Since it's winter vacation, my three boys have the week off from school, and they've left town on a trip with Spouse. When my Wonderful Beautiful Smart Daughter, who has a room in a dorm at Snowstorm University, told me that our extra kids were bored and sending her instant messages constantly, we came up with the plan to take the extras snowboarding last night. Neither Skater Boy or Blonde Niece have ever been to the ski slopes at night, and they were eager to see what it would be like.
Late afternoon, I piled snowboard gear into the car and picked up a bunch of our extra kids – Skater Boy, Blonde Niece, Older Neighbor Boy, and Philosophical Boy. Something funny seemed to be going on with the temperature gage in the car, though, and by the time we reached my daughter's dorm, the thermostat light was blinking, and some kind of horribly obnoxious alarm was ringing. I was in favor of just ignoring the alarm, but since Blonde Niece had a cell phone, I decided to call Spouse and see what he thought of the situation.
"Oh, that's very bad," he said immediately. "Don’t drive any farther." He assured me that if I drove any farther, the engine would seize up, the car would explode, and the universe would end. I think he may have been exaggerating a little, partly because he gets frustrated at my willingness to ignore all manner of engine lights and troublesome noises. Actually, he was quite calm in giving me advice – from thousands of miles away – until I happened to mention I had taken his car instead of mine. Funny what a difference that seemed to make.
At that point in the conversation, my daughter came out of the building to get in the car. "What's going on?" she asked, overhearing my sincere reassurances to Spouse that I was indeed taking very good care of his car while he was gone. (Well, maybe they were not sincere. I was heartlessly laughing at his reaction.)
"The engine might explode," said Older Neighbor Boy, "But we're good."
Our plight set off a flurry of cell phone calls, including calls from Spouse to both Daughter and Blonde Niece, begging them to save his car by convincing me to call a tow truck, which is apparently some free service that came with the car. Luckily, I live in a community full of all kinds of helpful people who can be reached by phone. Neighbor Guy, sympathetic to our plight, arrived with his van, and offered to let me take it to the ski center. Neighbor Woman arrived in a different car and offered to stay with Spouse’s car until the tow truck arrived. So I loaded kids and gear into the van, Neighbor Guy and his small daughter went home in Neighbor Woman's car, and Neighbor Woman stayed with Spouse's car.
The nice thing about driving into the mountains is that all cell phone service halts. So once we were out of cell phone contact with worried Spouse, patient Neighbor Woman, and the tardy tow truck driver, we put the whole situation out of our minds. How great it felt to leave behind the stressful car situation and cell phone calls, and instead spend the next four hours in the icy cold air of a winter night. The slope, packed down from all the day time skiers, was fast. Because it was vacation week, none of the high school ski clubs were there – no big yellow buses in the parking lot – and the lodge was half empty. By 10 pm, in fact, my group were the only ones in the whole lodge.
Snowboarding in the dark is an exhilarating experience. Breathing in the icy air of a winter night woke my whole body, the coldness tingling through me. As we rode up the chair life, my daughter kept talking about how pretty everything looked. The big lights shone onto the white snow, lighting up the slopes and the white edging of snow on the pine trees. The woods on either side of the trail looked dark and mysterious. We could see snowboarders below us, dark silhouettes chasing their own shadows down the slope, their boards scraping against ice.
By the time we drove home, making our way through dark country roads, we were all pleasantly tired from taking run after run. And the frustrating situation with the car had long been forgotten.