Oh, to be a munchkin again
I wish I were 5 years old.For the past few days, I’ve been hanging out with my friend’s niece who is “4 and three-quarters” and she is like the coolest person I have met in a long time.For starters, we have a lot in common. We have the same nickname (we both go by Ali, but her name is Alexis). We both love pink first and purple second (though everything of hers is purple and everything of mine is pink). And the best part is we both love being on the mountain.Just yesterday, she dragged us over to the baby halfpipe at Snowmass and proceeded to ski up and down the walls like a true X Games protégé. Then she led us through a hairball line in the trees, fell on her face, cried, and then raced down to the Fanny Hill lift so she could do it again. Did I mention she straight-ran most of the run? She didn’t turn exactly, but just sort of shifted her weight from foot to foot so she wiggled like a little purple jelly bean in her one-piece ski outfit, wings taped to the top of her helmet, brown curls poking out from either side of her face, which was all but totally obscured by her goggles.”I ate real mud once!” she yelled before dropping in to the halfpipe. Then on the lift she proclaimed that she didn’t like boys, even though she has two boyfriends and a fiancé back home in Miami. Since her Grandpa Richie was on the lift with us, I refrained from telling her that probably won’t change much over the course of her lifetime, especially if she ends up living in Aspen.Ohhh, no. Don’t even give me the whole “your maternal instincts must be kicking in” racket. Just because I almost started to cry when her uncle had me hold her in my arms when she was dead asleep at Kenichi by 7 p.m. the other night so he could put his coat on has nothing to do with it. Just because she yells “love ya!” on cue and wraps her little arms around your neck as soon as she sees you and has this sweet little kid smell, kind of like dew mixed with buttered popcorn, does not mean I am ready to be a mom. It has nothing to do with watching her ski like a pro when she is just a little munchkin and wishing I could be there to watch her grow up so I can say, “I remember when …”I’m thinking the real issue here is why I can relate to a 5-year-old better than people my own age. Yesterday, when we were changing into our shoes at the end of the day there was a group of kids doing some kind of arts and crafts with glue and paints and I had to bite my tongue not to ask if we could join them. I would love nothing more than to lose myself for a few hours in scissors and Elmer’s glue and magic markers. Hanging out with them looked like a lot more fun than the crew I’d hook up with later that night at Eric’s.Or maybe it’s just because it made me realize how much I miss being a snowboard instructor. After all, the best memories of my own childhood (cue violin music) are from ski school at Snowmass. I remember my instructor Doug and his navy blue ski sweater with stripes down the arms (those were the coolest) and his mirrored sunglasses with the red, white, and blue frames and the zinc he wore on his lips and his nose. I remember showing my parents how I learned how to go off this jump only to crash face-first and cut my cheek. Even that was kind of cool.I think that’s where Ali and I made our connection. As soon as I helped her put her helmet on and slid her little goggles oh-so-carefully onto her face as I’d done with hundreds of kids before, she knew how comfortable I was on the mountain. And there is nothing better than knowing I can help plant the seed for her to feel that way, too – maybe sooner than later.When we went to pick her up at ski school at the end of the day yesterday, she proudly told her instructor, “this is Alison who snowboards” and sat on my lap with her arm looped around my neck proudly while her instructor eyeballed me and her grandfather, no doubt trying to assess what in the hell our relationship was all about. I just sat there and nodded and let her wonder.”I used to teach here, too.” I told her instructor.”Oh? Where do you live now?” she asked.”I still live here. I got fired so I’m doing something different now,” I said.Between that and the whole little kid/older man connection, she looked at me like maybe she should call the police.So I figure this is as good a time as any to set the record straight. I loved being a snowboarding instructor because nothing makes me happier than hanging out with a cadre of little kids who follow me through the woods screaming “tree trail!” at the top of their lungs and then sing the latest version of “Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat” with me on the chairlift. Even though I’m happy to be devoting my life to my own fame and fortune, I actually do miss giving something back to the future ski and snowboard bums of the world who will someday horrify their parents when they drop out of Harvard to live in Aspen (OK, I went to CU/Boulder, but still).So you see, I’m not a criminal or a wanna-be-mom. I’m just 30 years too old.Even the Princess knows there is no such thing as free lunch. Send loving e-mail only to firstname.lastname@example.org
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