In The Beginning

The Beginning of Levon’s Skating Story by Rick Davis.

Whenever I tell people that my son is a competitive figure skater I know I can expect the first question to be.

“How did he get into ice skating?”

My answer is usually. “Actually it was mostly accidental, definitely unexpected.”

Then depending upon how much time I think we have or what I think their real level of interest is I tell them either the long story or a shorter version. Who am I kidding there is no short version.

The Long Story

When Sheila and I were nearing the five-year mark in our marriage we revisited the common question about starting a family and decided it was time. For whatever reason Mother Nature didn’t agree and all of our efforts were unrewarded, enjoyable, but fruitless. So then we had another discussion about all the things we always wanted to do as kids and never had the chance to try. This was before the catch phrase “bucket list” became popular, but it sounds better than a to-do or regrets list, so I will use it here. One of the items in Sheila’s bucket list was to learn to figure skate. We were living in Cross Lanes, WV at the time and her research showed that the closest ice rink was about 45 minutes away in Huntington, WV. So she headed out and quickly signed up for group lessons with Heidi and Richard Hartley. At the ripe old age of 25, Sheila was one of just a small handful of adult participants. She caught on quickly and started thinking about competition. This led to her being in the rink almost everyday, helping with the toddler group lessons in exchange for practice ice and occasional extra lessons. One of the students was the Hartley’s toddler son Ryan, who went on to become a National and World level competitor. Unfortunately, after a trip to the podium in a local competition, Sheila suffered an ankle injury that not only kept her off the ice for a few months, but out of work for a few weeks as well. During this time Sheila had to re-evaluate her desire to join the ranks of competitive figure skaters and decided to hang-up her skates and check that one off of her bucket-list.

A few years later an opportunity to check another item off of Sheila’s list, be an airline stewardess, became available with Mesaba Airlines in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. So we relocated to Cincinnati, OH in 1999 and over the next two years as we developed a group of friends we felt we could depend on to help raise a child, we again visited the idea of starting a family. In March of 2002 we were blessed with the birth of our first child, Levon Reux Davis. As all new parents know it was life changing, surrounded by friends we survived the first year and decided it was not as scary as we thought it would be and decided to try again. In January of 2004, we were blessed with the birth of our whirlwind daughter Dorothy Grace Davis. Little did we know that “Dori” would start the event that would one day lead to Levon’s quest for figure skating gold.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2008. As Levon and I were planning a day of hitting golf balls at the local driving range, I noticed Dori fidgeting with a necklace she had received with a book on her birthday a few months earlier. It was a silver figure skate, I’m still waiting for the friend that gave her this book to identify the book and themselves.

Later that day when Levon and I were headed out the door I overheard Dori asking her mother if they could go ice skating. So, while we were knocking some golf balls over the fence… or well that’s what I remember anyway… Sheila did an internet search for local ice rinks and discovered that her friends Heidi and Richard had also left WV for Ohio in the mid-90’s and were the ice skating coaches and director at Northland Ice Center in Evendale, OH, only 25 minutes north of our home in Erlanger, KY. So of course she hurried to the rink and reunited with Heidi and Richard along with their sons Ryan age 14 and Eric age 9. Ryan had found his way to the podium several times in local, regional and national competitions, a young Eric was following in his footsteps with several medals of his own. By the end of this reunion Dori was enrolled in the next session of group lessons.

Of course once the former pairs skater Richard discovered that we also had a son two years older the talk of Levon joining Dori on the ice started. My first thoughts after watching Ryan and Eric bounce off the ice while attempting to perfect their jumps, was “No way is my gentle little boy going to punish himself that way!!” I had memories of picking Levon up when he fell at the park and consoling him as I brushed the grass and mulch from his knees. I could not imagine him falling on that cold, hard ice and liking it.

Boy was I wrong!

By the end of the six weeks of group lessons, Dori had already decided that while skating was fun, it wasn’t in her future. Although she did skate enough to get herself a Silver Medal in the local Basic Skills competition, yes Dori I know there were only two skaters.

In that same six weeks Levon was hooked and already scheduling private lessons by the third or fourth week, so he could “Shoot the Duck” with his buddy Eric. Later that summer he went on to claim the gold medal in the Basic Skills event of the 2008 Queen City Invitational. I had a feeling then that we were in for the long haul and confirmation came a few weeks later.

Late one night as I was passing Levon’s bedroom, I heard him sobbing and rushed in thinking he had injured himself bouncing off the ice. Instead, when I asked him if he was okay he just nodded and pointed. We had stuck a picture of him on the podium with his gold medal in the slats of the bunk bed above him. He looked at me and said, “I just love skating so much” with tears running down his face. I knew then we were in trouble, that shiny little charm necklace had changed our world forever.