Old Mom, New Tricks

Lately I’ve been dabbling my toes outside my comfort zone a bit, and on all accounts I’m coming up short.  It’s got me in a funk, because these shortcomings are making me feel like a lame mother.

It started a few weeks ago when we took the kids skiing at Alyeska.  I don’t ski, so I deemed myself the photodocumentarian.  It was adorable to watch Sam and Maggie  fearlessly fly down the kiddie slope, and then giddily ride back up on the “magic carpet” (an outdoor moving walkway that is a safe alternative to chair lifts).

Hopping onto the magic carpet
Why don't you come with me, little girl, on a magic carpet ride?
The trip back down was more fun.

After hours of going up and down the magic carpet hill, we had to drag the kids off the slopes.  We headed to the lodge for some warm drinks and live music, where we bumped into half a dozen friends who were also out enjoying the lovely Sunday afternoon sunshine.  It was an idyllic day.

The kids were hooked!  Clark took them back the next few weekends, and signed them up for some group lessons.  By the second lesson they had mastered the chair lift, and declared that they were “too big” for the magic carpet slope any longer.

Yep, we're pros.

After each of their lessons, Clark spent a few hours screaming down the lower mountain with the kids.  They were fearless.  He raved about their progress and showed me cell phone snapshots of the view from the top.  I was getting jealous, listening to the three of them giggle about their afternoons together.

How hard could it be, this skiing thing?  I decided to find out.  If the rest of my family loved skiing so much, then I would too by golly.  So last weekend I returned to the mountain, but this time I rented a pair of skis myself.

I crammed my foot into the boot, and instantly believed something was wrong.  I was precariously leaning at a 45 degree angle, but the teenage ski bum rental dude assured me it was a good fit.  Hmph.  He also said I shouldn’t use poles since I was just learning.  (Wait – had I told him that?)

I hobbled outside, and Clark asked if I wanted to go straight to the chair lift or get the feel of things with a quick run on the magic carpet.  I’d look like an idiot riding that thing without a child in sight, but it was closer and my feet were already killing me.

“Magic carpet,” I decided.

I felt like hot stuff as I waltzed my 40-year-old ass over to the kiddie hill with skis slung over my shoulder instead of a camera.  I knew enough to lay the skis sideways, and clicked into the first binding.  That was the easy part.  Without a pole or natural sense of balance, I hung onto Clark and wobbled my other boot about until its binding was safely clicked into place too.  I then slowly started to angle my skis downslope, and as Clark was giving me a few basic tips about how to stop and turn I started to slide.  A bit.  Really, the grade on this hill is pathetic and I was hardly moving, but I was terrified.  Tears sprang to my eyes as I started to inch down the hill.  Despite my lack of speed, my body was doing some sort of rubbery jig as I flailed back and forth in an attempt to stay upright.  I did make it without falling, but now I was at the bottom and had to mount the magic carpet.  It suddenly looked like a vicious machine.  As I slid the tip of my skis onto the rolling black monster, it grabbed them and sucked the rest of me onboard so quickly that I was lurching about and nearly fell right back off.

I survived the ride up, and even two more trips down to practice turning.  I was feeling a smidge more confident, so we headed to the “advanced” magic carpet, where some adults and kids were taking lessons.  It was an uphill trek to this next practice hill, and I may as well have been on a treadmill.  My legs and skis were moving, but I wasn’t going anywhere.  I tried to follow Clark, mumbling expletives the entire way about the hippie dude who said I didn’t need poles.  Eventually Clark extended his pole to me, and I held it tightly as he tugged me uphill to magic carpet #2.  It was humiliating, but he kept encouraging me.

We rode up the new magic carpet, and as I surveyed the terrain it became clear that this was a hill for much bigger kiddies.  Still kids, yes.  But the tears returned and I was feeling more like a baby!

That’s when I heard our own children.  They were several feet in the air above me, skis dangling from the chair lift, flanking their instructor and waving enthusiastically.  “Mommy!!  Daddy!!” they screamed.

As I watched their giant smiles float past me, I decided I had to do this.  I took a deep breath and started my descent.  Within seconds my speed became alarming, and despite my best attempts at making a “pizza” I wasn’t slowing down.  Worse yet, there were obstacles at the bottom of this hill:  if I veered right, I would smack into the chair lift.  If I careened to the left, I would be crushed by a giant metal sign.  It felt as if my life depended on splitting the middle, and I wasn’t sure I could do it.

Luckily, I didn’t have to.  I wasn’t even halfway down the slope before I started tumbling.  I’m lucky I didn’t throw my back out – not from the fall, but from my writhing attempts at balance.  Clark, ever my knight in shining armor, swished up to me and offered to help me to my feet.  Not necessary – I unclicked those skis and marched down the rest of the way on foot.  I stood at the bottom of the lift and tried to regain my composure while I waited for Sam and Maggie to ski to the bottom.  I was back in spectator mode, and Clark let me be while he did a few runs on the lower mountain.

I did eventually try one more run, but it was equally disastrous, with the added benefit of nearly ripping my shoulder out of its socket.  That was it:  I was done.  I was mortified to struggle so much on a kiddie slope, I was scared of falling, and even more terrified of staying upright and gaining speed.  I am ashamed that I gave up so easily, especially when I think of all the people I know who ski.  Why couldn’t I do it too?  What was wrong with me?

My magic carpet hill of shame.
Kids and Clark on Chair 3... too much for me!

I turned in my skis before noon and headed to the bar.  I felt like a complete and utter loser, hanging out by myself for the rest of the day while my family had a great time on the slopes.  But hey – at least I got to watch the slush cup!  (It’s an annual spring event in Girdwood where folks dress up in costume and try to ski across a pool of water at the bottom of a slope.)

The "idiot swim" just before the slush cup started.
Not sure how he can see a thing?
Not sure about this dude's visibility either?
...and, he crashes!

The other new skill I’ve been trying to learn is piano.  I’ve always wanted to play an instrument, but I don’t even know how to read music.  No better time to learn, right?  The kids are taking piano lessons right now, and I lurk in the background, trying to take in everything they are being taught.  When we get home I grab their sheet music and push them out of my way as I spring to the keyboard, hungry to practice while it’s somewhat fresh in my mind.  I was doing pretty well until last week, when the instructor gave Sam sheet music without the letters.  It makes me want to stab myself with some giant treble clef (or is it bass clef – I don’t know the difference).  I’m not ready to give up on the piano just yet, but I am starting to wonder…

…is it even possible to teach an old mom new tricks?!

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