In late 2013, I went home to Canada to birth my son who was born during the coldest and snowiest winter Ontario has had in 30 years. I loved it. I loved every minute of the huge snowdrifts against the patio glass doors, the crackling fire in the fireplace of my parent’s home, and the crystallized frozen breath that stiffened my scarf after a crisp walk outdoors. It was divine.
Winter is a season I’ve come to appreciate all the more since moving to Beijing in 2008. Winter here in the Chinese capital is, frankly, a disappointment. The bone-chilling indoor cold thanks to poorly insulated buildings makes the much colder temperatures in Canada seem so much more bearable; at least in my home country, when you return indoors, you can remove your down-filled vest. And without the pristine beauty of regularly falling snow, this city is just like one giant grey-infused shoulders-slumped sigh as it endures the long wait for spring.
My son was only six weeks old when I took my daughter ice-skating for the first time in Canada. We went to a homemade skating rink that is maintained by local volunteer organizations and serves as a place for shinny hockey or free skating for the small population of local kids.
My daughter had never been on skates before. Together, with her godmother, we walked the fifteen minutes to the rink and strapped her into toddler skates much to her excitement. Her godmother and I (both in boots rather than skates) took turns holding her hands and directing her across the ice as she reveled in the feeling of floating. “Mommy, it’s fun! Mommy, I’m dancing!”
I was so proud. I imagined her doing twirls on ice in a few years, able to skate away on her own, flying across the ice freely like most Canadian kids can do by the time they’re six or seven years old. I want both my kids to understand the beauty of skating on an icy surface—like ballet on blades, even if holding a hockey stick.
It’s been nearly three years since that snowy day of Canadian maternal pride, and I’m sad to report that we haven’t been ice-skating since. Sure, there have been a few roller skating attempts in warmer months, but we haven’t been back in Canada in winter since my son’s birth. And, with small ice rinks mostly tucked away into the basement of malls, ice-skating is an under-appreciated activity in this snowless city.
That’s why I just left my Canadian friend a message announcing my plan to take the kids ice-skating in Beijing as soon as possible. I got the response I needed: a resounding yes. Stay tuned! A proud Canadian ice-skating team will imminently overtake the Solana mall’s indoor rink.
About the Writer
Ember Swift is a Canadian musician and writer who has been living in Beijing since late 2008. She and her husband Guo Jian (国囝), who is also a musician, have a daughter called Echo (国如一) and a son called
Topaz or “Paz” (国世龙).
This article originally appeared on page 40 of the November/ December issue of beijingkids magazine. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.