|Take a picture, everyone is smiling on a ski vacation|
“I know, I know, I got to go but PLEASE, just give me one more hug,” he said tearing up. I warily dropped to my knees waiting for the ticking time bomb to explode; I'd been there before, the wailing, the grabbing at me, the complete meltdown. But this time, he pulled me in real tight, gave me one final squeeze and then turned to go. His shoulders quietly shook as the ski instructor led him away.
Wow. What a difference a year makes.
The ski vacation has always been a painful experience for me. When I met Alpha, he had just taken a year off and gone to the French Alps to ski and mountaineer. I had never been on a ski trip in my life -- too busy horseback riding. When we married, he quickly learned the way to my heart was to be able to gallop next to me. He was diligent and very studious; taking riding lessons three days a week. Within a year, I would let the horses rip through the trails of Northern California and he was right by my side, enjoying every minute.
|Osama stopped terrorizing ski school|
It was never talked about but the expectation was I’d do the same for him – so he could continue to enjoy skiing. I had to become good enough so we could spend time together doing what he loved. There were years spent on the mountain with me in tears and Alpha biting his lip in frustration. Every time I showed any signs of ability, he’d steer me to the tip of a black diamond. All it took was one look over and I’d lose it -- putting a bit of a damper on our vacations.
“I’m not sure this whole ski thing is all that great for our marriage,” I told him one evening after giving him the silent treatment for that day's black diamond attempt. “Face it, I may never be cut out for this.”
Never one to throw in the towel, he always re-booked and re-tried. Then the kids came, and with that there was the equipment, boots and ski school. By the time we got to the morning drop off, I was screaming uncle. And Charlie was screaming murder. In fact, we started calling him Osama bin Charlie because the last trip was so bad.
But this year something happened. Mornings at ski school were, well surprising. Osama was a class act. He’d shed his tears with dignity, honor, and then kill it at school for the rest of the day. At the start of our vacation, all four were gone from 9-3. In that time, Alpha blew by me with his amazing grace and, instead of seething with jealousy I’d stay focused, resolved to not taking a complete nosedive.
And there were no black diamonds.
Our first outing with the older kids was beyond remarkable. Before, “ski school” was a parental euphemism for “draining the college fund”. We saw no real value other than it was an expensive way for our kids to get looked after while we fought on the mountain. After two days, to our shock, Olivia and Jackson joined us as confident and competent skiers.
“Oh god babe, I am really, really sorry,” Alpha pleaded as the other two disappeared. It was a gloriously sunny day with fresh powder. We had taken five or six runs before getting to President Ford. “This is a black diamond, I didn’t mean to take this turn.”
But the thing was, I wasn’t looking at the pitch when I peeked down the mountain. All I could see was Jackson bombing down – looking so much like his dad. And Olivia. Fearlessly carving her turns. “Well, if Liv can do it, I certainly can,” I turned to his surprised face and plunged over the edge.
At the bottom, I looked up to Alpha with a smile. He was having a hard time masking his emotions: 14 years and four kids later, we had arrived to the place that he had dreamt about long ago in the mountains.
“C’mon, Dad, let’s peel off and hit more black diamonds,” Jackson begged. And as I watched them ski away, he turned his head back to me, smiling from ear to ear.
Flush with confidence, I looked down at my daughter's eager face, “Come on Liv, let’s try President Ford again." The mountain was finally calling.