I have snapshots of memories the winter I learned to ski. Like many memories from early childhood I only remember pieces from the stories of that time. Those pieces and pictures come together to form what I think happened, while I’m quite sure there is some important information missing or an error in the sequence of events. Yet these snapshots of the winter I learned to ski, the winter I turned 5, are still developed in living color in my mind.
I picture my dad putting on my ski boots. I remember how they felt foreign and big and not meant for humans. I remember my skis – short and without edges – the only thing available in 1973 for kids that had tiny feet. A vague memory of Cookie Monster comes up when I think back to that winter. Yes, a man dressed up as Cookie Monster skiing too. I remember the ice on the hill as the temps were for sure well below zero in Minnesota. The wind was strong, my toes were cold after just one run, and the ice made me fall, slide, and tumble down the hill. Who wouldn’t tumble and slide because of the ice and the skis without edges. I remember sliding down the hill with my skis flying off and my face catching the ice. My dad bought me real gold earrings for my birthday. These earrings were little pairs of crossed skis – my favorite present for turning 5 – and those keepsakes were ripped clean out of my ears on the way down the hill.
But still I skied.
I skied even after falling off a chairlift. Losing skis off of the lift. Dozens of poles. A few mittens. A hat. My pride. And my courage. I skied after getting dragged up on the hill by a rope-tow because I was too afraid to let go. I skied after falling off the t-bar when I was too little to realize not to sit on the darn thing. I skied after experiencing vertigo at altitude. When my dad broke his shoulder while skiing one day. Also slicing his leg open. I skied even after the lift stopped for hours that one day and I about peed my pants as I watched more adventurous(stupid) people jump from the lift.
I skied after friends’ lost loved ones to ski accidents.
I skied even though I’m not a great skier. And may never be one. And that’s okay.
For me it’s the time on the mountain(or hill here in Minnesota), enjoying the fresh air, the beautiful scenery, the peace from the solitude yet you are never really alone, and the joy on nearly every face you see on each run. I ski for the pink cheeks, the brighter eyes, and the stories at the end of the long day. I ski to be with friends and family and to indulge in eating french fries and drinking hot chocolate without apology. I ski in wonder watching the adventurous, watching the experts, watching the ones that take great dares as well as the ones that are barely three feet tall and are taking their first run. My favorite skiing view will always be the snake of littles winding their way down the bunny hill.
Yet I stopped skiing when I became a mother. I’m not sure if it was because of time, expense, or fear of injury – or maybe a mix of those things – but I’ve stayed off the mountain. I’ve watched instead as Jed has taken the girls skiing. I’ve listened to their stories as they laughed and smiled. I’ve kissed their pink cheeks and wiped their noses that run from the cold. I’ve packed bags, found mittens, and mended ski pants. As I’ve only watched.
But something about watching our last 5 year old hit and enjoy the slopes made we want to join in the fun again. My equipment is old – at least 20 years old – before shaped skis or even comfortable boots it seems. So it was donated and I got outfitted again. Last week I joined my girls on the mountain(okay – hill). My anxiety was high – and not just because I hadn’t skied in years, but because I was doing it alone as Jed was out of town. The anxiety of carrying all of the skis, the poles, the goggles, the helmets, the boots, the mittens and coats – and then getting it all on them, and then getting them out on the hill, and then managing different ski levels – well it seemed exhausting and impossible.
However my anxiety was unwarranted. What Jed failed to tell me was that the two older girls didn’t need any help. Or me really. They carried their own equipment to the chalet, procured their own tickets, put on their own boots, remembered their own mittens, stashed their bags, asked me for $20 for some food, and took off to ski with friends and told me they’d text me their whereabouts and meet up with me in two hours. WHAT THE WHAT?? And two hours later, they had the pink cheeks, the brighter eyes, the stories and the laughter as they ate fries and drank hot chocolate at the table with their friends next to mine. Before I could say much more – they left again – off to ski and make their own snapshots of this winter of their childhood.
So I stuck close to Astrid, as she still needed help with boots, help with the lift, help getting up at times, and hey, she still likes hanging with me..and needs me to buy her food. And I’m going to soak up this time with her as I know now we are only four to five years away before she leaves me to ski with friends instead. But whether she skis with me or not – I will still ski…because last week I remembered why I learned so many years ago and how now I never want to forget that girl who liked making new memories.