April Fools, 2013

Last week, looking around on Craigslist for hockey stuff, I found this ad:

CCM Hockey Skates, size 12 – $10 (Urbana, MD)

One pair of old but still good condition CCM hockey skates. Leather needs some oil but is not cracked or stiff. Size 12.

Ten bucks for CCM hockey skates is a great deal, and it’s nearly impossible to find used skates in sizes this large. I jumped on it, swapped a few emails back and forth with the seller, and we made plans to exchange last Monday after work.

The gravel driveway is several hundred yards long. When I park I’m surprised to see a house that looks completely different from all the others in this neighborhood: a beautiful, old, wooden cottage with an expansive wrap around deck, multiple barns in sight, all overlooking acres and acres of untouched forest. I knock on the door and an old man taller than me (I’m 6’2″) with pure white hair comes to the door.

“Andrew? Come in, come in!”

Craigslist interactions generally creep me out, but I go inside. He seems harmless.

His house smells like an older person’s house, and there are all kinds of old memorabilia items lining the walls.

Now, here’s what I was originally expecting when I saw the ad:
CCM Hockey Skates

And here’s what actually awaits me:
CCM Hockey Skates
Great, I thought. Now they’re my burden to get rid of.

I give him the ten dollar bill and he hands me the skates. I foolishly almost nick myself holding them with the blade against my skin. Before I can turn for the door, he begins talking again.

“I’m so glad you found my ad. It’s make me so happy to think someone else will get some use out of these. You know, I used to use these back when I was about your age. I went to college up in Boston. In the winter, the canal would freeze over and you could ice skate on it. I liked it because you could skate for miles and miles — not like skating in a rink. But that was a long time ago. I haven’t used them in probably 40 years. It’s probably time I part with them. They’re in good shape though. I really hope you enjoy them.”

Before we parted ways, he told me about the 26 acres of property he has, and how the only person he’s had make it all the way up the driveway and knock on the door was a Jehovah’s Witness years ago (who he ultimately made tea for and talked to on the deck for an hour). He spoke of his wife in the past tense and still wore his ring.

Driving home, I felt less and less like I’d been ripped off and more like I was the owner of a small part of this old man’s soul. I just kept imagining him skating on that frozen canal as a young man, then holding onto these skates for half a century, remembering that feeling he had all those years ago each time he picked them up and considered finally getting rid of them. Something about him letting go of these made me feel really sad, but also really lucky. Maybe because when I look at my first hockey stick or pictures of me on my old longboard I remember that feeling — that pure feeling — and how difficult it can be to let go of those old artifacts that remind you.

Initially I thought I’d just trash them, but now I think I’ll hang onto these for a while.