A Slippery Slope


Over the weekend, many parts of the United States experienced the first snowstorm of the season, which prompted me to reminisce about my one and only attempt at snow skiing.  It was an adventure that I (and sadly, a few innocent bystanders) will likely never forget.

It was the winter of 1992 or 1993, and I was in my early twenties.  The office that my mom worked for was sponsoring a day-long bus trip to the Wintergreen Ski Resort, and though my mom did not plan to go, I thought it was a good opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and give skiing a try.  I’m not sure what possessed me; I absolutely hate the cold, and I am not exactly what you would consider athletic.  What is it they say?  There is safety in numbers? That must have been part of my rationale.  It was a group outing.  There would be children among us.  Certainly, I could keep up with the kids without looking foolish.  There was absolutely no need to feel self-conscious.

I attached myself to my mom’s coworker Ray and her nine-year old son Eric.  On the bus ride to the resort, we made our plans.  We would all take ski lessons and see how things went.  After that, we would stick to the bunny slope or head inside to enjoy hot cocoa and snacks.  Whatever happened, the three of us would stay together.

Our lessons went well.  We learned how to use our poles to push ourselves off and how to form a pizza slice with our skis in order to stop.  Over and over again, we went down the modest slope of the training hill.  It was a huge boost to my ego that I didn’t fall down even once.  Ray and Eric were getting the hang of it too, and we eventually moved out of the training area and onto the bunny slope.  Again, we impressed ourselves with our newly acquired skills and made multiple runs down the hill without incident. When it started to lightly rain, we finally ventured inside for that hot cocoa.  But Ray and I didn’t stay inside long.

Since it was about a four hour bus trip each way, we knew our time was limited, and Ray wanted to make the most of it.  She urged me to go back on the slopes with her for one last run.  This time, though, she wanted to attempt the intermediate slope.  She really thought we could handle it.  A few hours on the bunny slope without any falls had proved to her that we were expert skiers.  I should have asked her what was in her cocoa; it surely must have been spiked.  Her sense of logic was flawed.  Then again, I was following her lead.  Where had my logic gone?

Neither one of us had bothered to consider the fact that the rain, though light and brief, had made the snow icy.  If there had been music playing for this scene, it would have been suggesting imminent doom.  We left the building and headed on level ground towards the intermediate slope.  I took the lead.  All was well . . . for about a minute.  Then I heard shrill screaming coming from behind me and glanced over my shoulder to look for Ray.  The screaming was coming from Ray.  Have I mentioned that Ray reminds me of Whoopi Goldberg? The scene I was witnessing brought back memories of Whoopi in the movie Jumpin’ Jack Flash. “Help! I’m a little black woman in a big silver box.”

Anyway, there was Ray screaming her lungs out, arms flailing,  I don’t know what happened to her poles, but she apparently didn’t need them to propel herself forward. There was absolutely no elegance in her actions. I could see people in her path scattering like flies.  I couldn’t help myself.  I veered off to the side and fell down in the snow to watch.  She was picking up speed and other people were now screaming right along with her.  And then it happened!  A young boy, about 5, fell down in her path.  Ray didn’t slow or swerve.  Nope, she went right over top of that poor kid and proceeded to take him downhill with her.  He was trapped, his head firmly clamped between her legs.  There is no telling how far they would have traveled like that if it hadn’t been for the fact that they smacked into a thick wooden post attached to netting meant to prevent skiers from going past that point.  They crumbled.  Ray finally went silent.  The kid was crying uncontrollably.  What I presume was his mother came running.  And I lay in the snow laughing.  I felt so bad for that boy and I hoped that he wasn’t seriously hurt, but the sight of the two of them racing downhill as one had me hysterical.

I honestly don’t know how Ray managed to make it back to where I was or how we were able to collect Eric and make it to the bus, but I will never forget the view from my spot at the top of the hill.  It was one of those things that seemed to take place in slow motion allowing me to replay it over and over again.  It was sad, shocking, and hysterically funny all at once, but it was nothing if not memorable.

