The sound of falling children

Today was Christmas Eve.

(several things about the use of tense and deixis in that sentence don’t seem quite right, but whatever)

Since I don’t have much of a family with whom to spend Christmas, I passed Christmas Eve at a major shopping area, soaking up the Christmas spirit and enjoying all the busy people, decorations, and music.  And, I’m not being facetious when I say that; I love this stuff.  I’m not part of a large family, and we never really had much in the way of Christmas tradition, beyond the requisite small tree and presents.  So, for me, Christmas has always been about shopping malls.  And, I mean that in a good way.

Of all the things that are great about Christmas in a shopping district, though, the best by far is the skating rink.  There is a tiny one in the middle of the shopping square at the heart of the city, and… it’s absolutely hilarious.

It’s basically decorative.  It’s there beside the giant tree, and the Santas and elves, and the coffee shop, in between Macy’s and Tiffany.  The ice is lit by pretty green and red lights, and the whole thing is just very fun and Christmas-y.  That’s not what makes it hilarious, though.  What makes it hilarious is its size, and as a result its clientèle.  It’s a very small rink, more a “patch,” and so anyone who can actually skate really can’t use it because there’s nowhere to go.  Therefore, it’s only good for people who “skate” by walking slowly.  So, basically, it’s all old people and little kids.

Now, I won’t talk about old people falling.  That’s not funny.  Well, yes it is, but it’s still not cool to talk about it, because it can be serious and they can break hips and whatnot and if they lie there for too long and don’t have an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button then sad things can happen.

But, children falling — that’s funny.

Of course, when you’re three feet tall, the skating rink seems plenty large.  And, maybe there’s less fear of falling when you start only half as far from the ground in the first place?  I don’t know.  But, there’s no denying that it was practically raining children on that patch of ice today.

It is a wonderful quality of little kids that they don’t always know when they should be afraid or careful.  This leads them to leap joyfully into situations that make an adult tremble.  When you mix this innocence and fearlessness with slippery surfaces, you end up with children flying about and crashing into one another like petanque balls.  Some love it.  Some are more confused than the time that dog came to sniff their stroller.  Either way, it is pure unadulterated joy to watch for any adult who isn’t personally concerned about the children involved.

As an aside, I think it might be evidence for the existence of God that two dozen children can successfully, without injury, and yet also without any skill, grace, or control, participate in an activity that involves navigating a very slippery surface with swords attached to their feet.  Really, some of those kids should have come out of there missing limbs.  And, yet, no one was hurt, and everyone had a good time (at least for the few minutes that I was watching).

That ice rink was a metaphor for the entire day: too many people, who don’t know quite what they’re doing or where they’re going, in a very small space, careening into each other, and in the end you just hope that everyone has a good time.  And, somehow, they do.  Presents are bought, food is eaten, Santas are sat on.  A good time is had by all.

And no one loses any limbs.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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