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What I learned on the bunny slopes

Back in my early years as a mom, I came across a series of books that outlined what parents could expect from their children at certain grade levels: What Your First Grader Should Know, What Your Seconder Should Know, and so forth. Random House has since published revised editions (as if basic standards change) but I think the same core standards are there. You know, things like word problems, the order of planets and the Nile’s north-flowing stratagem.    

I found those books helpful because they spelled it out plain, the what’s and the when’s of education. Learn this by then. Move forward only after the “this” is mastered. Recently, that personal bent came into play when I hit the ski slopes for the first time in my life. But let me back up a bit.

While Brookhaven was experiencing its own ice storm, my clan (all 16 of us) was on Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. The white stuff fell like crazy there, and the temps dropped below zero. Those who know their way around a slope deemed the conditions “perfect.” I was just glad the snowplows and salt shakers kept the roads hazard-free.

There are various reasons adult children rent a mountain chalet at a ski resort for a week and invite their siblings, their siblings’ families, and their parents to tag along. The list would include lazy suppers by the fire and late-night rounds of Pictionary. But I know my place in life. I was there to baby sit.

And babysit I did — six kids under five, three in diapers. We had some good bonding time watching snow fall outside the A-frame windows, and we even managed to start a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce. Finding signal to respond to an editor’s request for some photo cutlines proved more difficult.

Alas, my sabbatical ended, and on the third day I was pushed toward the slopes. You must try it, they said, my prodigy with their tales of green slopes, black slopes, double-black slopes, and one called “Widow Maker.” We rented the gear and began the walk to the starting point. Two minutes into it, the weight and height of the ski boots were working on my shins. 

“You’ll love it,” Son No. 1 assured me.

“You’ve got it, Mom,” Daughter No. 1 encouraged.

My husband was the only realist. “You’re going to fall. When you do, push a pole into your ski like this,” he said, showing me the magic lever. He showed me other things too, like how to lean backward to get on the lift and how to wedge, my new favorite word.

“WEDGE! WEDGE!” he called out again and again, that two-day skiing wonder-of-a-husband of mine. For those of you who, like me, think of wedges in terms of lettuce, let me fill you in. In skiing lingo, wedging is widening your legs in a pigeon-toe move while pushing out on your ankles. Still unclear? Let me put it simply. Wedging is how. you. STOP.      

Turns out I’m not such a good wedger. Not so good at getting on the cool, covered escalator at the bunny slopes either. Shut the whole thing down, I did, and that’s not even the worst part. About two hours into my very limited time on the slopes, I fell for the umpteenth time. A foreign ski instructor stopped to help me up at the precise moment my kids decided to check to see how ol’ Mom was making out. 

“Who was that guy?” they chided, all the while skiing circles around me. I could see they were laughing, even behind their goggles, face masks, neck gaiters, and all the other layers required to survive a blizzard.

Which brings me back to the “learn this by then” idea I mentioned earlier. There should be (probably is) a checklist for first grade skiing — learn to balance, learn when to learn forward or backward. I needed the what’s and when’s spelled out plain.

Even so, I’ve got to say I did enjoy my moment in the snow. From my spot where gentle slopes reigned, I could take in the whole picture: Mountain ranges in the distance. Flocked firs and snowboarders doing their tricks. Preschoolers flying by like they’d been skiing for years. Happy couples riding the lifts. And every now and then I’d hear a Red Cross snowmobile crank up and take off down the hill to offer aid.

I guess someone forgot to wedge.    

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.