The first time Avalon could see this park with her own eyes, I plugged her carseat into the stroller and attempted to walk one loop before she was hungry or crying. I remember figuring out that as a two and a half month old she liked to be awake for one hour and then go back to sleep. I found this out because I nervously unsnapped my top next to the dog park and unsuccessfully tried to feed her next to a black poodle and a lady dressed in khaki who said "It all goes by so fast". It turned out Avalon just wanted to sleep in the stroller. Now I push her on the swings and she squeals every time she comes towards me; what a rush.
Today I had my skateboard stashed in the bottom of the stroller. When I put it there I figured we’d just cruise by the blue-tiled bowl at the skatepark and check to see if it was empty. It wasn't. Instead there were about twelve inked-up dudes sitting around the bowl not wearing any pads. The distant smell of cigarette smoke made the whole thing seem dangerous. Everyone was dressed in black or not wearing t-shirts at all and here we were, this mom with a bright blue helmet and a baby with bright blue eyes. But I knew I had to skate.
Once everyone had taken their turn, I put my board on one section of the coping and looked over the edge. Too steep. I scooted it to another section. Was it always this steep? I stepped back, then smiled and played with Avalon trying to act like I wasn't totally tripping on my own fear. Three other guys went around grinding coping corners and doing disasters in the deep-end. When a guy with a beanie kicked out, I asked him if the spot I had backed away from was the the easiest place to drop in. “In this pool? Yeah, there.” he said, pointing.
I put the tail of my board up to the coping and basically blacked out, ignoring the voice that told me I would fall, that told me my postpartum hair was like straw and my stomach was flabby, that made me worry about Maddie's cancer, that reminded me I wasn't wearing my wrist guards and that my baby was just sitting in her stroller surrounded by a bunch of people that I'd never let babysit.
I made it to the bottom with both feet on my board, but the speed caught me off guard and I yard-saled across the concrete—board and body parts flying everywhere. Exactly what they thought I'd do. But then I heard the faint tapping of boards, the skateboarder way of cheering and encouraging another rider, that gradually increased and mixed with a few whistles. I made eye contact with no one except Avalon who was chewing her stroller strap like nothing had happened as I climbed out of the bottom of the bowl. Maybe I'm not totally unwelcome here after all.
I thought about leaving. Of course I considered it, especially since there was a distinct throbbing in the right shoulder of the arm I used to carry someone who needs me more than anyone ever has, but I wasn’t going leave like that. No way. Not for me, not for Avalon, not for all women and moms maybe. I wasn’t hurt enough. I thought about what I needed to do next time. I’d put too much pressure on my back foot before. I needed to absorb the speed from the drop more evenly between both feet.
Once it was my turn again, I stepped up to the side of the bowl and slid my board over the edge. I placed my front foot determinedly on the rusty front bolts and made eye contact with the concrete. I leaned forward, absorbing the speed and impact with both legs. I made it, then directed my board around the deep-end in a drawn-out curve that was subtle like my smile. I’m sure it was the least impressive thing these skaters had seen all week, but there it was again--the building sound of tapping wooden skateboards echoing around all corners of the bowl as I rode.
(pictures by scott on Sunday evening when we went back together)