Forty years ago Marty and I went skiing in Breckenridge Colorado for our honeymoon. I had never skied before so you might think that wasn’t the best thing to do on a honeymoon….pish posh. Marty was a good skier and did end up teaching me a thing or two. Actually, she ended up having to dig me and my skies out of a four foot snow drift mid way down the beginner slope.
Forty years later, last week, I went skiing in Deer Valley Utah with our two kids, their spouses and the oldest three grandkids. I can still ski, I’m better than I was 40 years ago but I'm older, fatter and slower. I still remember getting rescued from the snow drift so I try really hard to avoid big piles of soft snow because of that lesson.
I’m a bit of a sentimentalist (duh). I carry a small blue canvas case Marty always had with her when we skied. Marty always had it tucked into the inside pocket of her ski coat and it always carried gum, chap stick, a lighter and a pack of Doral Menthols. It’s old, dirty and torn so much that it is no longer functional, but I carry it anyway. I stick it in my inside jacket pocket, with nothing in it because of the holes, but it’s there and it reminds me of Marty when I am on the mountain.
When we ski, when I watch our kid’s ski, I think of Marty, I think of ski trips with friends, with family, but always with Marty. She brought skiing into my life. She brought that graceful feeling of gliding along soft snow into my life.
More importantly, she brought a real feeling of grace into my life and I’m never more aware of that than when I am in the mountains. I never feel more connected to my faith, my God’s grace than when I’m standing at the top of the world with a brilliant blue sky above and soft white snow below.
Every time I ski I find myself at the top of the mountain looking down remembering going down the slopes in front of Marty as she expertly glided behind me. I can’t, I don’t want to get away from those very familiar feelings of her laughing at me as we skied and as I fell into piles of snow, over edges into mud or down a steep slope upside down.
As I watched our children ski I was struck, first by Erin, the daughter and then Matt, the son, how much they skied like their mother. Matt skies fast, Erin skies slow, both ski with the same pace and control of their mother, both ski with their arms and poles out from their body, both ski from an upright position. They ski like their mother and I absolutely love that.
On the last night at the resort as we sat eating a dinner cobbled together by my resourceful daughter in law Sarah we all got to talking about things we enjoyed on the trip and what we were grateful for, something my children often ask of their children. We went around the table several times and we were grateful for skiing together, spending time together, our feet, our food, pizza and family.
I took one turn and looked at the three kids four, four and six. I told them I was grateful to their Grandmother’s mother and father who took their Grandmother skiing and taught her how to ski, to find grace on the mountain. I told them I was grateful for their Grandmother who taught me to ski and find that same grace and how we taught Matt and Erin and how they were teaching them how to ski and enjoy God’s grace.
I don’t think, actually I know they didn’t get what I was talking about or how this act of recreation connected our current family to our families history. They don’t really get it that their Grandma, the one in the chair, is the one who kept this whole thing going.
They don’t get it yet.
It’s a skiing lesson I will continue to try and teach until someday they get it, until some day they stand at the top of the mountain and watch their parents ski or watch their own children ski. I will continue to ski and teach them about the grace of skiing and finding God’s grace in the beauty and magnificence of creation.
It’s what Marty taught me.