• Carmen Marie Fabio

Cheap skate


Telling people I live near Lac St-Louis typically evokes two reactions – they assume a nice cool wind blows in of the water's surface in the summer and that we skate on it in the winter.

Both are generally false.

Wind only blows in from the direction of the lake when bad weather is coming. And in the winter, unless we're really lucky and get a flash freeze on a calm day, the ice on the bay is choppy, bumpy, and more often than not, snow-covered.

With the exception of a single winter in the last two decades in which ideal meteorological conditions blessed us with an unblemished skating surface – one that allowed us to glide the entire shoreline of the eastern side of Île Perrot – skating season is mostly a crapshoot.

Good Canadians that we are, we gamely trudge out with naive optimism, hauling skates, lawn-chairs, and the dog, determined to spend a majestic picture postcard afternoon getting exercise while cultivating memories and rosy cheeks. At least that's how I always picture it.

On one of our last attempts on a bitterly cold day as I sat in the lawn-chair trying to tie up my skates, I reflected on how difficult it was to hold laces with frozen fingers.

“Do professional hockey players go through this?” I asked my son.

“Nah, they have someone paid to do it for them,” he answered.

“In a heated locker room,” added the second.

The family dog whined softly and looked towards the house.

My postcard scene was not happening.

Our dog, who by now has exhibited his saturation point with winter by often refusing to budge any further when we're out on a walk, dragged me back home well before his (and my) allotted exercise time the other night. Figuring he was bored with our usual route, I detoured into an adjoining cornfield to find exquisite ice surfaces punctuated only sparingly with air bubbles and dried corn stalks, better ice than I'd seen for years on the lake.

“I wouldn't risk it,” said my husband as I later described my find. “Too dark, too dangerous.”

Knowing more bad weather was in the forecast, that pristine surface that would soon disappear beckoned my freshly sharpened skates.

“I'm gonna do something dangerous,” I told my son. “You in?”

“I'm in,” he answered.

And though the ice patch wasn't huge, and the light of the streetlight less than ideal, the skating under the clear, windless sky was absolutely perfect.

Yes we hit bumpy patches, bubbles, and at least one frozen mouse corpse.

We stumbled, fell, got back up and did it again.

As we go to press, the snow has given way to freezing rain and, in keeping with this odd winter, the whole field will be a soggy, muddy mess by week's end.