Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow Bunny

Allie in Tahoe. 
After a four-year hiatus I tried skiing again. I had retired from the sport with a pronounced flourish about eight years ago. The time- money-effort-fun ratio was not computing for me. I was skiing at Heavenly with my stepfather and it was one of those very cold days that was so foggy I couldn't see four feet in front of me. I had the epiphany. This is NOT fun! I made my way down the mountain, turned in the ski boots and decided I would never put them on again. Ever.

Pleased with my choice, I went to the outdoor pool and swam while big, fat flakes fell down on me. I realized it wasn't that I didn't enjoy being in snow country. I loved it in limited doses.  I just didn't like the hassle of skiing. The few minutes of thrill or peace or whatever one can find in the sport was not worth the effort of getting to those few moments. Also, at that time I was really addicted to tennis and didn't want to get hurt. Blowing out your knee on the slopes will really kill your tennis game.

After I met Eric I went back on my vow and did ski a couple times with him, but it wasn't a priority for either of us. The years went by while we did other things. We recently took a long weekend in Tahoe and stayed in a hotel with a melt your heart view of Lake Tahoe.

The first day Eric went skiing and I took a "me" day. I started out walking through a neighborhood but then I came upon a charming graveyard named "Trail's End Cemetery". Although the headstones were mostly covered in snow, you could see how much humor and thought had been put into the memorials. There was a post with two bears and someone's headstone was a pair of ski tips pointing up out of the snow.

Beyond the groovy graveyard was a large, open field. Trudging across that field in the snow brought me back to when I was ten or eleven and would scrabble around by myself in winter. I was such a nature girl and where we lived in New York was so remote and safe that I could go on my own adventures. Most of the homes were only used in summer. I could traipse all over with abandon.

On my Tahoe day I felt like I did when I was a kid. It was so peaceful channeling my youthful self. The only difference was that I was also channeling Pandora through the ear buds attached to my iPhone. I also started channeling memories of other trips to Tahoe when the kids were little. Some of them were sweet - others more traumatic.

Once we went to Tahoe when Lana was five months old and in a body cast. We had this wonderful baby bag that we could stick her in. It was like a sleeping bag with two legs and kept her really warm. One of the challenges of the body cast (which was to correct a congenital hip problem) was to keep the diaper area as dry as possible so the cast wouldn't get wet which would then degrade the skin. We ended up at the lodge at Northstar at lunchtime and it was packed. It was snowing so everyone was taking a ski break all at once. There was no way to get to the restroom and no place to change her inside. I had to put Lana on a blanket, outside on the picnic table for a quick change. A woman walked by and said very loudly, "First they broke her legs and now look what they're doing to her!"

Even without a body cast to contend with, skiing with the children could be very challenging. In retrospect we probably should have availed ourselves more fully of the ski school option. There must have been reasons at the time; such as they refused to attend. It was also very pricey for three kids. So they went with their parents, which mostly meant me. Their father seemed to have a gift for slipping off to ski while I was dealing with the children. I'd get everyone cinched up in her snow gear and inevitably there would be a need for a pee break or a demand for hot chocolate. Why even bother trying to ski?

Allie just adored the snow when she was little and would cry when we had to leave the mountains. One time we had some weather going over the summit and it was slow going in the traffic on the way home. It was quite cold when we left the lake so Allie was buckled into her car seat wearing her snow clothes. After we'd been driving for a while I turned around and checked the back seat. All three girls were sleeping including Allie who was still strapped in her car seat without a stitch of clothing on. She must have gotten too warm and somehow peeled it all off while we drove. Lucky for her, it was a time before Instagram.

Another snowy trip home became a very exciting adventure. The travel was so slow and before we even got over the summit the girls needed a bathroom break. We pulled off and went to a restaurant/lodge at one of the exits. We all hustled into the restroom. Robert was waiting for us in the lobby. I joined him and then came Allie and Lucy. Allie, who was around four years old, announced that she'd found a hundred dollar bill on the floor of the bathroom. Then came Lana (7 or 8) who said she found a BUNCH of hundred dollar bills on the floor.

Part of me just wanted to take the money and run, but I realized I was setting a moral example. I suggested we go to the car and talk it over. It was six hundred bucks and we knew that if we just turned it in we'd never see it again. We also knew we'd feel terrible if it was someone's life savings that had fallen out of their pocket in the restroom. We agreed to leave our name and number in case someone came looking for missing money.

The girls were out of their minds. Lana and Allie sat in the car clutching the hundred dollar bills as we drove home. We talked about it for hours and planned how to use the money if it wasn't claimed. Since the ski weekend had been expensive we all agreed that half of it would go to help defray the cost and each of the girls would get a hundred dollars to put in their bank accounts. Nobody ever claimed the money. We were up six hundred bucks and had a great story to tell.

