It’s early afternoon on a Saturday in late October when the package arrives. Scott watches as the delivery guys wheel it around the side of the house, shifting it off the dolly when they reach the backyard. It takes two of them to get the massive box to the spot Scott directs them, but they work quickly and soon depart with a cheery wave.
And then Scott is alone, with a giant, heavy box in his backyard.
He can barely contain his excitement.
Part of him can’t believe he’d never built himself a backyard rink before, what with the role skating has played in his life. But then, he supposes he grew up with a rink practically in his backyard, and he gets to go in to work at one every day now.
And there’s a first time for everything, right?
He turns sharply and enters the house through the backdoor. The television in the living room is on, showing educational cartoons and Scott isn’t surprised at all to see Jane sitting up stick straight and watching with rapt attention. Joseph, on the other hand, is splayed across the couch, arms and legs spread dramatically, kicking his sister every now and then to try to get her attention. Scott huffs out a laugh before moving quietly through the room, headed for the hall closet.
Five neat pegs line one of the walls in the closet off the entry to the home. Scott moves past the diaper bag and school bags and tiny skate bags to reach his own gear, and pulls out one of his skates.
As he’s sorting through the chaotic, yet somehow organized, thanks only to his wife, closet to find the skate, he feels a small body winding around his legs. He glances down to catch a shock of auburn hair and mischievous green eyes looking up at him.
“Hi buddy,” Scott says, stepping out of the closet and pulling the small boy with him.
“Hi daddy.” Joseph pulls at the leg of Scott’s jeans, hands making tiny, fluttering fists. “Up?”
Scott smiles softly at the boy, leaning over and pulling him up onto his hip. “Do you want to help daddy build an ice rink, kiddo?”
Joseph’s eyes light up in delight and he nods excitedly.
“I help daddy!” He cries out, wriggling in Scott’s arms. Scott laughs and sets his son back down when they reach the living room.
“Well, if you want to help, you need to put on some shoes, okay bud?” Scott directs the boy toward the bench beside the back door, where several tiny pairs of shoes are sorted into three small cubbies.
Joseph sits all the way back on the bench, his back pressed against the wall behind him and his legs sticking straight out in front of him. Scott chuckles fondly and kneels before the little boy to help him put on a pair of itty-bitty tennis shoes.
“What are you doing, daddy?” A new voice pipes up from behind Scott. He glances over his shoulder to find Jane, perched on her knees at the edge of the sofa, attention now solely focused on her father.
The way she focuses so intently reminds him so much of her mother, he’s caught off guard.
“I’m going to build you an ice skating rink in the backyard,” Scott explains. Jane’s eyes light up at the words ‘ice skating,’ and Scott grins. “Do you want to help me?”
The girl leaps up off the couch, as if she was merely waiting for the invitation.
“Yes!” She cries out, moving to sit behind her brother on the bench and pulling on her own shoes.
“Okay, Janie. Can you help your brother get a sweatshirt on, please? I’m gonna tell mommy what we’re up to.” The little girl nods seriously, before taking her brother’s hand and leading him back to the hall closet to pull their sweaters off a hook and help him into his.
Scott walks to the base of the stairs before doing something he knows will irritate his wife to no end.
“Tess!” He calls up the staircase. “I’m taking the kids outside!”
He waits for a response for a moment before he hears a door open somewhere down the hall and then his wife is standing at the top of the stairs, baby in her arms, single eyebrow arched.
“Love you,” he says, knowing it won’t soothe her irritation but she won’t be able to resist saying it back.
“Love you too,” she grumbles, and Scott grins. He blows a kiss at her, and she just rolls her eyes and turns to walk back down the hallway.
The grin on Scott’s face grows impossibly wider, and he collects his bundled children and shepherds them outside to the yard.
“Okay, kiddos. First things first, we have to open up the box.” Two pairs of eyes, one hazel and the other green, look up at him with identical focus. “And to do that, we’re gonna use daddy’s skate.”
He picks up his skate, positioning it over the seam where the large cardboard box is taped shut.
“Remember, the blade is sharp, so only grown ups get to do this, okay?” Two little heads bob up and down in response.
