On my way to work by bike, I ride through a space in which there is a skate park. There are ramps and half-pipes and rails and all the other accoutrements necessary for demonstrating ‘ollies’ and other spectacular manoeuvres with impenetrable names. When I pass by in the evening, the skate park is packed with teenagers (mostly boys) on skateboards or BMX bikes, rolling, flipping, crashing and swearing and generally having a good time. However, on my early morning ride-past, the place is usually deserted. Every now and again, usually in the holidays, there are three people there in the morning: a grown woman, and two small boys.
The boys are, I would guess, about 9 and 11 years old, and I presume that the woman is their mother. She sits on a bench by the side of the skate park, filming them while they trundle about near her, fully kitted out with helmets, knee and elbow pads. They all seem to be having a good time.
I have noted this scene a few times now, and I always find it really touching. The skate park must be an intimidating place if you are younger than the kids who normally go there. You love skateboarding, but you feel uncomfortable about going there with the ‘big boys’. They laugh at your lame tricks, but you’re just learning. You’ll get better, and then you’ll show them. They make fun of the helmet and pads your Mum makes you wear, so you have to try to stash them somewhere before you leave. The big kids make jokes you don’t understand, and you don’t know whether to laugh or not. They ask you things, apparently seriously, but you know that they are making fun of you (you see the sly looks they give each other) and it makes you hot and embarrassed and you want to run.
So you, your brother and your Mum get up early in the holidays and you all head out to the skate park, while the bigger kids are still tucked up in their festering bedrooms. She watches proudly, filming the latest move you’ve mastered, smiling as you sweep about in the cool morning air, the rumble of your wheels echoing around the empty ramps. You know that you’re growing up, and in a few short years you’ll have to make that jump from morning to evening, but for the moment you feel safe and happy. You make a show of objecting — “But Mum, we’re big enough to go in the evening with the others! And do we have to wear the helmets and pads?” — but inside you’re secretly willing her not to give in and let you.