As I said, I have never been skiing again.  There simply is no need to do so.  After all, what could possibly top that first excursion?

Daily Post Prompt: Elegance

In the face of Hurricane Irma

Sadly, hurricanes and the damage they can do are currently a hot topic of discussion.  The poor residents of Houston, TX are, and will be for quite some time to come, trying to recover and rebuild after the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  Now, residents of the East Coast are watching with trepidation trying to determine if they are in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Though I no longer live in an area affected by hurricanes, I still have family and friends all along the East Coast from Florida to Maine, and I am praying that they will all remain safe.  I am praying that Irma’s impact will be minimal.

Focusing on this season’s hurricanes has me reflecting on those of past years. Thankfully, though the state of Virginia has weathered many bad storms, none of them ever left me or my loved ones without a home.  That being said, I do remember a few of them.

Hurricane Gloria came thru our area in September of 1985 and to this day I wonder what possessed my mom to let me sleep in the barn with my pony.  Yes, I was concerned that Crazy 8 would be scared during the storm and I wanted to keep him calm; however, I was only 14 at the time.  I teasingly asked my mom, “What kind of parent lets their teenage daughter sleep in the barn during a hurricane? Who was concerned for my safety?”  She does apply a certain sort of logic when she tells me I was probably safer in the barn than she and my siblings were in the house.  The barn was relatively new and made of stucco (cement).  If any building could withstand hurricane force winds, it would most likely be a stucco barn.  I suppose if it flooded, there was always the hayloft (at least for me).

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd hit the area.  Again, I survived unscathed, but I vividly remember watching the news reports of the massive flooding in nearby Franklin, VA.  It was the worst flooding Franklin had seen in a century, and it took years to recover. The flooding of the Blackwater River also impacted the area where my sister and her husband lived.  Though it did not reach their home, nearby streets were under water.  

The hurricane which personally impacted me the most was Hurricane Isabel in 2003.  My mom and I stayed home rather than evacuating because we had no way to transport our pony anywhere else and we did not want to leave him behind.  I don’t remember us getting a lot of rain.  The day the storm hit seemed eerily calm though there must have been a good deal of wind to hit our area.  Around 9am, we watched the first tree fall.  It was a rather small one and it fell right beside my hunk of junk car.  I remember teasing my mom that the tree couldn’t even do me the favor of falling on my car so that I could get some insurance money to put towards a new one.  In retrospect, that joke wasn’t funny.  So many people near us experienced significant damage.  We were fortunate.  The hurricane left our side of the street alone, but wreaked havoc on the neighbors across the street.  When it had passed us by and it was safe to go out and inspect the damage, my mom and I went to check on our neighbors.  Their backyard full of pine trees was completely decimated.  It looked like a war zone with downed trees criss-crossing their property. All we could do was stand with our backs up against the rear of their house and stare in amazement.  They were so incredibly fortunate that none of those trees landed on their home.  The only impact Isabel had on my mom and I is that it knocked out phone and power lines and left us relying on a generator for the next twelve days.  The biggest hardship was that as our home was more or less in the country and had well water rather than city water and sewage; we needed power to run the pump.  That meant for twelve days we could not shower or flush toilets.  We had prepared somewhat by filling the tub and buckets with water prior to the storm.  We used that for flushing toilets.  Every few days, we went to a friend’s house nearby to shower and fill up coolers with water for the pony.  We did have a ton of debris to clean up, but we were exceptionally lucky, which leads me back to the present.

My few encounters with hurricanes and tropical storms were nothing compared to what Houston recently experienced.  I simply cannot begin to imagine the hardships they are facing.  The one good thing to come from the destruction is that so many people set aside their differences and gave of themselves to care for strangers in need.  Our country has been riddled with so much negativity and division in recent months, but when push comes to shove, we pull together.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn to recognize that sooner or later everyone needs a helping hand and that it should not require such blatant need to make us step up to the plate?