The weather here in Snowstorm region is as moody as I am. Last week, a warm spell melted all the accumulated snow, patches of ground showing everywhere. On our way to Hardwoods Ski Center on Saturday, we drove through thick fog, with farm houses, barns, and fence posts appearing and disappearing behind what seemed to be a white cloud hovering in the valleys. The day was so warm I barely needed mittens although the wind hitting our rain-soaked clothes chilled me through.
Temperatures dropped rapidly that afternoon, though, and by Sunday morning, our world was bitterly cold. As we drove to the Pine Woods Ski Center, the icy wind was blowing powdery snow, swirling it across the roads, fine white snow layered over the rows of golden and brown corn stalks in the fields. The parking lot was almost empty as we pulled into the ski center, but the staff was starting up the chair lift.
The ski and snowboard instructors did not even put up the usual signs for lessons, banners that tell you which class to join, because the wind would have ripped the poles out of the ground anyhow. Very few people showed up for lessons, and we just gathered in one clump on the icy ground, everyone so bundled up that it was impossible to recognize anyone if you didn't have his coat memorized.
To his credit, my favorite thirty-something snowboard instructor acted happy to see me, as if guiding me down a mountain covered with ice was exactly what he felt like doing. "I thought of you on Monday," he said, "I bet you were sore."
"Sore? I was in pain all week," I shouted through the thick layer of fleece that covered my face. He laughed.
I was actually feeling optimistic about this second snowboarding lesson. At home, standing in the warm living room, Boy in Black had talked me through the turns, and thanks to him, I understood the physics of snowboarding and how to get the snowboard to move in the direction I wanted it to go. Boy in Black had also figured out that my stance on the snowboard was wrong. Most people go down the hill with their left foot in front – and that is what the instructor had been teaching me. Boy in Black told me to try riding goofy, that is, with my right foot in the front.
And of course, Boy in Black was right. He is always right. Coming down the mountain with my right foot in front was much easier. (Apparently I am goofy. Who would have thought?) And getting my body to move the right way was possible because I had figured it out in my head. Blue-eyed Instructor was surprised – and probably relieved – that I could negotiate some of the turns. Unfortunately, the icy slope was not the best for learning, and I still took some pretty hard falls, but when Daughter, Instructor, and I made it to the bottom of the mountain, we were feeling triumphant.
"You did great," Blue-eyed Instructor said. He added, "I can’t imagine how sore your butt is going to be."
One of the things I like about bitterly cold days is that everyone comes in between runs to warm up, so that I get to talk to my kids and extras. We always sit at the same table – well, actually two picnic tables pushed together since we are a big group – so everyone knows where to find us. Neighbor Guy and I both bring coolers full of food and drink, which get shared with everyone, and we are constantly giving the kids money to buy French Fries, which we dip into hot sauce. Between runs, we pull off ice-covered fleece, drop our helmets and goggles onto the table, and grab bites of food.
SweetFunnyExtra came over to tell me he had watched me from the chair lift, and that I need to shift my weight more to my front leg. Dark Curly, an extra who works as a snowboard instructor now, gave me tips on how to maneuver my way out of the woods when I go off the trail. Blonde Niece was full of chatter as usual, her blonde hair swishing as she demonstrated a move to Skater Boy and Shaggy Hair. Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter talked about the run she took with Boy in Black, and what a good teacher he is. With-a-Why does not usually say anything when he comes in, just pulls off his helmet and gloves, his cheeks bright red and his long eyelashes crusted with ice, and reaches for some French Fries. He is several feet shorter than Boy in Black and all the other teenage boarders, but they treat him like part of the gang. And you can tell from the look in his big dark eyes that he just loves it.
By the end of the day, the lodge was pretty empty. Many skiers and snowboarders had left, frustrated by the icy slopes and the bitterly cold wind. Neighbor Guy and I began packing up our stuff and figuring out which kid would go in which vehicle, while the kids began gathering their gear. The day always ends with us waiting for Boy in Black and Older Neighbor Boy, the two friends who have been snowboarding together for six years. They take the first run of the day together when the chair lift starts running in the morning, and they are last two up the chair lift at the end of the day, just before the staff shuts it down. We all peered out the window to watch them come down, knowing that they would do a few show-off moves on this last run of the day, with their families watching. Daughter and I exchanged a smile as we watched. It's not the cool snowboarding moves we are noticing, but how adult Boy in Black has become – and what a nice young man he is.
Daughter and I were the first to get out to the car, both of us eager to get home to a warm fire. As we watched the kids carry their gear across the parking lot, we talked about how quickly the boys are growing up. Shaggy Hair, who knew we were watching him, pulled his helmet off so that his long curls were blowing in the wind, and strutted across the parking lot with his snowboard under his arm, giving us the corny smile of the cool snowboarding dude. We were both laughing as the kids climbed in and we started the drive home.