I lovehate the family ski weekend.
The second annual of which swooshed down its southern Vermont mountain of ice and gale-force winds this past weekend.
I love it because it puts me in the direct vicinity of the 30 or so wonderful folks who make up my extended family. And I hate it because, unlike the majority of them, skiing isn't my strong suit.
I'll just come right out and say it: I'm jealous.
Oh sure, I sat in the lodge, conversing with all the other folks who had done the math and come up with a negative 25 degree windchill equaling at least minor frostbite if not total doom, but I was a little sad every time one of my clan came in red-faced and panting, looking for someone brave enough to go back out into the world.
Obviously wasn't me.
Well … ok … it wasn't OBVIOUS … I was wearing a ski jacket and talking a good game about the past three years, which have been my skiing-est years on record.
I've gone down many a bunny hills alongside my children, practicing our pizzas and french fries until we are ready for lunch, after which we all had the courage to brave the lift and traverse the greenest of all the green trails.
I am always the least ready.
“I can get down the mountain,” I tell people, “but it isn't going to be pretty … and it isn't going to be fast.”
That's not to say I don't pat myself on the back for making the attempt. Powdery snow and zero-drop hills have given me olympic-sized delusions about my abilities.
“I find it easier to downhill ski than cross country,” I pontificated to I don't know how many kind people. It felt true at the time. Nordic skiing on hills was always a struggle. Out there in the alpine, stopping was easier, turning was easier, I didn't fall nearly as much.
Of course what I didn't understand, and what I still struggle to do, is get better.
I tell myself I will practice during the week … when rates are cheaper and there were be fewer people to avoid as I careen down the mountain as slowly as possible.
But it won't matter.
All the gains in confidence doing run after run at one resort will be undone in an instant as I fall spout over tea kettle time after time at another.
Failure tastes like ice and tears stinging your face. Failure feels like snow in your boots.
I wish I didn't want to do this.
I wish I could happily go shopping with the other non-skiing members of our clan during the interim.
I wish I could relax at the lodge with a book by the fireplace. That is where my mind tells me I belong.
But gas flames and retail therapy can't cover up the fact that I want to be out there with them. Following down the mountain, gracefully, shifting from one side to the other.
Even if I can't possibly keep up.
I know I can't get there by wishing. If I want to be a ski bum next year, this year I have to stop being a ski bummer.