My oldest son and I had a conversation recently about his first ski trip. We were driving in the car talking and listening to music. We approached the subject of our ski trips in our musings.
Let me preempt this story with, I love the winter. About the only thing about winter I do not like is the fact that when it ends it means summer is not far behind.
So when my young family was given an opportunity to adventure out to the small mountains and ski slopes of Wyoming for our first skiing attempt, I was ecstatic. We drove, with our church group, to our snowy destination. I had never skied before but I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. The decision was made that my twin boys, at the age of 3, were too young to ski with their inexperienced parents and they would stay with their grandparents for the day. So off to the slopes we went. My oldest son, age 5, had never skied or even seen the towering monolith mountains. He seemed reluctant on the 9 hour drive to the mountains that there would even be any snow to ski in, since there wasn’t even a trace of snow in sight on the endless car ride. As we approached the ski lodge the snow was piled taller than the lodge itself. He was awestruck. We moved like cattle through the waiting masses of people all trying to get to the mountain. Everyone wanting to ride up and fly down as quickly as possible over and over again. I enrolled, my then little boy, in ski school. His parents, being of the mindset we would be self taught ski enthusiasts, headed to the “bunny slopes” to try out our new shoes. If anyone has ever tried to learn, as a twenty something adult, how to ski you will know it is not as easy as all those black slope riders make it look. I was pleasantly surprised that I, at the top of the carpet ride and crest of the slope could see ski school. My little boy standing clad in all the winter gear this protective mother could wrap him in, feet firmly affixed to his long thin skis, poles in his little fists. Then it happened, every fiber of my being contracted in fear and shame, my son picked up one foot and then the other, turning his whole body and his back on the instructor. He slowly let gravity slide him down a little snow pile, away from the class. His head was down, I could tell from his posture he was done. Whatever had happened in the ten minutes it took for me to ride a ski carpet to the top of a tiny hill, he had checked out of learning from any outside person. I skied/flew/tumbled to him quick as my untaught legs would take me. I remember asking him what was wrong, why he had left class. I remember admonishing for leaving the group we had instructed him to stay with, reminding him how dangerous it was for him to do that. His defiant, tearful eyes told me he was still my stubborn five year old. “I don’t want to go to ski school!” was the only explanation we got from him, or at least that was all I remembered.
We skied the day as a threesome. I was learning by falling. My son was content to let his father hold him in front of him. Between his long skis were another small set of skis. We spent the rest of the day trying not to plow into anyone else on the mountainside. It was all I imagined it would be. I loved every twist and turn. I loved the cold of the snow when I fell, repeatedly. We left the slopes late in the afternoon feeling worn out and tired. My exuberant little boy still full of energy after a snowy day of being carried.
On this the road trip, with my now 15 year old, we started to reminisce of our skiing experiences. I asked him what happened with the ski school way back when, in Wyoming. I was hoping he would open up to me now, as an almost adult, about why he reacted the way he did. With all the bravado of a teenage boy he simply said, “I thought you were leaving me.” My heart stopped. If only he knew then, what I know he knows now….I will never leave you my son.