Princess: Everything changes; old friends remain the same
The Aspen Princess
It’s happening: The nest is officially being built.
My old buddy Steve finally arrived from Fort Collins this week to help us build the nursery. He’s a bona fide timber framer, a craftsman, a philosopher, a coinsurer of beer, a father of two and a very old friend.
It’s probably a little overkill (OK, a lot overkill) to have a man of his skill level drive almost five hours to do some minor construction for us, but I guess that’s what old friends do.
I met Steve when I was 15 and a freshman at a relatively prestigious private school in West Hartford, Connecticut. I had no business attending. But my parents had delusions of grandeur about me going to an Ivy League school and thought that was the way to go. So they sent me to a fancy-pants private school with a British name and a dress code. They just assumed I’d be super-smart and driven like they were. See, I won’t even have to learn this lesson. I am so not going to be one of those parents. Of course I’m going to let our kid make his own choices. As long as he’s a X Games champion, he can choose: skiing, snowboarding or snowmobile.
I was smart enough to join our high school ski team, even though I had no intention of becoming a serious ski racer or even winning races. I just wanted an excuse to get out of school early to go skiing every day, even if it was up and down a 300-foot vertical patch at Ski Sundown, a tiny hill in northwestern Connecticut.
The best was when we’d stop at McDonald’s on the way back from ski-team practice. One day, I was sitting there trying to eat my large fries when I realized I hadn’t grabbed enough of those little ketchup-packet things. Remember when you didn’t care about carbs or gluten or organic this or dairy-free that and you just ate whatever the hell you wanted? When you didn’t know that McDonald’s was destroying the rain forest or that its meat was made out of crushed-up body parts? You just ate your Quarter Pounder in total ignorant bliss even though the cheese left a waxy film on the roof of your mouth.
So I’m sitting there, pressing my french fry against the nearly empty packet of ketchup, trying to squeeze out the last remaining drop of corn syrup with red dye No. 42, when all of a sudden, someone comes up from behind me and tosses a handful of ketchup packets under my nose.
“I just couldn’t stand there and watch you do that anymore,” Steve said.
And that was how we met. He was a junior and I was a freshman, which, if you remember, was kind of a big deal back then. From that point forward, he took on the role of my big brother and watched out for me, which was no small task.
He was the guy who scraped me off the pavement and made sure I had a container to puke in. He didn’t quite hold my hair back, but he did it in a proverbial way. He drove this enormous station wagon, one of those old family-style wagons with a bench front seat and a steering wheel that was so loose it was more like the wheel on a ship. You’d have to turn it, like, three times to get the tires to go anywhere.
The famous story that my dad will tell you as soon as he gets the opportunity is about the time we all snuck off to Vermont to go skiing for the weekend. Steve probably told his parents the truth, but I lied my face off and made up some story about sleeping over at a friend’s house.
Somehow my parents found out where I was and went ballistic. What? We just wanted to go skiing at Killington with some friends. What’s the big deal? But to my parents, it was a literally a crime. That was their rationale for calling the Killington police and having them come and fetch me and tell me, “Your parents are very worried about you, young lady,” and then accusing Steve of taking a minor over state lines as if he were some kind of ax murderer and not a really nice hippie Deadhead who did more to protect me than my parents could have. So what if I was hanging out with a bunch of seniors? I was in better hands with them than I was with my derelict friends who were my own age.
So he drove me home, and my parents forgave him but blamed me for being an irresponsible brat and grounded me for all eternity. I was a terrible kid. I lied, drank and slept with anything that moved. It’s a miracle I never got arrested, pregnant or killed.
Steve ended up at Colorado State, and I was at the University of Denver my freshman year, miserable that I couldn’t ski more. I’d go visit Steve in Fort Collins, and it was like going home. He took care of me just like he always had.
I eventually failed out of school and moved up to Steamboat to go to community college, and Steve moved up there, too. He got married and had two kids there. I ended up at Boulder, then Cali and then finally home to Aspen. He ended up back in Fort Collins, and the circles keep going around and around.
Steve is 48 now. His kids are 12 and 9. He still wears his hair long, still loves beer and the Grateful Dead and still takes care of me when he can, like driving all this way to do this silly little job for me and the babes. I guess that’s life, right? Everything changes, but it’s old friends who remain the same.
The Princess is feeling very nostalgic today. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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