Like many other families on the rez, a lot of my relatives live on a family plot that has been with us for generations. Ours is at the top of the hill on Sour Springs Road. We call it Hillville. The fact our family’s surname is Hill and that we live on the top of a Hill is poetic albeit mostly coincidental.
In between my Gramma Rovina’s house and my parents house is a little dip in the land. Every wet season the dip fills up with water. It’s not a pond really, more like a huge 12 by 25 foot puddle that fills up to pond-like size when we get enough rain.
Most seasons we’d get just enough rain before the temperature goes below freezing to create our own little ice rink right beside my house. And I’m sure anyone else who grew up down the bush will tell you that there is nothing more fun than pond skating under the stars on a cold winter’s night.
Of course we’d head out during the day and slide around; but for some reason it was way more fun to skate on the puddle at night. Mom or Dad would aim the front of the truck towards the puddle and turn the headlights on. We’d be out there with snow shovels clearing the way for our skating time.
There was an old broken metal chair with no seat attached that kicked around the yard for years. My little ‘cousint’ and my sister would push that around the puddle till they learned how to skate without it. Of course the little ones were a pain in the neck to my rambunctious brothers.
“Han:io get out of the way Whitney and Laura!”, they yelled at my little sister and our ‘cousint’. “Go skate up on that other side then! We’re trying to slide across the ice here!”
My brothers Dan and Adam, and usually a slew of other Sour Springs kids like Stu-boy or Jeffrey would be around being all boy-like. Nothing was cooler in the 1980’s than Michael Jackson. And nothing was more fun for pre-pubescent boys in our neighborhood than to run full tilt down the little hill beside the pond and see how far they could slide across it on their knees, rocking out like Micheal Jackson on stage, once they hit the ice.
I skated over and grabbed the metal chair to lead Whitney and Laura out of the way. “Come over here and skate up on this side girls. Watch, those boys are gonna slide across the ice like Michael Jackson.”
Hands down our cousint JD was the best at it though. He was little and fast! “Check this one out guys,” he warned us. Then with Olympian determination and a deep breath he set his face like flint to the other side of the puddle. Next thing you know that boy ran like a rocket down the hill, hit the ice puddle on his knees and slid 12 feet, clear across to the other side – playing air guitar all at the same time!
My brother Dan cheered and yelled out, “Holey bwoot did you see that?” Then all the boys ran up to JD and patting him on the back like he was the champion. It was pure victory.
“Heck that was ace!” the boys shouted out. JD looked down smiling proud and graciously accepted his rez accolades, taking his place as the champion knee slider of Hillville.
Those were the best times. After about a half hour, the boys would head inside for some food. Whit and Laura were too little to stay outside for long and would eventually get called inside to warm up. It was then that my moment was nigh.
Mom or Dad would come out to turn off the headlights of the car. The screaming boys and the little chair pushers were all gone and the puddle was mine.
“Nahnda, come inside for supper!” my mom called out to me.
“I’m not hungry!” I shouted back and then I took my place on the ice.
In that moment I was Elizabeth Manley about to compete in the Olympics. I’d skate out to the middle of the puddle and do a wave to the “audience”. Then in my mind a great orchestra would begin and I’d start ice dancing across the puddle.
In reality I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t skate well at all. But I would grab that metal chair the kids were pushing around and use it to balance myself to do tricks on the ice: skating on one foot in an arabesque was always my ‘signature’ move. I’d lift my back leg in the air and look straight up to the sky.
When the world is dark and the moon is high, everything on the rez absorbs beautiful shades of blue. The moonlight reflects off the snow and some nights it is so bright it almost appears backlit.
As I glided along the ice at the speed of the tortoise gazing upward, for a moment I would stop and fully take in the winter sky. It was a moment of connection. In those quiet and dark moments alone on the ice it was like the stars were a cloud of witnesses made up of all my ancestors before me. Although they were silent – I could feel them cheering me on as I had my shining moment of greatness on a frozen puddle in Hillville.