I married into a family of snow skiers. I didn’t know that before the ceremony, but a few months later I found myself on the slopes trying desperately to learn this sport that was quite foreign to my African upbringing. The problem (I mean beside the fact that I am hopelessly uncoordinated) was that I was four months pregnant at the time. I was sadly lacking in stamina, so every three or four feet my knees would buckle and I would have to wait in the snow until Strokeman could make his way to me to help me get back on my skis. It was discouraging, and I ended up spending a lot of time drinking hot chocolate in the lodge. It took several trips to the slopes before I began to feel the balance tip from being more work than fun to more fun than work. About the time I felt like I was getting “pretty good,” Strokeman decided I needed to try longer skis, and the scale started tipping the other direction.
I knew i had to learn, though, or be left behind for family vacations, because though we sometimes talked about doing other things, whenever we started seriously talking vacation, we ended up back on the slopes somewhere in New Mexico or Colorado. Sometimes I was a little irritated with that. When I think vacation, I think of white beaches and saltwater waves. But I was outnumbered, and honestly, we have some pretty great memories of the various trips to various locations with various friends.
The older kids were already pretty good at skiing by the time we married, but I remember watching the younger ones learn. The boys caught on pretty quickly, but poor Faith had to overcome her fear of heights. She did pretty well on the kiddie lift in the ski school area, but when we got on the lift to the bunny slope, she began to get more nervous the further we got up the hill. When we got off the lift and rounded the turn to head down the mountain, she freaked. She began to scream at the top of her lungs, “NO! I can’t go down there, I can’t! Even if you spank me I can’t go down that!” Suddenly I was a little freaked too, hoping that someone wasn’t going to call child welfare and tell them I was forcing my child to ski by beating her. We finally got her calmed down, and after riding down in the protection of her daddy’s arms, with his skis on either side of hers, and his poles held in front of her to give her something to hold onto, she began to feel the call of the mountain. Next came the transition to snowboards for all of the kids. Strokeman and I never caught that bug, but I think all but maybe one of the kids have left skis behind for good.
It wasn’t long before the three younger kids were safe to go off by themselves which left Strokeman and me to amble our way down the slopes at our own pace. I learned to use a little shorter ski, and I learned to dress in layers and steel myself against the cold. It was good to find something that everyone could enjoy at their own pace, and then meet back at the lodge for a hot meal and a good rest.
The year before Strokeman’s fateful day, we took a trip to Winter Park, Co with our two youngest children and their fine arts academy. To my surprise, Strokeman decided we should just ride the bus with everyone else. He said he used to go on church group ski trips that way and that he thought it would be fun. Turns out he had grown out of that kind of fun. At any rate, the trip had been planned well by the school administrator, and we were booked in a lodge with ski-in/ski-out access. While we had planned for our kids to stay in our room with us, they soon found other friends to bunk with, and we ended up with the place to ourselves. We would get up in the morning, have breakfast and a nice cup of coffee, put on our ski clothes, and make our way out the side of the building to the pass that took us down to the lifts. The weather was beautiful, and we pretty much had the day to ourselves. I have to say, of all the places I have skied, this was my favorite. There are a large number of runs that are just the right amount of challenge and ease. I had a blast. On the last day, we rode the lift up to the very top of the mountain. We had noticed that there were ways to get down from the top without ever having to get on a difficult run. It was absolutely glorious. There was one part at the very top where the pass was a little narrow, and I took it really slow. But after that, it was just fun. There were incredible views, it was so peaceful, and I was not falling at all. I had never had such a thrilling time in all the years we had skied. When we got to the bottom, I wanted to go back to the top and do it all over again, but Strokeman was tired, and there wasn’t enough time before the lifts closed for the day. Instead, I just went up part way and did the last runs again.
I got the worst snow/sunburn I have ever gotten, probably due to the amount of time I spent doing that long run without ever getting in the shade. The trip home was excruciating – lots of grumpy kids and adults. But it was a wonderful experience. Once more, this is something that probably won’t happen again for me. I don’t see talking Strokeman into trying to learn how to ski with his present disabilities, although it is done by others. So I am so thankful that it ended on such a good note.
My kids continue to find ways to make it to the slopes with their spouses, or with their friends. My oldest son will be skiing with my army son in the Alps this month or next. My youngest son just texted me this picture of him and his girlfriend on the slopes at Wolf Creek. I am happy for them, and, yes, a little envious. But once in a while I run into someone who has never gone skiing at all. I have been there, and I have done that, and I have these moments.