We put smooth boards on the bottoms of our feet last week and took advantage of the snow in Vermont. The mountain was filled with winter break skiers from Massachusetts and New York – no school for us. Mid-week and on one of the coldest days, I booked a morning massage. Timing was perfect: I could drop Liam off at 10:00 for his 2-hour lesson and walk 25 yards to the massage center.
Throughout the week, Bill took Will to the bigger mountain for his lesson while I took Liam. After two days of running late, we made a big effort to be early the third day. We got on the same shuttle – even though it took less time for me to get Liam to his mountain starting spot.
On the bus this -9 degree morning, Liam’s skin started crawling under all the layers. I peeled layers off of his face, but it didn’t matter. Once your skin crawls, it takes more than that to calm it. I knew a cold lift to the top of the mountain and an exhilarating ride to the bottom was necessary.
Liam and I disembarked at our stop and headed to the lesson meet-up spot. I was surprised to see so many kids waiting there so early. We must have waited longer than I thought for the shuttle.
Liam was also in a fighting mood over what level he should be in. Tuesday’s instructor said he was a solid Level 4; Wednesday’s instructor said he needed to be with the Level 3’s until he could skate with his skis. This is the Malcolm boys’ mode of thinking: If I was a 4 yesterday, I will most likely be a 5 today and a 6 tomorrow. I definitely won’t be a 3 today.
After consulting with the ski supervisor, who told Liam he had to parallel ski if he wanted to be in Level 4, Liam was still giving me an earful – over the level and the garments.
We met Liam for the first time on what would have been my Grandma Murphy’s 90th birthday. She died in July, and we brought Liam home from Korea in September. I swear there is a cosmic connection between those two: his stubbornness equals hers. A trait that will serve Liam well when he’s an adult and standing up for what matters to him.
I put Liam’s skis on the Level 4 stand. I glanced at the instructor’s name tag. I was only inciting anger with my presence. A lightening rod in the midst of a massive electrical storm. I pointed to the stand and very clearly stated, “Liam, there are your poles and your skis. Have fun.” And, I walked away.
Once in the massage center, I realized what time is was: I had dropped him off at 9:30. A half hour early. Strange there were so many kids there that early. I felt guilty for leaving him there to wait that long, but… There is a saying I often quote: “Parents are the bone upon which children sharpen their teeth.” This bone needed some renewal. I managed to defer the guilt. Slightly.
After the massage, the therapist told me I had really needed it. I could feel her pushing knots out of my shoulders; it was painful. At 11:50, I left to pick up Liam, and the receptionist reminded me to drink lots of water throughout the day to clear out all those toxins that had been released during the massage.
A bit more centered – and with thicker bones and relaxed muscles – I watched and waited for Liam to come flying down that hill. Around 12:10, I approached a Level 4 instructor – a different man than I had left Liam with that morning. This instructor hadn’t had Liam in his group and said Liam must be with the other Level 4 instructor; this instructor would wait with me to make sure I had Liam.
At 12:20, I noticed that I was the only parent standing at the bottom of the hill. The instructor agreed; it was getting late.
No Liam. I fell the onset of panic. Millions of little lungs in my muscles sucked those toxins right back inside. Every muscle went stiff and prepared for battle.
The instructor assured me Liam had not been with him. “I realize that. I’m not doubting you. I just need to know, what we do now? “ Had he gone in for hot cocoa? I checked all the skis along the fence. Had he gone back up the chairlift on his own? No, that’s not Liam.
We scooted over to the ski school office, bumping into Will and Bill on the way. “I can’t find Liam!” I exclaimed. I stationed them at the bottom of the hill in case Liam came down while the instructor and I were in the office.
“We are missing a child,” the ski instructor told the man behind the ski school desk. I gave this man the instructor’s name and the time I had left Liam with the group.
“OK, let me make a call.” He showed no signs of distress. He couldn’t turn off the informal chit-chat from the person who picked up the phone on the other end. Finally, he got to the point. We are missing a child. With no thumbs-up, no smile, and no eye contact with me during the conversation, I went to the darkest spot a parent can turn. The minute phone call felt like hours.
Finally, he hung up. “Liam is having lunch on the other side of the mountain. He’s with the all-day ski group; somehow he got mixed in with them. Each of them wears a GPS on their ankle, so we located him that way. Do you want to leave him in all day?”
NO! I want him back!
Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be early. Being on time for ski lessons is better than being early -- particularly when the all-day ski lessons start at 9:30.
Fortunately for Liam, he didn’t know that he was lost, for that day, Bill and I were the bone that took that blow.
(Ski school... perhaps ski instructors could have helped with Bill's Ski Goggles?)