It’s Monday. MLK Day. It’s about three o’clock. I’m sitting in a ski lodge, about nine thousand feet above the ground, trying desperately to get warm.
I am freezing. I am wincing and whining to myself. My upper left shoulder and neck areas are still sore from sleeping in an uncomfortable position last night. My thighs are burning. My calves are tight. My knees — both in front and in back — are screaming. And my toes — all ten of them — feel as though they are being stabbed with needles. To make matters worse, although he hasn’t said so, I know my husband is pissed off that I requested this “unscheduled” stop so late in the day. After all, the ski lifts will stop operating at 3:45 or 4:00 and this is the last of our three days of skiing.
* * *
I started snow-skiing in my early twenties. My then groom declared during our first year of marriage that I had to learn. Skiing was (and still is) his only real passion and, since we lived in Syracuse back then with an abundance of snow, he insisted that I accompany him on weekend treks to the slopes. Years of trips and countless lessons later however, my intermediate status still cannot keep up with or ever hope to match his black diamond-plus level of expertise.
After skiing for more than thirty years now, I appreciate and enjoy it, but never truly will love it. It’s his thing; not mine. In our youth, appeasing him was my way of showing love and devotion, but now it’s just the right thing to do. NOT skiing isn’t an option because it’s all he really asks of me. Most importantly, the nature of the way he laughs on these trips — the frequency, tone, depth, and gusto — is rarely experienced at home. And that’s a yearly gift he deserves…and one I feel privileged to give.
Now, truth be told, I get something out of giving in. For my annual three days of skiing, I am babied and pampered. Perhaps a hold-over from when we went skiing when our kids were young, my husband still takes care of everything and I simply follow his lead…like a child. He chooses the mountain location (sometimes with input from me), picks the resort (he accepts that my preferences have become more discerning), buys the lift tickets, plans out the trails to ski (without a GPS, I can’t navigate a trail map to save my life), rents the necessary ski equipment, bundles me up (I actually still need help putting on my mittens), carries my skis (I hold the poles), and tows me along (literally — especially along flat areas). I have nothing to decide or think about. I relinquish all control. He sets the daily schedule based on the fact that the ski lifts start up at nine in the morning and shut down at four in the afternoon. After that, we’re in a hot tub by five and have dinner by seven-thirty. By ten, I am tucked in bed and out cold.
Sometimes it’s more important — and even fun — to be the follower and not the leader. Sometimes it’s more important — and even fun — to be the giver and not the receiver.
* * *
My husband appears with hot chocolate as I notice it’s snowing outside. I have been sitting here massaging and willing my toes and legs back to life. I have to rally; there’s only ninety minutes or so more to go. I thankfully take the drink and immediately enjoy the rush of sweet, hot liquid warming my insides. Aaahhh, hot chocolate. Yum. He smiles with a paternalistic, loving, and hopeful glance. I can’t disappoint. Slowly, I ease my aching feet into my boots and he helps me buckle them. I take a final gulp. Hot chocolate. The drink of children.
I smile back and with all the energy I can muster, I stand up and declare, “Let’s go!!”