ski retreat 2014, i.

I took the girls skiing—
the older for the third time,
the younger, for her first.

It was bitter cold up on Marsh Mountain above Deep Creek Lake
in the Allegheny Mountains of western Maryland,
and I was initially apprehensive
about this being the younger one’s first experience on skis,

but we were appropriately layered,
and under blue skies and bright sun, we enjoyed our first day
with ten inches of packed fresh snow from earlier in the week.
They both took lessons,
and even though she was the only child in her beginner’s ski class,
along with eight “old people” (as she called them!),
I went off to ski, sorry there were no other children,
but confident in my little one’s ability to manage with adults.

After their lessons (both proclaiming,
to my great relief and joy, how much they loved skiing),
we got the obligatory hot chocolate in the lodge,
and then we skied together
on the bunny slope at the bottom of the mountain,
and I watched them working at it—
falling and getting right back up—
remembering growing up skiing,
remembering amidst all my falling down the mountain
always having enough of a sense of the possibility
of flying down the mountain to keep at it.
And they kept at it
until the sun went down,
and they finally said they were ready to go in.
And then I watched them do that awkward dance everyone does
after a full, cold day on the slopes,
when you finally take your ski boots off!

The second day dawned overcast with wind and snow—
cold enough for snow to fall as a dry light powder
that still accumulated four to five inches.
And that day, they both knew how to put on their layers,
and each carried her own skis,
and they came out of their lessons
ready to go up the mountain on the chairlift
and to come down the trails.

And we went in for a late lunch with the youth from our church
who had arrived late the previous night for their annual ski retreat.
After lunch, my girls, totally absorbed into the group (and loving it)
were frustrated when told it was time to leave—
frustrated that while they had been so absorbed,
I had snuck out to pack and to turn in all the rented ski equipment—
particularly frustrated that I had squeezed in
a couple more runs without them before turning in that equipment!
And I smiled and told them,
“Usually when you’re skiing,
no matter when you leave,
it’s frustrating!”

And after an hour of driving slowly and carefully
through the still-falling snow,
and then another hour on clear roads—
napping (in the back seat),
and talking about the trails and the falls taken,
the mishaps and adventures
the anticipating and planning of a next time,
picking different music to which to listen,
we stopped at a Mexican restaurant on the way home,
and sat at the table as they made guacamole in front of us,
and tasted each other’s food and shared desserts,
and were tired together and exhilarated,
and the waitress said how well-mannered they were,
and I was so proud (even though I knew they weren’t always!)—
proud mainly of who they’re becoming,
and what we do together that is itself a part of that becoming,
and the gratitude and wonder with which I watch.

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