Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ugly Skis

At 14, a shy, scared, wanna-be-adventurous, determined girl learned to ski. Against all odds; financial, cultural, practical and probable. Me.

Because I was so sure about it, and my poverty stricken mother sacrificed to make it happen, it became possible. An odd sport to choose, but it provided years of fun, fellowship, exercise, pleasure and adventure.

In our small eccentric world, we ice skated in dresses, played sandlot baseball, volleyball, roller skated and even wore a dress over pants in P.E. Grandma wanted me to wear a dress over my old fashioned Goodwill warm ups, I refused. First meaningful boundary which mom supported. Rebellious, sinful, beginning skiier! (Instead of picturing a Norman Rockwell, go back about a hundred years to Currier and Ives. Our church was stuck in a legalistic moment we couldn't get out of. Who stopped the clock at 1897?)

My leather tie-up, antique ski boots were from a ski swap. So were my skis. Antique. We had a trendy friend who volunteered to fix me up with some state-of-the-art bindings and somehow retrofitted them so my boots would work properly. Outdated boots, outmoded skis, with really smooth, slick bindings.

Shaking in fear and anticipation, I signed up for 6 weeks of lessons at Soldier Mountain. Every Saturday mom would drop me off at the school's ski bus. The lively 'goings on' in that bus were outside of my experience. A little shocking, but fascinating.

Miraculously found myself in a small class with a kind teacher. I didn't talk to one person or engage with anyone for the entire 6 weeks. Absorbing every word, practicing, risking, falling, learning, watching, stretching to the next level each week allowed me to "graduate". Every Saturday for the entire winter; pure freedom. I looked forward to my meager brown sack lunch in the lodge by the fire, by myself. Other than that and a few potty breaks, every minute was used skiing. I loved the wind in my hair, the speed, the lovely whiteness and the sound of skis cutting in. Glorious freedom!

When I lived in Anchorage, a group of us young'uns would pile in some one's pickup. Sit on each other's laps crowded as toothpicks, and sing out blustering songs louder than the radio.

Being mostly broke even then, I skied once more with ugly skis! There are perks to ugly equipment, however! A rich friend was on his 3rd pair of stylin' skis because the first 2 pairs were stolen outside the lodge. When he bought his 3rd pair, he took them out in the garage and spray painted them black, layered a little red on top then proceeded to furiously 'distress' the top, making them as ugly as ugly can be.

He and I would casually stick ours criscrossed in a snowbank while we walked into the lodge to warm up. Worry free. We couldn't have paid any one to steal them!

My snow gear wasn't ever very cool or in style because scrounging money for the ski pass was a challenge in itself. The lodge was frequently full of really cool people dressed in full fashion runway gear. They spent most of time inside displaying it.

In those days, I felt so out of my league, dowdy, unsophisticated and not part of the cool inner circle. Yet, the freedom and fun, one run after the other, trumps that feeling every time.

Now, I'd on purpose ski with ugly skis. Wonder if I should make my sweet silky blue bike ugly enough to have that same freedom? I can't. I just can't!


Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Hey Kathleen, thanks for commenting on my blog. I was expecting to see a giant mullet on your blog, but I don't see one anywhere. ;) Love the story here, and hope you found my advice useful. Come back again. Happy blogging!

Kathleen said...

Thank you for your encouragement and support Matt.