Is it safe to skate on the pond?

A few morning’s later, on our way to school, we pass a group of 20 or so people playing an impromptu game of ice hockey on the frozen pond in the park.

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‘Can we go ice skating now?’ Asks my eldest, zipping her jacket up tight.

‘We don’t have our ice skates but we can walk on the ice,’ I say, my voice wavering, betraying the thoughts of plunging through the ice.  I cross my fingers as if that will protect us and pull the Bakfiets up to the water’s edge.

Tentatively, we test the ice, none of us quite trusting what we are seeing. A dog sprints out, sliding across the surface in chase of a ball. We take a few more steps.

‘It’s slippery,’ says my youngest.

The kids playing hockey squeal and laugh as they chase the puck. I can see the water moving under the ice, several inches down.  I feel invincible and totally vulnerable at the same time.  I grip my daughters’ hands tighter.

‘When are we going to be on the pond?’ asks my eldest.

‘We’re on it now,’ I say pointing at the water underneath us and around us.  ‘We’re right in the middle.’

My eldest runs and slides and jumps.

‘Don’t jump, darling,’ I call out, wishing I could just bite my tongue and let her have this.  My heart races.  I remind myself that this lake is only knee deep anyway so even if the ice cracks it will be okay.  The ice creaks and cracks under our feet.  I ignore it.  My youngest slides around like a cat on roller-skates.  The ice creaks and cracks and I see a bubble of water dance in a pocket of air under the surface.  The ice creaks again.  I usher the girls back to the edge of the pond.

‘It’s time for school,’ I sing-song, pretending this is the reason we are heading back to firm ground.

My eldest stomps her foot in disappointment and the ice cracks.  She jumps onto the ground and pulls the broken shard up out of the water.  My youngest is intrigued by the ice and the two set about collecting shards to make ‘ice sculptures.’  I breathe deeply and let them go, ignoring the fact we are late for school.

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