It was a girls-only kind of weekend. The dads stayed home.
We rented a cabin in the Pennsylvania woods, all of us girls, piled into one two-story bungalow.
Within five minutes of driving into camp I had surveyed the outlying trails for roller skating routes. And yes, I mean roller skate not roller blade. For years I skated on a pair of hand-me-down quads with bright blue wheels. For some reason I never crossed over to inline skates.
June, however, had a slick pair of roller blades — the newest hottest ones on the market.
As we puttered through the campground in Wilma’s minivan, the two of us peered out the windows, our noses pressed to the glass. When we spotted our Everest, we gasped.
It was the granddaddy of all downhill trails. Paved with crumbling black top, riddled with potholes and ending in a sharp plummet, it was the most treacherous trail we’d ever laid eyes on. If it had been any steeper, it would have been a cliff.
As Wilma’s van rounded the corner, June and I implicitly settled on our first skating route. We were fearless.
As soon as the last sleeping bag had been dragged from the van and carried up to our loft, June and I strapped on our skates and announced that we were hitting the trails.
“Don’t go down that hill by the front gate,” my mother said.
June and I exchanged eye rolls.
“I’m serious,” she continued. “DO NOT go down that hill.”
“You’ll kill yourself,” Wilma said.
“Don’t worry,” I lied. “We wont.”
And off we went. June in her roller blades, me in my skates.
Unconcerned for our safety, we blatantly defied our mothers’ warnings to steer clear of the Everest trail. We made a beeline for the summit.
I was leading the way in my clumsy quads, stumbling over potholes, flying through the campground like a jacked up roller derby girl. June was on my heels, gliding in her neon blades.
We rolled to the top of the hill and paused only briefly to take in the free-fall, before howling with glee and pushing ourselves down the incline.
We began hurtling downhill faster than we imagined. Within seconds, the rush turned to terror. We were on a suicide mission.
Using the back brakes on her blades, June managed to stop herself with remarkable ease.
I was not so lucky.
I was flying down a hill on roller skates at 30 mph and unlike June’s brakes, mine were located on the front of my skates. The toe stop.
The longer I thought about braking, the more out of control I became. I was picking up speed faster than Picabo Street, except instead of snow-plowing my way to a halt, I fell knee-first into the pavement and slid for 10 feet, my shin skidding across the concrete.
The resulting road rash ran from my knee to my ankle.
June started to cry.
I pulled off my skates. Pulled off my socks. As June tiptoed to my side, bawling over my fall, I asked her to give me her socks.
“Wh-wh-why do you need my s-s-s-socks?” She whimpered. “You’re totally b-b-b-bleeding.”
“To stop the bleeding,” I replied.
I was stoic, preoccupied with concocting the story we would tell our mothers when we got back to camp.
June pulled off her blades and handed me her socks. I tied them to mine and fastened the cotton around my leg, pulling it tight to control the bleeding. When the wound was dressed, we headed back to camp on foot, our skates slung under our arms.
We told our mothers that I had skated into a pothole. They believed us until they overheard June whisper about the Everest trail the next day.
Needless to say, my mother was pissed. She didn’t ground me while we were camping. That would have been wicked. Instead I paid for my recklessness a few weeks later when my family embarked on their annual pilgrimage to Fantasy Island, an amusement park in Grand Island, N.Y.
We were all out of large bandages, which as you might imagine, I went through a lot of that summer. So in lieu of a bandage, my mother used a maxi pad. She covered it with an Ace wrap and promised me it wouldn’t budge. She told me it was no different than a big Band Aid. She told me it was more absorbent.
I rode the Mouse Trap roller coaster, the Flying Bobs, the Ferris Wheel, the swings, even the log flume while the rag remained discretely concealed under the Ace wrap.
And then my family decided to hit up the water park.
At this point I wasn’t thinking much about the Stayfree maxi with wings wrapped around my shin. It had held up so well, I didn’t consider what might happen if my leg plunged under water.
I scaled a set of circular stairs to the top of the tallest water slide, wiggled onto a thin blue mat and pushed myself down the chute.
I tobogganed like a guided missile, banking curves and loose spirals until I dropped into a pool at the bottom of the slide, where an adorable male lifeguard was sitting guard and my Opa was standing nearby.
As I stood up in the water, I quickly realized the wrap had unraveled. The pad had fallen off my leg and was floating bloody-side-up behind me. There was no denying it was a rag. It had wings.
I had only one option: distance myself from the thing as quickly as possible.
As I trudged out of the water, swiftly, awkwardly, red-faced and humiliated, my Opa began yelling in his thick German accent.
“Heidi! Your bandage! You lost your bandage!”
The lifeguard and I locked eyes. I imagine I looked like a wounded deer. I wanted to yell out, “It’s not what it looks like. I’ve got no skin on my leg. We ran out of Band-Aids. I live with three women. We’ve got a lot of rags at home. They actually work better than gauze. They’re more absorbent.”
But I didn’t say any of this.
Instead I waded back into the pool and fished out the feminine napkin.
I didn’t roller skate for years after that.