Scott digs the toe pick of his skate into the tape and forces the blade across the top of the box. The tape provides slight resistance, and Scott finds himself hacking away at it a bit. He keeps one eye trained on his kids, standing a safe distance in front of him, careful that they couldn’t accidentally get in the way of his assault on the box.
Before long, the tape gives way to Scott’s skate, and he pulls the flaps open to reveal a neatly packed collection of boards and brackets, plastic bags containing stakes and other materials tucked between them, and a liner at the very bottom. Scott begins pulling out the pieces of the boards, piling them up around him.
“Okay, first thing we have to do is put together the boards. Can you help me with that?” He asks the kids, and both of their faces immediately brighten at the prospect of helping.
He gets to work fitting the boards together, Jane helping to line up the pieces, and Joseph bringing the pieces Scott asks for.
“Hey, Joey, can you bring me a corner piece?” Scott calls out over his shoulder as he and Jane finish connecting the last pieces of the first edge. He holds the pieces up for a moment, waiting for the boy to appear.
When several seconds go by and Joseph doesn’t appear, Scott starts to wonder. When Jane starts giggling at something behind him, Scott gets suspicious.
“Um, daddy…” Jane points around him, dissolving into giggles before she can finish her explanation. Scott turns to look over his shoulder to find his three-year-old son tugging the corner piece of the rink across the yard in the opposite direction of his sister and father. Scott sighs. He should have known that involving the kids would be more distraction than help.
He relegates holding-up-the-boards duty to Jane, and turns toward the boy who’s steadily toddling toward the edge of the yard. Scott jogs to catch up with him, scooping the little boy into his arms and catching the piece of the board that falls from his son’s grasp.
“What do you think you’re doing, you little rascal?” Scott growls out playfully, dropping sloppy kisses to the boy’s rosy cheeks. Joseph just looks up at him with those big, innocent green eyes and something inside of Scott absolutely melts.
“Helpin’?” Joseph mumbles out, causing Scott to let out a deep laugh and squeeze the boy tighter to his chest.
“Helping? Or causing trouble?”
“Causin’ trouble with daddy!” The boy cries out, breaking free from Scott’s arms when they reach the rink and returning to his position next to the pile of pieces of board.
Scott shakes his head at the boy and moves to slide the corner piece into place. His son may be the spitting image of Tessa, but his personality is all Scott.
Assembling the boards is slow going with a five-year-old and a three-year-old, but Scott thinks it’s more fun. Jane cracks jokes as she holds up the boards, and several times she signals to him that Joseph is running away again, sometimes with pieces of rink clutched in his little hands.
As he slots the last piece of the boards into place, Scott nods to himself in contentment. The rink is small, nothing compared to the arenas he’s skated in over the years, but he thinks it’ll be the perfect size for his little family.
The three of them move on to fitting the brackets into their designated positions along the outside of the boards. Jane continues to be helpful, moving along behind Scott and sticking stakes into the ground through the holes in the brackets, but Joseph tires quickly, electing to flop down on the grass in the center of the rink.
Fitting the brackets doesn’t take long, and soon Scott is hammering the stakes deep into the ground, securing the boards in place. Jane joins Joseph in the middle of the rink, the two giggling to each other as they watch their father work.
“Comfy?” He asks them, wiping sweat from his forehead.
The kids just giggle in response.
When the last stake is hammered in, Scott steps back to admire his work. It’s not much more than some pieces of plastic secured to the earth, but Scott is already imagining the on-ice dance parties they’ll have throughout the winter on their own little rink.
He pictures after-dinner skates with Jane and Joseph, Jane showing off what she’s learning in her lessons and Joseph still getting his bearing on the ice with the help of his parent’s hands. He pictures early morning skates with Tessa, escaping to the ice before the kids are up, modifying old pattern dances to fit the tiny stretch of ice. He pictures his friends, gathering from all corners of the country and the world, so many of them on this little rink that there won’t be any room to actually skate.
He’s broken out of his daydreams when the backdoor opens with a sharp click.
“It’s not exactly Olympic sized, eh?” Tessa calls across the yard to him, baby on her hip and hair falling from the bun she’s piled it into. She crosses the yard slowly, and Scott grins sheepishly at her.
