Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
So the other day I hiked Highland Bowl with my friend Catherine, who schooled me as usual except for one little thing – she’s six months pregnant.
I tried not to think about that as my lungs collapsed into my chest cavity like two shriveled-up raisins, my legs like rubber, very heavy rubber. I tried to be kind to myself and tell myself these little stories like “Some days are just harder than others” and “This horrible feeling must mean I’m in my fat-burning zone” and “After a hard hike, the next one is always an easy one.”
As I watched Catherine gain more distance on me, steadily and heartily making her way up the ridge while I stopped every 10 steps to catch my breath, I tried not to beat myself up. Both of her parents were Olympians, for crying out loud. It’s in her genes. Meanwhile, the only good jeans I have are the cute designer ones I can no longer fit into.
“It’s a tough one for me today for some reason,” I told Catherine at the top of the ridge, leaning on my board so I could put my head down and catch my breath. “I can’t believe you’re kicking my ass!”
“I’m 5 inches taller,” she said, ever the good friend. Neither one of us mentioned a girl we know who hikes the bowl four times a day at a rapid clip who is my height exactly.
Catherine is a special breed. She’s a mountain mom, a die-hard ski mom.
After she had her first baby, she somehow still managed to ski 100 days a year.
One powder day when her baby was 4 months old, the snow was so good she kept saying, “One more lap,” until finally one of her boobs almost exploded on account of backed-up milk. She was doubled over in pain by the time we got in the car, and I whisked her back home as fast as I could, being extra-aggressive at the roundabout, mouthing “breast-feeding emergency” to other drivers and pointing wildly at my friend in the front seat as we whizzed by.
Then there was the time we went skinning up Aspen Mountain in the late afternoon, her baby strapped to her chest in one of those BabyBjorn things. She was so small you could barely see her little head.
“Are you sure you’re OK with this? What if something happens?” I asked, feeling the Jewish mother in me rise to the surface.
“I feel more comfortable on skis than I do walking down the street,” she said.
By the time we got to the top of World Cup, it was nearly dark. I was fumbling around, struggling with my binding, which simply refused to click into ski mode when the baby started crying.
“Oh my God, oh my God!” I cried, in a near panic. “I can’t figure out my binding!”
Catherine stood patiently, cooing at her baby as if we were merely sitting on a park bench feeding the birds, not standing on top of a steep, icy run in the dark.
“I’ll just ski with one heel lose. I’ve always thought about learning to telemark ski,” I said.
She just shrugged and started the ski down.
I sideslipped the entire thing, thankful that it was dark and no one could see me.
Now that Catherine’s daughter is 2 years old, she skis, too.
“Where did you take her skiing today?” I asked, expecting some story about the magic carpet.
“Spar,” was all she said.
Clearly, this is a child who is never going to know the meaning of a bunny hill. When she finally reaches first grade, all her friends are going to be heading off to Powder Pandas, and she’s going to be like, “Whatever. I only did one lap in the bowl today. Better go for another.” She’s probably going to be sponsored before she can read.
So we’re hiking the bowl, and she’s pregnant with baby No. 2, carrying 20 extra pounds on her belly, plus a pack with her badass, fat, long Wagner skis, water and snacks because pregnant ladies need to eat constantly when they are crushing it in the bowl. Did I mention it’s close to zero degrees out? All I’ve got is a tiny snowboard, my lightweight, easy-to-walk-in boots and an empty womb.
When we get to the top, she wants to take a photo. You would have thought we were at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. She probably could have hung out there all the livelong day. Meanwhile, I’m seriously questioning the numbness on my left cheek, trying to imagine what my face will look like after my skin turns black and falls off.
She says the hardest part of skiing when you’re pregnant is putting your ski boots on and taking them off. That’s the only time she looks like she’s struggling.
I think of all my friends who have become mothers, seeing them at all ends of the spectrum. There are the ones who gave up everything to be with their babies every minute every day until the kid turned 16 and the ones who went back to work right after their three-month maternity leave was over. I have friends who won’t let their kid anywhere near a TV set and others who equip their 2-year-old with an iPad.
One of the most fun things you can do as a couple without children is to judge other people’s parenting styles and talk about how you would do things differently, knowing even as the words come out of your mouth that you’re totally full of it. It’s kind of like hiking the bowl – you’re not going to know what it’s really all about until you drop in.
One thing I do know. Forget motherhood – I wish I could be more like Catherine.
The Princess is on the second week of a three-week cleanse. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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