A Mark On This Earth

When I was young and living in the small town of Wabash, Indiana I used to dream of different ways to become famous. During mass I often fantasized a record producer would, for some unknown reason, be in my church, hear my voice and offer me a contract. Or, I would dream a modeling agency would see me as I vacationed with my family and rush over to tell me I would be the next big thing on the cover of Seventeen Magazine. Even though I spent many years with these images in my head those events never took place. Instead, I went to college, graduated, found a job, got married and began the life I lead now.
It has only been recently that I remembered those long ago dreams and realized it is very unlikely my face will grace the cover of a fashion magazine or my singing voice be heard across the airwaves. I’m okay with this reality because I understand if I truly wanted those goals to happen I would have worked a little harder at accomplishing them. With this realization however, I wondered, have I made my mark on this world? When I’m gone will I have left a legacy? After some consideration I recognized leaving my mark does not require me to be famous. Keeping that in mind, I settled on a list of lasting qualities, I believe, I have managed to accomplish.
I have been a good daughter. While growing up I never caused my parents much concern. In turn they gifted me with their love, a comforting home, siblings to have and cherish my entire life and a college education. As an adult I welcomed my parents into my home. I enjoyed their company and we shared some great meals, laughter and many adventures when they graced my doorstep. For six years as my mother slid into dementia, I comforted and counseled her, fought her medical battles, sat through doctor appointments, made more than one run to the emergency room and, fought my own guilt feelings of inadequacy. Finally, on the day she died I held my mother’s hand and read to her the poems she recited to my siblings and me, and sang to her the songs that brightened our childhood days.
Friendship may be one of my strong suits. I love that shared intimacy. And, nothing seals a bond of camaraderie like the struggle of raising children. Many reassuring conversations took place during the frustrations and joys of raising children. I have been there through health scares, holding hands, sending cards and making phone calls to check in. I have consoled woman friends through the everyday difficulties of marriage and they have returned that favor to me. Most difficult of all I have been with my friend as she fought to keep her husband alive, then, in the end, as she graced him with her love and the permission to leave this earth.
Together my husband and I have created and raised two amazing daughters. They are kind to others, responsible for themselves, fun to be with, gifted with creativity, athletic and smart. As parents we gave our daughter many material items. When they were very young it was toys, dolls and stuffed animals. As they grew it became sports equipment, namely downhill skis. We offered opportunities to try new adventures. We bought a boat and took them tubing, cliff jumping and island camping on Lake George in the Adirondacks. All of those material presents brought the most important gift of all; a family. We formed a bond as we traveled for ski races, or huddled together in a small tent to avoid a storm on Turtle Island. We grew as a family having fun together, sharing dinners, laughing, arguing; just spending time with one another.
With this inventory I have concluded my legacy is one of kindness, love, fun, support and a future generation. Consequently, I think my daughters and our family are far more of a mark to leave on this earth than my past dreams of being famous.


The Dream of Skiing, Realized

I wrote this essay a few years ago, but I felt it was appropriate for today.

