I was raised buy two terrific, attentive, wonderful parents.
However, I blame them for a couple of things. My mom used to plop me down on a bathroom sink, bribe me with a piece of orange Trident gum and cut my hair, which resulted in a bowl-shaped mop-top and some ruthless schoolyard mockings. My dad didn’t let me use the car to drive my junior prom date home. I inherited their collective coordination (minimal), as well as some unfortunate Varicose leg veins (thick and blue). Because of my mother, I instinctively bypass Gap, American Eagle, Banana Republic for Ross Dress for Less and Marshall’s. Because of my father, I dance like a one-legged emu.
The worst thing my parents did, however, was never taking me skiing as a kid.
Boy, have I learned this the hard way.
This past weekend the wife, my lovely sister in law and I packed up my two kids and my two nephews and headed off for Jiminy Peak, a ski resort located in Hancock, Mass. We arrived on Sunday, and as the others headed off for the slopes, I stayed and watched my 3-year-old son, Emmett. It was pretty boringâ€”minimal entertainment, overpriced grub ($3.95 for a friggin’ chocolate pudding!?), not much to see. That night, the wife asked if I wanted to take a ski lesson on Monday. I had skied once in my life, six or seven years ago. I debated (warm vs. snow; falling vs. not falling) before deciding to go for it. The thinking dates back to my skydiving experience from last Aprilâ€”when in doubt, force yourself to do the adventurous.
I did the adventurous.
And now, two days removed, I can barely move.
Damn, skiing is hard. Especially if you’re 37, and self-aware enough to know falling hurts. The lesson began softly enoughâ€”this is a ski; this is how you put on a ski; let’s try sliding back and forth on a flat piece of land. But then we started going down the hill. And I started falling. And falling. And falling. And falling. I fell on my ass and my elbows, my hands and my head. I fell and fell and fell and fell, and even when I didn’t fall I was pretty sure I would fall eventually.
By the time the lesson ended, I tried going down the smallest hill on my own. I fell, but fell less often. I used the ol’ “Snowplow” technique, placing my skis in a V-shape, shuffling down at my own pace. Thenâ€”whoosh! My 6-year-old daughter, skiing for the second time in her life, flew by. “Hey Dad!” she screamed happily. I was thrilled by her success, but tormented by my ineptitude. I’d show them! My wife (an excellent skier) took me to a longer slope, way up the mountain. I looked down. “Uh, this doesn’t seem so easy,” I said.
“You’ll be fine,” she said.
I started slowly. And fell. And fell. And fell. My wife told me to calm down and relaxâ€””You’re not having fun!” How the hell is falling fun? But I tried. I smiled. Got up. Fell again. Then, the nightmare. A line of young kids skiing down the hill, right toward me. I lost control, flopped on my face. Hard. A little boy from up the block, James, comes flying by. “Hey Jeff,” he says, casual as can be. His parentsâ€”good friends of oursâ€”start cracking up hysterically. I am livid. LIVID. What the fâ€¢â€¢â€¢ is so funny?
I putz my way down the slope, finally get there, oh, 10 minutes later. I continue to seethe for the rest of the day, burdened by my ineptitude and sickened at being the butt of someone else’s joke.
Only later, sipping a hot chocolate by the fire, do I realize the truthâ€”I would have laughed at the scene, too.
Skiingâ€”friggin’ skiing. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
I can’t wait to try again.