Our backyard ice rink that my dad puts up every winter is 80’ by 60’ and takes about thirty man (dad) hours to build, fifty hours to flood, and a total of 35,000 gallons of water. It is made of long plywood boards, decorated on the outside with colorful costumed penguins that my sister and I painted over the years. In each corner of the rink, tall wooden poles connect strings of soft glowing lights, which extend around the perimeter of the rink, and there is one center pole that holds a spotlight as bright as a full moon, so that during the long winter nights, we can still skate under a frosty glow.
I remember one winter when my sister and I were both in middle school, we had a massive blizzard that even the snow trucks couldn’t get through to plow the roads. That night, as soon as we heard news of the snow day we rushed out to shovel the snow off the ice and played hockey until the early hours of the morning. We were so hot from playing so much that we ended up in our t-shirts, in sub-zero weather.
Another winter, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we invited our neighborhood friends to come skate since it was outdoors and socially distanced. This made the lonely virtual school days go by much quicker.
Whether it’s due to global warming or just a strangely warm Michigan winter, this season we’ve had, for most days, a tragic, massive puddle sitting in our backyard instead of a skateable ice rink. Looking out on fifty degree days and seeing this giant pool of water has inspired mixed emotions in me; on the one hand, it’s warm enough to run safely and comfortably in Michigan February (!), but on the other hand, we miss the magical moonlight skating until 2 in the morning with only the snow-covered backyard trees as our witness. I hope this winter was only a fluke and not a foreshadowing of climate change to come.