Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cross Country Skiing? Downhill? At age 6? Sure! Let's do it!

SwimGirl has decided to take a break from the pool this season.  Instead, she is pursuing "Nordic Skiing," a sport of which all I know is that it is basically cross-country skiing in spandex bodysuits, and that it isn't nearly as inexpensive as we expected it to be.  The plus side so far is that we have gotten about 1" of snow this year, so instead of possibly hurting herself on skis, SwimGirl has spent her Nordic Skiing practice time  running, which seems safer than skiing - even the type that does not involve careening down a hill at a high rate of speed (do I believe that she can't hurt herself only running? No. I am sure she can, since she is the child who is notorious for tripping over painted lines on the floor, always followed by a cheery "I'm OK!"). However, the idea of her doing Nordic Skiing takes me back to my own childhood:

The winter I was about six years old, my parents thought it would be a grand idea to purchase cross country skis for the family, including an itty-bitty pair for me.  My feet were too small for them to find proper ski boots, so they found me a pair of little leather boots that somehow managed to work with the bindings (very very old school bindings) on my itty-bitty skis.  We went on a few excursions near home to get a feel for the skis before dad decided it would be ok to take my older (by three years) brother and I on an adventure that would take us a few miles from where he parked our car.

We were doing swimmingly: my dad would go first and make the track (of course we weren't on a "ski trail" - that would have been much less adventurous and too easy!), my brother followed behind him and I brought up the rear (my mom was unable to join us on this particular adventure and since I was six, I have no idea why she wasn't along.  In fact, I'm not positive she had cross-country skis at all; it all might have been a wonderful scheme for her to get us all out of the house so she could have peace and quiet for a while).  Even though I was small and slower than my dad and brother, I don't remember them ever leaving me trailing too far behind them (which probably explains my memories of them standing around. A lot.), which, if you know my brother, was probably pretty hard for him to do, and had our dad not been there with us, I would probably have been left alone pretty quickly. (After all, this is the boy who, upon finding out that I wanted to "run away like Huckleberry Finn" when I was five, went out and found a stick and a bandanna, then placed two hot dogs and a slice of bologna in the bandanna, tied it onto the stick and sent me - in my bib overalls sans a shirt - on my way, and afterward celebrated the fact he was once again an only child.)

Eventually, plodding through the snow on level ground proved to be too boring for us (read "DAD"), so as soon as we neared a small hill, he headed up it.  Being that we were in Wisconsin, reaching the top of the small hill didn't take long and it also meant that somehow we had to go back down the small hill.  Whoosh! Went my father down the hill, looking like an expert ski-master to my six-year-old eyes.  Whoosh! went my brother, only almost falling down once or twice but managing to right himself before landing on the ground.  "This doesn't look too hard; it actually looks like fun!" I thought to myself as I positioned my skis pointy-end down in their tracks.  

"C'mon, honey! You can do it!" my dad called encouragingly.  So, courageously, I pushed off the top of the hill with my poles and felt the exhilaration of gliding down hill. Until I realized I had no idea how to stop and then felt my skis slipping and my balance failing.  I vaguely remember going off their track where I may or may not have hit some kind of lump that turned into a launch-pad of sorts, flying off of that and finally landing in a heap by my dad's feet.

"I'm ok!" I stuttered as my dad checked me over for injuries.
"You might be, but your skis aren't." He replied.  Sure enough, one of my skis had somehow lost its pointy-ended tip in my descent and/or fall.
"How am I going to get back to the car now dad?" My dad looked at my brother, looked at my ski and then at me, "Well, I guess I'm going to have to carry you.  All three miles. Back to the car."

That was the last time we went cross country skiing.  It was not long after that that we all learned to downhill ski, which also contributed to some very strange injuries (blackened eye from a T-bar for one) and incidents (ever wonder what it is like to ride the chair lift back down the hill? I don't; I've done it!) that are dragged out and retold with much laughter, embarrassment and chagrin at every family gathering lasting longer than two hours.

I'm sure SwimGirl will do fine with Nordic Skiing, as long as she stays on the flat.  If not, hopefully her optimistic, "I'm Ok!" will ring out from wherever she's landed.

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