Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Once Upon a Mountain

You visit the ski slopes of Colorado in early March, and you expect certain pleasures.  You expect the breath-taking scenery of the high country, its firs lined up like soldiers marching up a snowy mountainside.  You anticipate the afternoon sun slanting down on you, delivering its welcome warmth from an azure sky.  You look forward to the back-and-forth schussing of skis through powder as you slice through the brisk air toward the end of your run. 

All that is in the contract when you sign on for a winter ski vacation, and I was not disappointed again this past week.  What I hadn't counted on was the pleasant surprise of riding up the lift with a five-year-old boy named Reid.

When I first saw Reid, he was wearing a ski helmet adorned all over with protruding green felt padded spikes.  He was standing to the side of the lift line with his ski school instructor, watching for a pair of skiers who would have extra space in their chair on the ride up.  Somewhere there underneath our stocking hats and goggles, the instructor must have detected our affinity for small children and our willingness to take on a passenger.  "Can this one go up with you?" he asked us.  "He can get on and off by himself."

As soon as we were airborne, Pa-pa and I were treated to a barrage of questions, information, and advice.  Why weren't we wearing helmets?  Didn't we know those were safer?  Could we lower the foot-rest bar from overhead?  Wouldn't that make sure we didn't fall off?

In the course of the 7.5-minute ride I learned that Reid was looking forward to kindergarten next year and that he had skied about "400,000 times" at "hundreds of different places."  When I told him I had once taught preschool, he wanted to know everything about my classroom.  He wanted to know if I played with the kids, and I told him, "Absolutely."  I told him about Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie, and he told me about his little sister who was three like Pooh.  All too soon we were at the top ready to exit the lift, a maneuver he executed with the style and finesse of a pro despite his short little legs.

Later that afternoon, I came upon a ski school class making its way down the mountain in the usual serpentine fashion.  Near the head of the line, right behind the instructor, I recognized that unmistakeable green spiked helmet.  Reid was controlling his speed in a perfect snowplow.

"Hi, Reid," I called as I went by.  He recognized me and said, "Oh, hi!"

"Hey, Reid, you've got a fan," his instructor commented.

I imagine that charming little boy will grow up to have lots of fans, perhaps among them a couple of pa-pas and whatever it might be that he calls his grandmothers.  Because of him, I couldn't help imagining Sooby and Pooh on skis.

Maybe that will actually happen somewhere down the road.  For now, I will be content to check kids' ski apparel clearance racks.  Those green spikes definitely have a way of winning friends and influencing people.

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