Drips and small puddles of coffee, dirty dishes, homemade energy bars cut into squares but left in the baking dish; all of this has been forgotten on the counter. There are pajamas on the floor by the fridge and a couple of backpacks lying in the living room, along with an assortment of outdoor clothing of varying sizes. Had you walked into our house on the first Saturday of January, this is what you would have found. It looked as if we had been kidnapped.
The large yellow backpack, once used for Search and Rescue, stuffed with helmets, kids boots, lunches, and extra clothes stood tall in the trunk of the car overlooking the jumble of boots, poles, skis and anything else that did not fit inside of the bag. I checked the contents of the trunk three times before we pulled out of the driveway, touching every item as I did so and opening the backpack just to make sure the boots that I already knew were there were actually there.
Luke and I are dropped off at the lodge so that we can get to his lesson on time and Erin and Noah go park the car. I heft the backpack onto my shoulders, drape my ski boots over the backpack’s straps, heft my skis onto my right should and grab Luke’s skis and my poles with my left hand. There should be parenting classes on how to get your family’s ski equipment from the car to the lodge. Luke, as he normally does, settles into a saunter despite my quick pace. I stop and turn around to wait a few times sighing as I do so; it is futile, as it should be. He just wants to take in all the new sights and sounds around him. Inside as I get his ticket and find out the details of his lesson Luke slowly turns in circles wide eyed at lodge’s surroundings—the low ceiling, long cafeteria tables, flimsy green plastic chairs, people of various sizes and ages, the metal stove resting on the old stone hearth, wooden cubbies crammed with dirty winter boots and crumpled ski bags. I put on Luke’s boots and he walks around on just his heals, a mischievous grin upon his face. Noah gives him a hug and out the door we go to our lesson.
We meet our instructor and then walk over to the mighty mighty rope tow. Luke’s balance is excellent but his focus is not with all the new sights and sounds of the ski area. This is further hampered when he sees Erin and Noah riding up the rope tow for a quick run before Noah’s lesson. Noah has no interest in stopping to talk or even to say hi. He just points his skis down the hill and goes. By our third time getting on the rope tow Luke wants to try to go up by himself. He communicates this with much pointing for he has flatly refused to talk to in front of the instructor. After three unsuccessful attempts he decides he’s had enough and rides up with me. By the end the hour it is clear Luke has lost interest and we head to lodge for a snack. Halfway there Luke stops and lies down in the snow with a large grin on his face he makes a snow angel, then gets up and continues on his way.
After our snack we go back out to the mighty mighty and Luke tries again to ride the rope tow by himself without success. Soon he has grown bored with the gentle slope here on the beginners hill and starts negotiations to ride the chair lift. We settle on him having to do five more pizza wedges to show us he is at least getting the hang of it. He sets to the task with an intense focus. It is clear though that he is getting tired, and as we try to direct him in the direction of the lift, he gets upset and points to a lift in the opposite direction, the lift that goes to the very top of the mountain. I tell him we can’t go on that one and he starts to whine and carry on. If you can’t listen now then we won’t go on the lift at all, I tell him. He walks away and makes another snow angel then comes back and all is right with the world again.
Noah’s class is about to ride the same lift so Erin rides up with Noah and I ride up with Luke. As we shuffle onto the loading ramp, I ask the lift operator to please slow the lift down.
“I can’t slow it down, sorry, but I’ll stop it if something goes wrong,” he replies.
I take a deep breath, stoop slightly and wrap my arms around Luke and look over my shoulder. As the chair approaches I hope for the best. With a grunt I lift him off the ground and we flop onto the chair and are whisked into the air. I lower the bar but keep my arms wrapped around him, my fear of heights and irrotational thoughts getting the best of me. As the unloading platform draws closer, my mind is slightly panicked. Will I have enough leverage to lift his nearly fifty pounds from this angle? What happens if I loose my balance? Will my hernia survive this? I am concerned about all these things because I want Luke to have a good time. I want him to want to come back and do this again. Erin and I have been looking forward to this day for so long and I don’t want something to go wrong that will turn Luke’s thoughts of skiing from fun to horrible. Just before we reach the platform I manage to calm my mind. I simply stand up holding Luke under his arms. Then I let the back of the chair push us along the platform and down the ramp. Stopping promptly at the ramps base I shuffle awkwardly out of the way.
I position Luke between my legs and have him hold onto my poles that I am holding across my thighs. Our skis are pointed down hill and we are off. At first he does well mimicking the angle of my skis, but soon he is leaning back and when I tell him to lean forward, he hangs off of the poles, his feet barely on the ground. The further down the mountain we go, the more his attention disappears. Teaching is over for the day but we decide on one more run so that we can end on a high note.
“Go fast,” he says as we begin our decent.
With the cold winter wind in our faces Luke lets out yips of joy as we pick up speed. He tries to make parallel turns between my legs, giggling and spraying up snow as he does.