Colo 1I don’t know how old or exactly where I was, but the first time I saw people skiing in a movie I knew that was something I had to do. The whole idea tempted me. It was exciting to think of rushing down a hill over a blanket of beautiful white snow. I could almost feel the sting of the cold air rushing against my face as I carved turns. It was appealing to picture myself at the end of the day wearing a warm fashionable sweater sitting next to a crackling fire, drink in hand, enjoying the camaraderie of good friends. I fantasized about the captivating conversations that would take place. The oneness we would all feel about our love of skiing and winter.
But I was born and raised a flatlander. I grew up in Indiana where hills are few and far between and a mountain is something you might see in a picture. Sure, there were families who traveled away for vacations to Colorado,but mine was not one of them. I remember going to an acquaintance’s house, a friend of a friend. We were all sitting around chatting. Suddenly, there in the basement in a corner, I saw snow skis. My mouth dropped open and I rudely interrupted the conversation.
“You Ski?!”
“Oh yeah, we go every year.”
Then, just as abruptly as our conversation began she ended it and changed the subject. I longed to know more. What was it like? Was it scary or fun? Was it hard to learn? I never really got to talk to her again about skiing, but whenever I saw her in school I was impressed.
As I got older my obsessive flame to ski turned into a smolder but it was still there. Recently, I found a family photo. I am the one in the sweater with a skier on the front. My dream laid out for anyone willing to recognize.
Away at college I met lots of great guys. But the ones who drew my attention were the skiers. In my mind they were a rare breed, exciting, different from the, oh so many basketball players that are prevalent in the Midwest. When I met Paul I knew he was exceptional. I was smitten with his twinkling eyes and devilish smile. Much to my delight he was from New York State where apparently they had mountains. He spent many hours talking about skiing and how much fun it was. I could tell skiing was his passion. I was hooked; but in the ways of life it took us four years to get around to dating let alone skiing.
Eventually our dating turned to something more and in 1985 we celebrated our marriage and moved to upstate New York. Paul kept his promise and taught me how to ski. Before I even hit the slopes he bought me all kinds of equipment. He purchased hats, mittens and a coat and ski pants. He even bought socks made specifically for skiers. He thought if I was cold on my first times out I might not return. What he did not understand was my drive to be a skier. The skier I had envisioned. And, I have become good. But what I took to almost immediately, was the après ski.
Just as I imagined, the camaraderie between skiers does exist. Because our daughters grew up skiing they soon turned to alpine racing. They were members of the Gore Mountain team. We spent many days at Gore and quickly became great friends with the families of the other racers. As parents we experienced many sub-zero days on the slopes. Sometimes skiing, sometimes standing on the side of a race hill watching our children fly past us. At the end of the day we would get together and discuss the day’s events. We may not have always been in our fuzzy, warm, sweaters. In fact, frequently, after a long day of skiing we were known to sit around in our very comfy sweats and PJs. No matter, the friendship that I sought was still there. The drinks warmed us along with the fire and we laughed at inside jokes and funny things that happened that day on the mountain.
Recently, Paul and I attended a fund-raiser for the Gore Mountain ski team. Our daughters no longer race, they have moved on to college, but we still feel a connection. So apparently do many others. In attendance that evening was several of our friends from over the years. Half of those enjoying dinner and drinks no longer had a child in the program. But we appreciate we are a unique group. We have a secret connection. We enjoy the rush of cold air on our faces. We love the silence you hear on a ski slope on a frigid day. We appreciate the awe you feel as you stand at the top of a run and look out over the snow covered mountains, the clouds sitting in the valleys and the sun glinting on the lakes below. It is thrilling to rush down a slope carving turns. We love to play hard during the day, and at the end of it, enjoy a warm fire and our friends. Skiers are optimistic. Who else sees delight in an upcoming snowstorm? They certainly are fun-loving. They laugh at the weather, and each other. They ski outside in the cold all day, most days not realizing the temperature is below freezing, making them a very hearty crew.
I still have that image of skiers in my head from the first time I saw them in the movie. I have never been disappointed. We are everything I dreamed we would be.

Winter Storm Walk


    It has been a while since I took a walk in the snow by myself.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy the quiet of a winter storm.  Rain storms have their own beauty, but they are showy with their thunder and lightning.  A winter storm silently creeps in and slowly drops layer by layer of several inches of pure white magnificence.

Bundled in my coat, hat and gloves, I open the door and feel the cold air rush against my face and down my lungs.  The chill wraps itself around my legs and begins to creep into my toes and fingertips.  I don’t mind.  My senses are aroused and I am reminded that I far enjoy the cold as opposed to hot humid temperatures.

The snow is deep enough to cover the tops of my hiking boots and I thrill to lose the sight of my feet in the soft, fluffy ice crystals.  As the snowflakes tickle my face, I trudge up to the top of a hill on my street and begin the long trek down the other side to an another neighborhood.  Here I encounter two manmade ponds.  I can see the trace of a shoveled area where the neighborhood kids have been ice skating.  It looks like they will have some work to do in order to recover their rink.

The quiet envelopes me and I lose myself in the stillness while I reflect on a myriad of thoughts.   I am startled back to my surroundings by the chirps of a chickadee.  Listening, I hear the branches of trees as they rub against each other in a slight wind.  I gaze across a field and as usual I am in awe of the expanse of pristine white contrasting against the low grey clouds.  I observe the 016park benches as they sit staring into the icy pond, waiting, I suppose, for spring to return.  But, I will bid my time, enjoying this season and my winter walk.  Once again I succumb to the calm of the silent snow and let my thoughts wander.  I think of a warm bowl of soup waiting for me upon my return home.  I decide this is the perfect day to build a fire and to enjoy it’s warmth as I revel in the freedom of my snow day.

012Turning the corner to complete my lap around the pond I lift my head and smile with gratitude at one of my most favorite sights.  The splendor of pine trees covered in snow.  I always think the trees look stunning in their long gowns of wedding white.

The squirrels have been out and about leaving behind tiny footprints.  I also discover the traces of a fellow traveler.  Their boot marks almost lost in the snow that has fallen since their walk.  I wonder if the person who traveled this road before me enjoyed the sights as much as I.

The tranquility of the morning is broken by the sound of a snowplow.  I see the huge orange truck maneuvering growing banks of snow around a corner.  I cross the road to get out of his way; snowplows in upstate New York are massive.  There is no one else out and I contemplate what the truck driver must think of me.  Does he think I’m crazy or does he understand the delight of walking through a snowstorm?