his call and hit the ice again, having a blast with the kids. Then he took a nasty spill, sprawling flat, and they all rushed over to check on him, but he bounced up, ready to play again.

As the sun set over the Adirondacks and we packed up to head home, Dean put on a pair of ratty sneakers, slung his skates over his back, waved goodbye, and quietly walked away.

I reminded the kids who he was and they said, in true Vermont fashion, mildly unimpressed, "cool," and we headed home for dinner.


Suzanne Lehmkuhl-Beste, a native of California, currently lives on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, with her three young children, two cats, four newts, and six chickens. In her spare time she is a systems engineer, and in her not-so-spare time, she enjoys running, Telemark skiing, hiking, backpacking, and volunteering as a math and Spanish teacher.

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