Dad started teaching us to ski. First he taught us to walk up the driveway and glide down. The driveway had a very slight incline. Then he tramped down the side hill by our house, which had a slightly steeper incline, and began teaching us to snowplow down the hill and sidestep back up. The next winter, we began taking Saturday morning ski lessons given by the Ski Club at Warren's Hill, a farmer's field just outside of town. There was no lift at Warren's Hill. We skied down and sidestepped or herringboned back up. As a founding member of the Ski Club, my Dad was one of the ski instructors.
By the time I was six, I had a little pair of red rubber lace up ski boots (hand-me-downs from another skiing family) and my own poles with leather straps and baskets. That winter, another member of the Ski Club installed a rope tow on a hill on his farm. The annual Ski Club races were held there. I, of course, competed in the slalom and giant slalom, as did my best friend at school. We both won ribbons.
I had never skied at that hill before. It was much longer and steeper than Warren's Hill. I loved going fast down the big hill. The rope tow also was an exciting novelty, and I quickly caught the hang of it.
In the afternoon, after all the races were done, and we had had our lunch of hotdogs and hot chocolate, we had time for free skiing. At some point, I remember skiing quickly past my Dad, who had stopped for some reason, maybe to assist my brother. I went racing down the hill, my long braids streaming out behind me. I was going really, really fast, and it was fantastic. (This is how I remember it, anyways. Perhaps I was not really going so fast or skiing as elegantly as I thought.)
Suddenly, I heard my Dad shouting my name. "Fall down!" he yelled. "Fall down!"
Why was he telling me to fall down? I saw people turning to look at me as I skied past them. I was a confident skier. I had no intention of falling down in front of everyone. That would be so embarrassing.
As I came to the bottom of the hill, the snow became very rough and I managed to stop. Or maybe I did fall down; I no longer remember. My Dad caught up to me then, and he was angry and upset. He explained that there was a creek that went along the base of the hill, and he was afraid that I was out of control unable to stop, and that I might have ended up in the creek. I hadn't known about the creek, and I could vividly imagine falling into the freezing water.
I remember that ski day with mixed emotions: the excitement of skiing on a bigger hill with a lift, the pride in winning the slalom race, the shame of everyone staring at me expecting me to fall down, the disappointment that my Dad did not see me as a fully competent skier, and the recognition of his love and desire to protect me from harm.
My Dad has been gone for nearly eleven years now. I still miss him very much, especially on days like today that I spend at the ski hill.