“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”— Gerald Ford
Yes, it’s over.
But this time it’s an international nightmare, the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, that is finally over.
I know how many of you simply adored it, all of that macho fun in the snow and the ice dancing. I thought it was over and switched channels. She, who secretly always wanted to dance on ice and favored the skating thing, went crazy.
I said, “It’s over.” She said, “No, I want to see them get all excited and hug each other.”
And then the finale, a combination of Bob Costa’s pinkeye, Cirque du Soleil and the Radio City Rockettes went on longer than the inquisition.
I lost hours of my favorite NBC shows, and for some reason, FX’s “Justified.”
But out of good sportsmanship and to apologize for my hockey explosion, I agreed to watch the skating competition, which I admit wasn’t all that bad.
Ice skating has changed a lot since I was a boy. The women wear much less now, and what they do wear seems to be transparent. I’m down with that. So I gave in and sat closer to the screen.
At one point, she poked me and said, “Remember Sonja Henie? Wasn’t she an Olympic star?”
The door to my inexhaustible room of childhood memories burst open and one winter’s moment, bobsledded out into view. There they were on my brain screen, Sonja Henie and Rosemary DeBranco, she of the one-thousand-and-one pastel colored angora sweaters and simple strand of pearls.
Rosemary, whom at least seven of my 15 devoted readers know by now, was the star of my high school years, and the sexual planet around which all of my dreams orbited.
Rosemary with her thick mass of blond curls, French blue eyes, lipstick color that Scarlett Johanssen brought back to fashion, was the object of desire of every boy in Mr. King’s home room. But for that year, she was mine.
The years have frosted up the glass case of my mind now, much like the salamis in her father’s butcher shop, so I can’t be sure what winter it was. But it was the year that Rosemary’s idol was Sonja Henie, the big Olympic gold medalist and movie star. I think I sat beside Rosemary (no one ever called her Rosie) through three Technicolor Sonja Henie movies at the Melba, the Michigan and the Shenandoah that winter.
It was just after the worst Christmas of my life, in which I had three cold sores and an ear infection, that an indoor ice skating rink opened at the end of the Bellfontaine streetcar line, not far from the high school. Rosemary and her friends, Laura Wharton, who smoked Camels, and Donna DeNoyer who wore White Shoulders perfume and had an eating problem, wanted to go and skate.
Of course I had to be there, though I had no intention of putting skates on my skinny Irish legs. Irish men, my mother said, had enough trouble standing erect without skating.
So to save car fare for Pepsi and fries, I, lathered with cold sore medicine and cotton in my ear, walked eight blocks in the snow, and paid 25 cents to stand behind an iron banister to watch the girls move onto the ice. The costumes were not of Olympic game quality but, as I recall, varied from brown wool to a lot of Catholic school girl plaid and heavy dark winter sweaters.
Then there was Rosemary.
Rosemary, ever the fashion plate, was the apple of her butcher daddy’s eye, and got whatever she wanted, and what she wanted for this debut was the perfect Sonja Henie outfit: red velvet with white fake ermine collar and cuffs and skirt trim in what looked like the furs of Easter rabbits, with perfectly clean white skate shoes.
Be still my beating heart. A man who said he was from the St. Louis Globe Democrat took her picture with a flash camera. It was her day.
That spring I was sent to live with my crazy brother in Seattle, and I never saw Rosemary again. My sister Rita wrote me a letter when I was in New York, and said that they had torn that ice rink down, and that Rosemary had married a Marine and had five kids.
I hope one was a girl and got that skating outfit.
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.