“Nah, but it’ll do.” He pulls her into his side, sandwiching their youngest between them. “So I bought an outdoor rink.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.” She sasses him, but he senses fondness beneath her words.
“Sorry I didn’t tell you. I just got excited.” Scott feels heat crawling up his neck under the intense stare of his wife.
“Of course you did. I can’t say I don’t wish you had talked to me about it, but I get it.” Tessa rubs a hand over the small of his back and he sinks into her touch.
“Next time I buy a rink for our backyard I promise I’ll talk to you about it first.” He tells her earnestly, and she barks out that laugh that makes him fall in love with her all over again.
“That’s all I could ask for.” She brushes a sweet kiss across his lips, and he smiles goofily.
“Well, I’m all done for the day. Won’t be able to fill it for a couple weeks, it needs to be colder first.” He explains, wrapping his arm tighter around her waist and turning them back toward the house.
“Come on, Jane and Joey. Let’s make some dinner!” Tessa calls back over her shoulder.
Scott smiles ever wider, leading his family back into their home.
It’s three weeks later and mid-November when Scott decides the days have gotten cold enough to fill the rink. He watches the forecast, as temperatures dip below freezing and stay there, and predictions of rain and snow become more and more frequent.
The morning of what he deems the perfect day, he wakes up early. He slowly unravels his body from his position wrapped tightly around his wife, careful not to wake her. He dresses silently in the dark, pulling on the clothes he had folded and set out on the dresser the night before. He presses a light kiss to Tessa’s forehead, soothing the creases that have formed in her sleep, before creeping across the room and exiting as quietly as he possibly can.
He makes it halfway down the hallway before turning into one of the rooms. The bright, yellow walls of the nursery greet him when he flicks on the light. In the crib positioned along the far wall, Jordan has pulled herself into a standing position, and stares at him with wide, alert eyes.
“Morning, bug,” Scott whispers as he pulls his daughter out of bed. Their youngest seems to be the closest to a blend of Tessa and him, inheriting his dark hair and her shiny green eyes. Her ever developing personality seems to be a blend of all the best parts of them as well, their happy, loving, cuddly, laid back baby.
But one way in which Jordan is unequivocally Scott is in her tendency to rise before the sun, smiling through the dark hours of the early morning.
Scott loves this about his youngest daughter, embracing the hours when only he and Jordan are awake, before he wakes Jane and Joseph to get them to school on time and he has to head to work.
He cuddles his little girl to his chest, moving around the dimly light nursery, gathering a clean diaper and clothes warm enough for her to brave the cold outdoors.
She’s easy to change, laying back and staring up at Scott with a sweet gaze. He changes and dresses her quickly, eager to get to work on the rink, before wrapping the sling around himself and tucking her tiny body against his.
He exits the room, daughter curled against his chest, and slowly makes his way down the stairs. He stops to pull his coat on, wrapping it around Jordan to zip it up. He pulls an old Canada tuque over his head, laces up his boots, and shoves his gloves into his pockets before heading out into the cold.
When he’d started assembling the rink a few weeks back, he’d stored the extra materials in the shed at the corner of the yard, so he heads there first. He pulls the liner and weights back to the rink, careful not to jostle the baby too much in the process.
It’s not until he’s standing at the edge of the boards, liner in hand, that he realizes that there may be an obstacle he had failed to consider.
He’d helped his brothers erect backyard rinks in the past, and it had never been too difficult to arrange the liner. But it hadn’t occurred to him that he’d been one of two or three guys tugging the thick sheet of plastic along the length of the rink. Now, it’s just him and his still slightly asleep limbs and a quiet but attentive baby strapped to his chest.
He sighs and gets to work.
He’s not sure just how long it takes him to get the liner sorted, covering the entire rink and not allowing space for leaks, but when he’s happy with his job he lets out a huff of frustration tinged with relief.
He wants nothing more than to take a hot shower and then crawl back in bed with his wife, but he has to finish getting the rink sorted this morning or else it’ll snow and fill the rink and then he’ll have even more work to do.
So he climbs back up to the house to grab the hose. He sends up a quick prayer that it won’t have frozen over, drops the end into the rink, and turns the knob. Blessedly, water starts flowing and gathering in the rink.
He returns to the house, peeling off his sweaty coat and wrapping an arm around Jordan, who looks up at him and coos softly.
