THE WEATHER REPORT AND HOMETOWN STARS ON ICE
The Stone Sage Lion and I are reporting in and are back on duty. From This Terrace went dark for a couple of performances, and we apologize.
I have been “under the weather” for the last week or so. Stone Sage Lion’s been sitting on his terrace perch, probably a bit lonely. He’s been in the weather and can’t get out of it. It’s been high drama. We had days, strangely too warm, which were followed with chilly, grey, rainy days. His expression might not be carved in stone after all, as he seems to be growling. We’ve had sunless days and that’s bad for anyone’s temper or mood. Perhaps we’re both annoyed but for different reasons.
I began to write From This Terrace in the first days of January for a specific purpose. I was determined to record time, and observations in a time zone other than chronic illness, but it (my disease) caught up with me in the last days. And that made me both sad and cranky. But I best get back to my job of recording this year’s reflections in weekly bites as promised and announced.
The number of emails that came in when I didn’t post last week surprised and touched me. Several readers were worried about me, although we have never met in the “real” world. Those of us who regularly come together each week and gather ‘round the laptop hearth’ do notice when one of us leaves the community.
But we’re back together again on this the 103rd day of 2011. I can’t make up for the time I lost when I was unable to write (or to think). When the clock ticks and the calendar moves to the next days of the year, that time lost is gone forever, but I can go forward. We begin again; we begin now — acknowledging weakness and also our connections to one another.
The origin of “under the weather” provokes some debate. However, the likely derivation is an old British Naval phrase. It was used when the seas were rough and a sailor couldn’t handle the conditions. He was sent under the deck to his quarters and thus was “under the weather” — or away from it.
Weather has a strangely unifying quality in a city like Manhattan, where we are pressed together in small spaces but living vastly different lives. Some of our residents exist in the city with an abundance of wealth and a myriad of opportunities, and others of us with exactly the opposite. Yet, everyone talks about the weather on equal terms, even if our experiences of it are far from that. Weather is an almost safe topic for casual conversation. Unless, of course, one delves deeper into what it means to endure a winter with relentless snowstorms when you’re without proper shelter. Or what it is like to be alone and too afraid to go out in the storms — snow or rain. But weather still belongs to all of us. It’s a common locator where we can meet to conjecture about what’s likely to happen next. Will spring ever come? Or, will we have only hateful, hot, humid summer and be cheated of spring completely? Weather is a zone where we give one another and ourselves permission to whine and complain with freedom and with considerable abandon.
I won’t be talking about the snow, or sleet or hail or blizzards or cold weather again for a long time. This is the official end of the winter From this Terrace. On the 103rd day of 2011, the first year of the second decade of the 21st century, I want to give a big shout-out to a group of awe-inspiring girls of NYC. I think it fair to say that winter might well be their favorite season. Since 1997, an organization has been helping girls in my city realize dreams and go forward in their lives. It is known by the acronym of FSH, which stands for Figure Skating In Harlem. The girls who participate learn far more than how to be good, if not great, ice skaters.
Karen Pazzano Markham, who is married to Michael, coaches a team of 12 FSH members in synchronized skating. All the pictures you see here of FSH girls, and the ones in our gallery, were taken by Michael. It feels to me like these girls have become an integral part of Karen’s life. I don’t want to celebrate the end of winter in this reflection on From This Terrace or say “Good Riddance” to an important part of every year. Instead, I want to celebrate what these girls are doing today and who and what they will do and become tomorrow. Being a self-identified lifelong romantic, I also confess viewing Michael’s photographs and knowing about Karen’s coaching, represent a synchronized marital dance in my eyes.
–It is the first (and remains the only) education and ice skating program of its kind in the United States for under-served populations.
–The girls sign a commitment to maintain at least a B average in their schoolwork. Last year, 2010, 94% of the girls in FSH met or surpassed the requirement.
–In the 14 years of its existence, FSH has a 100% high school graduation rate and a 0% pregnancy rate.
–Graduates of FSH have attended diverse and demanding colleges. Some have interned at the White House, while others have worked at major corporations and in the arts.
I can only imagine what the rest of this decade of the 21st century will bring to the girls who have experienced the power of their dreams on ice and how they will then go on to mentor young girls who are yet to become FSH members.
When I asked Karen about her passion for ice-skating I learned many things about her. I do know that ice-skating is often a family passion and that is the case for Karen as well.
Here is what she shared with me about her childhood memories of skating and her continuing devotion to the art of the sport:
“My parents threw me on skates as soon as I could walk. My dad was an ice skater and roller skater, so he took his little girl out and to see if she liked ice-skating. I never left and have never engaged in any other sport. I started synchronized skating when I was 9 and did it through high school. There weren’t any teams in Nashville (where I went to college), but I resumed skating with an Adult Masters team in Katonah, NY.
I didn’t like skating individually; so synchronized skating was great for me. It’s not all about jumps and doubles and triples, etc. It’s about footwork and precision and teamwork.
My mom became a ‘synchro’ mom and loves the sport. When I was in college and not able to skate competitively, she traveled around the US and to Italy with my friend’s teams to see them skate. I know Mom loves being able to teach the FSH parents all about the sport now.”
Karen has been involved with FSH for two years. I wanted to know how it felt for her to be with the girls and part of the process. I asked questions, such as:
FTT: How does it feel when you see them skating?
KPM: How do I feel?
Proud. They work extremely hard and we demand a lot of them. They always rise to the challenge. Also, inspired. I did what they did and didn’t have to overcome their obstacles to do it. I can’t imagine being a NYC kid.
I am in awe of how smart these girls are. Their skating brings me more joy than my own skating does. Meaning: I’d rather be coaching than skating. I am also very excited to show/tell them all about synchronized skating. This is something that they can continue to do in college and as adults.
If they love it, they can always come back to it. Plus, they get to travel and meet lots of other girls from around the country.
Happy. They make me happy with their amazing smiles and spirits. I’m privileged to know them and lead them.
FFT: Why do you do this?
KPM: Why do I do it?
Because I love it.
Because synchronized skating meant so much to me and always gave me so much to look forward to that I want to give that to them.
FTT: What do the girls mean to you? What is your bond with the girls?
KPM: My bond?
They each mean a great deal to me, to my life. It’s like having 12 children who look up to you to have the right answer.
Karen condensed what I had asked into words and feelings I found extremely moving. What she said about the girls and what I’ve discovered about FSH have inspired me to get out from “under the weather” of my personal troubles. Sadly, I am too old to join on the ice, but not too old to cheer and support FSH in all seasons!
The Stone Sage Lion and I are grateful to Karen and Michael for letting us have a glimpse of the world of FSH, our hometown stars on ice. Join with us and go onto their Facebook page (if you’re on Facebook) and LIKE them. You might also want to visit them on their website.
And needless to say, this is not the last report you’ll hear about FSH on From This Terrace.
©2011 Alida Brill From This Terrace