We must have been a sight: the two of us, standing at the top of the mountain looking downward. Tiny specks of people below us were rippling from side to side as they descended in a seemingly effortless swagger.
I imagined we'd swagger, too. Eventually.
We had been on the bunny slope for hours practicing wedge and gliding turns. We had moved over to a larger hill, waited in line for the surface lift, asked nervous questions of the lift's operator about exiting, and glided gently to the top without ever once thinking about the whole point of the process.
The boy asked the question I myself hadn't been wondering until that precise moment:
“Mommy? How do we get down?”
I took a deep breath and said: “we have to ski,” in a voice infinitely more calm and collected than the one in my head, which, was now screaming at me in no uncertain terms: You. Are. A. Horrible. Mother. You. Should. Not. Be. Here.
The voice had been paying attention, even if I had not.
The voice had been listening as we tried to ride the surface lift in tandem. It would have stopped and made sure the kid was on and not yelled back: “Just ride up on your own. You can do it!”
Of course, the voice inside my head also heard the “thwank” of the tow bar bouncing off of the kid's helmet
as it careened and jounced forward when I tried to dismount. But it never said a word. It just flinched.
See, the voice in my head knew that the mother a child needs in situations like these ought to be the Mama Bear-type, who has more experience than a five-year-old with a one-hour lesson and a single run down the mountain. This kid needed someone who, at the very least, could keep up. And sadly, the child standing at the top of the hill waiting for such a mother got me instead.
Skiing three times during the course of four decades doesn't exactly make me Picabo Street. It more likely makes me a candidate for a Boy Scout to try and help cross a street.
The voice in my head would have tried to explain all of that, but it knew I wouldn't listen. I was too busy replaying seemingly obvious facts in a perpetual loop:
I am at a ski hill with my family.
We came here on purpose with aid of a GPS.
We ALL have gear.
We ALL have gear.
Everyone else is off using theirs.
This is what we're supposed to be doing, aren't we?
How hard can this be?
The voice in my head had fallen silent, probably murmuring 'idiot' under its breath.
My son pushed off first. I followed.
He fell a lot, tiny accidents for which I was grateful. It gave me a chance to keep up as we made our way down the mountain. Slow and relatively easy.
“We made it!” he hooted as we swished toward the place we started at the foot of the hill. He got back in line for the lift.
I relaxed a little as the lift operator smiled and asked how it went, showing only slight surprise that we made it back without bodily harm.
As we chugged up the mountain again, I heard nothing but the crunching of snow underneath our skis and sweep of tree limbs in the wind. My inner voice had stopped dogging me altogether. I imagined it was at peace with my abilities. But, as the cable pulled me closer to the top, I realized it was more likely that my inner voice had stayed back with the ski lift operator, chortling and taking bets on whether or not I'd need a medic.