Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Forgetful Sisters

Yesterday was a dream come true: a family ski day! My parents met on a double date at Alta ski resort. My dad, Carl, flew his little plane from California to Utah with a buddy and they lined up the date with my mom Joan and her ski-bunny girlfriend. The only problem was that dad really didn't know how to ski, and he was in way over his head with the rest of the foursome. They were patient with him, waiting part-way down each run while he picked himself up. Mom tried to teach him a few techniques and eventually he figured it out. It didn't take long for Carl to develop the same passion for skiing that Joan had, and after they married and had children it became a family tradition to ski together every winter vacation.

Those are some of my sweetest memories, driving to resorts with a station wagon full of gear, leather boots on our feet and cable bindings on our skis. Lunch traditionally consisted of french bread, cheese, a giant link of salami (the kids fought for the "end"), and some fruit. The parents would take the daredevil runs like "KT22" and "Westward Ho," while the kids would stay on the green and blue runs, practicing our 360's and goofing around with a special whistle so we could find each other anywhere on the hill. I've tried for years to re-create these happy times, but that's not easily accomplished in this high-speed world.

Any time my kids will go the resort with me, I rejoice. I hope for those old-fashioned memories even though it's never quite the same. Just the fact that we're all there is enough to bring me joy. When extended family is in town and they want to go skiing, I'm elated. We had a small family gathering at our favorite Wasatch resort over Christmas, and I just didn't get enough together time. President's Week brought another opportunity to be with my college age daughter Sheridan, my sister Katie and her husband Courtney, and their nephew Chase--a family ski day! We set the rendezvous time and place, knowing that we would wait for each other no matter how long it took. That's just the way skiing is, a game of extreme patience.

Thankfully, everyone in this family assortment arrived well stocked with the trait yesterday or it could have been a less than pleasant experience. First, Katie called from her cell phone as Sheridan and I drove up the canyon to ask us if we happened to have an extra jacket in the car that she could borrow? They had already arrived at the resort to find an item missing as they unloaded their car. How a grown woman could forget the most important garment, not even Katie can figure that one out. So we brainstormed back and forth on our phones until we creatively strategized a raid on the lost and found. Her forgiving husband was ready to go out and ski powder, but he was sent in to retrieve a coat for Kate. Patience.

Sheridan and I made it to the meeting spot for the day, and finally we were all feeling ready to stash our belongings in my seasonal locker. I could grab my skis from the locker and head into the fresh snow with the group. But, oops, just one little detail, the locker combination. I used it when I was at the resort in January, but here it was six weeks later and the combo had escaped my memory bank. Katie cheered me on as I tried using "the force," extreme focus and concentration with energy from the cosmos, to bring the numbers back to my fingers as I spun the lock. No use. Courtney came looking for us and I thought he might lose it after the jacket caper. He just gave us a pitiful smile, thankful that his memory was still in tact. The middle aged sisters eventually left the combination dilemma for later; we rented a day-use locker and went upstairs so I could borrow some skis from the demo shop.

The collective attitude of patience yesterday allowed us each to have a great time, regardless of our comedy of errors. We all used this trait throughout the day when one or another in our group of five was thirsty, hungry, frostbitten, lost, or in need of a pit stop. That's the only way to have fun on the hill, by just relaxing and forgetting one's personal agenda. It's the only way to ski with family and friends, the only way for a sport like skiing to be a unifying activity. This is why some people are better off left in the valley, like one friend I'll call Don. He came up to join us on a family ski day over the holidays, and he couldn't understand why it took us an hour after arrival at the resort to get our act together. One daughter had forgotten gloves, another lost her goggles. Finally he sent us a text message: "Hurry, I'm waiting!" He'll need to find another family group to ski with next time; ours is all about patience.

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