Polyurethane wheels spin furiously as gaggles of giggling children race past in a rush to get nowhere. Parents talk amongst themselves casually while always keeping a watchful eye on the rink, anticipating the inevitable fall of a child that they hope will not be theirs. The scent of freshly baked pizza wafts throughout the building, enticing the families as if all this excitement were not enough to build up an appetite. This was the place to be on an idle Saturday in this small suburb of New Jersey, drawing in dozens of children and preteens every weekend. “My party has to be here, mom!” I whined, convinced that nowhere else would be quite as fun, even though every other kid in my class celebrated their birthday there as well. So instead of hosting a hair-braiding, truth-or-dare slumber party, or going to see the latest preteen comedy movie, my birthday festivities would of course occur here, at United Skates of America.
I waited the month or so until my party with bated breath, patience not one of the virtues bestowed upon an (almost) ten-year-old. When the day had finally arrived, my family piled in our car with my two best friends; Eileen, a slightly too tall for her age, kindhearted Irish brunette, and Jen, a spunky blonde tomboy with one of those smiles that stretch across the face and matching dimples to go with it- the rest of the eager party-goers would meet us there.
We arrive at the rink, a large concrete building with paint the gray color of dingy gym socks peeling in various places around the entrance, the poorly marked building easily missed by the untrained eye. A sign decorated with faded primary colors that barely still read the name of the rink hangs to show that the facility is still operational.
Car doors slam open and then shut again as children dash from the vehicles, the gravel of the unpaved parking lot crunches underfoot. Children immediately begin to chatter amongst themselves as though they had not...