Aspen Princess: Baby powder is all I need
“You made a mistake, not hiking the bowl today,” my friend texted me last Wednesday after the first big powder day.
I felt a wave of emotion bubble up, flushing my cheeks with heat. Was it anger? Annoyance? Shame?
That’s when it hit me. It was fear of missing out, or FOMO, as the kids are calling it these days.
Jesus Christ, I’m a grown woman. Why do I care?
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As my Facebook feed began to fill with photos of friends getting face shots, gloating in hashtags (#18inches #powderday #blessed, ad nauseam), I began to care.
But I’d had to think about my husband, who leaves the house when it’s still dark out to work his butt off so our bills get paid, and felt I should do my part to contribute. I thought about my baby, who was happy at day care, but still, I wanted to stay close.
For crying out loud, I thought. It’s Colorado. It will snow again.
When I visited my hard-core skier friend a few days later, she was wind-burned and happy, still talking about how it was the best powder ever, even if she was behind with work.
“It’s just a matter of priorities,” she said.
I was thinking about my priorities when I went for a hike with the babe for the first time in a while the other day.
I was walking through a forested section toward the top where the light flickers through the trees and you get these little glimpses of the bigger view, a swath of Basalt Mountain and the valley floor below. The babe, who was cocooned in his designer down bunting and comfortably nestled into the Cadillac of baby backpacks, with its drool pillow and padded lining, had just woken up from a little cat nap. His voice was still raspy with sleep as he sang and cooed and babbled, filling my world with song.
And I felt so happy, and I was thinking, “There is just no place I’d rather be.”
A lot of people might not understand that, especially considering hiking with stabilizers isn’t the most glamorous winter sport in the valley. It doesn’t require the newest, lightest, high-tech equipment. There are no cool graphics or ways to measure the size of your, er, equipment, like how many centimeters underfoot or how long. There’s no powder, no bragging rights, no days, laps or vertical to count. There’s no bar at the base where you get to run into all the cool kids at the end of the day to share those aforementioned stats or to boast about how you rolled up as soon as ski patrol dropped the gate.
But hiking is something I get to share with my baby.
I was hiking along, lost in thought, when I ran into my friend Jen, who was hiking up as I was coming down. She was dressed in one of those hiking skirts with her long skinny legs sticking out, prancing up the trail like a gazelle or some other naturally beautiful, long-legged creature.
I waddled up to her, trying to navigate a particularly steep section of trail with 20 pounds of babe on my back.
“Oh, my god, you look great!” she said. “You look so healthy and happy.”
I tried not to interpret that as “fat and happy” and forced myself to accept the compliment. She asked me if she could take my photo with my camera to document the moment.
That struck me as scary-intuitive, because I was just thinking about how happy and in the moment I felt.
“You really worked hard for this one,” she said, admiring the babe. “And it paid off because he is seriously perfect.” I let her take my picture, even though I feared I would look awful, dressed as I was with dirty hair in braids.
I’d met Jen when I first moved to Aspen 15 years ago, back when I was on the party train and always kind of a mess. She’d married a handsome, successful guy and had two kids while I remained single. And I continued to struggle for so long, for far too long. As our lives took us in different directions, we eventually lost touch.
I’d run into her once a few years ago on this same trail after I learned that my first round of IVF had failed. I’d been crying, my vision still blurry with tears.
“Alison,” she’d said, looking alarmed. She gently touched my forearm. “Are you OK?”
I shook my head and kept walking. I didn’t turn back. Too much time had passed and too much had happened for me to explain. She had kids. She wouldn’t understand.
I’d seen her a few times since then, at the grocery store or at an event too crowded with people to warrant more than a brief hello. But as I hiked down, I was flooded with memories, thinking of how close we were once.
When I got back to my car, she came running across the parking lot, breathless. “I ran all the way down to catch you,” she said. She began sputtering about a memory she was having, about my crazy dog Sebastian. It seemed we’d both been caught up in some kind of nostalgic reverie. It meant something, all that time that had passed.
I got in the car and looked at the photos she took. To my surprise, I loved them. Maybe it was because I saw what she saw. I did look happy.
As I drove home, I realized my priorities have changed. What matters to me now is my baby, who babbled excitedly from the back seat. And my husband, who I could hardly wait to see when he got home from work. This moment, right now, is what matters. And at least for now, it has nothing whatsoever to do with a powder day.
The Princess wants to wish her son a happy first birthday. Send the babe some birthday love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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