We took The Child skiing: she attended group lessons, and was so enthusiastic that she preferred to march back up the bunny slope – wearing her skis – rather than wait for a tow. I did okay in my own group lesson, though not as well as that day in Vermont; the years had taken their toll. Still, the day was enough of a success that The Departed decided that it would be better if we all went skiing – his kids too – so the following year, we went as a group. Everyone started in group lessons, but it turned out the Stepson was A Natural, and graduated quickly, while The Child, the Stepdaughter, and I shared an instructor and practiced our meager skills up and down the bunny slopes. We have fun, though, so nobody minds, and eventually, we work out way up to the next level – the easiest of the blue slopes – and manage to find our way down, slowly and uncertainly.
When the lesson ends, The Departed wants to see our progress, announcing, It’s time to start skiing as a family. We head back to the high-speed lift and since each chair only seats four, he assembles with the three children, while I watch with the next group, waiting our turn.
The Child is on the end of their line, next to the Stepdaughter, who is next to the Departed. Their order makes no sense to me: The Child is smallest of the group, but furthest from the adult on the bench, who is not helping her. No one is, and there’s not enough room – she can’t quite figure out how to make enough room to wriggle in. The stepchildren are almost seated, and there’s not enough room for The Departed, either, so he hip-checks his children to make room, bumping his own daughter slightly to the side, while The Child is thrown to the ground.
The gate comes down and the chair takes off.
I try to get out to get, help her, but I’m in the middle of a group of strangers, trapped among their skis, as the bench sweeps us up from behind. The employees don’t help her; they are too busy loading the lift, which doesn’t stop moving, loading, moving, loading – certainly not for a crying child.
The gate comes down and we lift off and finally, the lift operator hears me shouting, that’s my daughter, that’s my daughter, and he finally notices her and shouts back to me, Don’t worry, I’ll get her up there.
At the top of the lift, I watch the arriving chairs, searching each group of arrivals for The Child, wondering if I should somehow go back for her. The Departed is elsewhere, milling about the trail map with his children.
Finally, she appears, tiny and alone on a bench for four, clinging to the side rail with both arms. Then she is with me, and my helpless terror is gone, replaced by focused rage: At the lift operator, at the ski resort, but mostly at The Departed.
He skis over, wanting to know when we think we’ll be ready to go down the hill.
I demand an apology; he offers none, instead shouts at me: It’s not his fault, she should have gone with me in the first place. Accidents happen. I’m ruining everyone’s fun.
I don’t feel like skiing down, I say. I’m done. We’re going home.
He retorts: There’s no other way down, except to ski it.
We argue for a bit, but eventually The Child decides that she wants to ski, it will be fun, so I relent.
It is fun, for her, and The Departed and the Stepson zoom off down the hill, but the Stepdaughter struggles and so do I, and receive no help; I’m slow, so I end up tending her, as well as The Child, and I’m so busy trying to manage the group that I cannot remember what I’m supposed to do and when my ski finally pops off and slides far away from me down the hill, I decide it’s just easier to take the other one off.
The Departed tells me to come down the hill, he’s got my ski.
Here’s the other one, I say. I hurl it down the slope and start walking.
This will take forever that way, he says.
I keep walking.
You’re walking where people need to ski, he says.
I keep walking.
He says, you’re leaving your skis.
I keep walking, all the way to the bottom.
I’m done, I tell him.
Okay, he says, but the Stepson and I wanted to try one of the black diamonds. He’s really good. Can you wait a while before we leave?