“That’s right, JJ! Daddy filled the rink!” He tells the little girl, brushing dark hair back from her forehead. He’s so wrapped up in the baby snuggled against his chest that he almost slams straight into his wife as he steps through the back door.
“Morning,” she giggles as he stumbles at the sudden sound of her voice directly in front of him.
“Oh! Hi, Tess.” He straightens himself out, flushing slightly at the amused grin on his wife’s face. He feels like he’s been caught doing something naughty. “I was just filling up the rink.”
“I know,” she’s still laughing, and he blushes harder. “I woke up and you weren’t in bed, and then Jordie wasn’t in her room, so I went looking for you. I think I saw about half of your battle with that liner out there.”
He grins sheepishly.
“I couldn’t tell that you had Jordie with you at first, and I kind of freaked out for a second,” Tessa continues, reaching a hand out to stroke the back of their daughter’s soft head. “I mean, I assumed you had her, but I did have a little bit of a panic.”
“Of course you did,” Scott says fondly, pulling his ever-worrying wife in against his body. She fits herself into the space of his body that grew and formed around her, and it feels like home.
“The kids are gonna be so sad they didn’t get to help fill the rink, you know. They’re up, by the way.” They’re still standing at the back door, but as soon as she says it, Scott can hear the sound of the TV and quiet chatter floating in from the living room.
“They had their turn when I built the boards. It was JJ’s turn to help.” Scott says with a shrug, disentangling himself from Tessa so he can hang his coat up, pull off his boots, and start in the direction of the kitchen. “Shall I make some breakfast?”
A hand on his bicep stops him, and he spins around to face her once more.
“Breakfast would be great, but first you need a shower. You stink.” Scott lets out an outraged cry at this, causing Tessa to roll her eyes dramatically. “And give me that baby, she’s probably hungry and you’ve been hogging her all morning.”
Scott reluctantly removes Jordan from her position against him, transferring her to Tessa’s arms before he moves toward the stairs. Tessa shakes her head at the pout on his face as she moves to join the rest of their family in the living room.
It’s not for several days after Scott begins the process of filling the rink that the ice is ready for skating. Sure enough, the temperature has stayed stubbornly below zero, but Scott takes his time making sure each layer of the ice freezes evenly before adding another. He wants this rink to be perfect.
It’s a Thursday evening when he finally decides that they can give it a go. All throughout dinner, Jane buzzes with excitement, talking a mile a minute about all the tricks she wants to show him. Joseph just looks up at him and says, “skatin’?” in that soft little-kid voice of his that makes Scott’s heart melt. And across the table from him, Tessa’s eyes shine with appreciation every time the conversation inevitably returns to their impending skate in the backyard that evening.
She may have been unhappy that he’d purchased the rink without consulting her, but he knows she’s delighted now.
When the grown ups have finished eating and the dishes are washed, Jane excitedly leads the family to the closet in the front hallway. She pulls out warm coats and tuques and skating bags and practically runs laps around her family as they dress far too slowly for her liking.
Scott wraps Jordan up in the sling against his chest, wrapping his coat around them both once again. They all stumble out into the yard, now covered in a layer of snow several inches thick, and make the hike toward the rink at the back of the yard.
When they reach the ice, Scott and Tessa pull on their skates and lace them up with practiced ease before turning to their children and helping secure tiny skates onto tinier feet.
They step out onto the ice, lovingly manicured by Scott, and it’s everything he could have asked for. Jane does a few short laps, getting comfortable on the ice, which is rougher than she’s used to at her lessons. Tessa grabs Joseph by the hands and guides him around the rink, allowing him to scramble scratchily across the ice, encouraging him to pick up his feet and uttering soft reassurance.
Scott takes up the rear, holding his baby to his chest and admiring his family as they fill the little rink he built just for them.
He’s skated across the country, in towns he can’t remember the names of. He’s skated around the world, in countries with names he can’t pronounce. He’s skated in charity hockey games and world championships and the Olympics. He’s put blade to ice in nearly every place he’s ever been. And yet, none of those rinks, none of that ice can compare to this homemade stretch of ice in this yard.
He built this rink, he built this family, and he built this life. And that’s more than enough.