One trip brought near disaster. It was one of those years with record snowfall. We were staying in a condo that looked like all the others and the snow was so high you couldn't easily distinguish one from the other. In late afternoon I took Lana and Allie out to play in the snow for a little while before dinner.

Lana, as was her habit, wandered away while my back was turned. I started to look for her and got disoriented. Fear shot through me and I raced to the condo to get help. We all fanned out to look for her, calling and searching as the light faded. The icicles were three feet long and menacing. I imagined her being smothered by snow drifting off the roof. I have no accurate recollection of the elapsed time, but in mother years it was a lifetime. At some point we found her with one of the neighbors who was trying to return her. Phew.

Another family outing also did not end well. A major lack of communication ended up with me being left at the resort after a day of skiing. I had no money, no phone and it was getting dark and quite cold. Robert assumed that I'd gone home with my stepfather and Lana and Allie. I never said I was going home with them, but you know what they say about assumptions.  It was near the end of the twenty-year marriage and did not bode well for the future. I was fuming about it for days. Perhaps I still am.

I never skied enough to justify owning equipment so I always rented. At one point in the eighties one of my sisters offered to sell me a pair of her old boots for fifteen dollars. I told her I wanted to try them out before I paid her. Fair enough. I wore them for half a day when a crisis ensued. At the top of the mountain one of the ski boots broke apart. My sock was exposed and it was impossible to ski.

The lift operators chuckled and mentioned something about the Exploding Nordicas. Said it happened all the time. Do you know how one gets down the mountain when one can't ski? On a rescue gurney sled, strapped in, head facing down the mountain. The world is whizzing by, onlookers are gawking and the sled is thumping and bumping along for an eternity.

By contrast, our latest trip was uneventful after the hairy voyage over the mountain in a snowstorm. Eric's solo ski day was uncrowded. He could ski unimpeded by waiting in the lift lines. He was wishing he had a child to take for hot chocolate so he could rest. By two-thirty he'd had enough.

The next day I skied and we met up with Lucy and Greg. Lucy has become quite the boarder and Greg is a wild man. He views the runs as mere suggestions. Boot packing up hills and rough terrain make it that much more fun. For me the conditions weren't great. Dust on crust isn't my favorite, but it was fun to be out there. Maybe I can be a snow bunny for a little longer.

Lana in her body cast in the snow.

Lucy in Tahoe. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Hallmark Holiday

In late January a certain someone and I were in a lovely town with a pleasant atmosphere and charming shops. One of the shops had pink and red hearts stuck to the window. A woman on the street commented with a shudder that the store was already promoting Valentines Day. A certain someone jumped right in with a snort, "Yeah. The Hallmark holiday."

Since I am the sweetie of the certain someone with the cynical attitude, my feathers were a little ruffled. The more I thought about it, the more ruffled they got. I remembered last year when it seemed all the women close to me were with men who felt put upon and aggrieved by this dangerous day. It was so threatening to them and they were anxious about screwing it up.

We know men love the chase. It's their biological imperative.  They are so good at wooing a woman. When that woman is wooed and wowed with sufficient energy the deal is usually sealed. I love the image of the caveman dragging a woman back to his lair, by the hair. Once she's firmly installed by the hearth many men can get a little lazy. Or maybe a lot lazy. To put it in the kindest terms, once he's bagged her, he's on to focusing on other things.

Not so fast, mister. Like I always say, I'm low maintenance- not no maintenance. Women like hearts and flowers. Especially Stargazer Lilies and Tulips. Actually, we love them. Women like gestures on an ongoing basis. Sometimes guys aren't so great with that.  Okay, we probably forgive the lack of gifts or flowers, but don't also trash our day!

It's like Mother's Day for relationships. On Mother's Day we appreciate the special person who gives every day all year.  The same is true for Valentine's Day. I'm sure there are some guys who don't slow down on the sweet gestures as the years go by, but I personally have never been married to one.

Men are so stressed about getting it right they decide it's a stupid occasion. Guys, this could not be simpler. You know those little gestures you should be doing once in a while? Do them now! Flowers, chocolate or a card. Even a panty bouquet from Victoria Secret.  Stop grumping about it and be thankful for all the reminders! They're impossible to ignore.

I've decided to do my own boycott of romantic Valentine's Day this year. I'm going to celebrate with people who really care about this special day- massage therapists and manicurists. No. Not really. I'm going to celebrate with kindergartners. This day is their high holiday and the more hearts and flowers and sweets and treats the better.  I heart twenty-three five and six year olds and they heart me back.

"Hearts and Flowers" card by Jessica Vaughan, Bonny Doon, CA.