Sunday, May 20, 2007

Thing One and Thing Two

[a memory evoked by Sunday Scribblings]

My dad, a doctor, took us to the Rockies on ski trips. I was a good skier, even as a kid, especially for someone who grew up in the middle of the flat, flat (did I say flat) midwest. I took lessons, but at least one day each trip I spent skiing just with my dad.

One year, my ski-with-dad day was a little more memorable due to the weather. There was snow coming down, but it was a little on the icy side. And it was windy. In fact, the wind was blowing UP the mountain, right into our faces.

After a break in one of the shelters high up on the mountain, we decided to head down. For a while I was OK. We stayed near the trees wherever possible, to help block the wind. But there were areas where there were no wind-breaks. Although my hat was pulled down as far as it would go, and my goggles took up a large portion of my face, there was nothing to protect my cheeks from being stung by the upward-blown ice pellets. My face hurt and I was getting grouchy. And whiny.

My dad was trying his best to deal with an 8-year-old approaching a mid-mountain meltdown. My dad's pockets were usually stuffed with all kinds of things "just in case". This day there were two things in that pocket that I remember very well. Thing One was a surgical mask. It was paper and blue, and it had elastic to help hold the thing on my head. There was a piece of metal that helped shape it close around my nose. My face was so small that the adult-sized mask covered nearly all of me. And it definitely kept the sting off.

There was a problem, however. The problem was caused by Thing Two in my dad's pockets. Thing Two had most likely lived next to Thing One for some time. Thing Two was prunes. Energy snack, emergency rations, agent of regularity. The problem was that Thing Two caused Thing One to smell. That's right, the paper surgical mask smelled strongly of prunes.

Now if the mask had smelled strongly of something else, say something like chocolate, there would not have been any trouble. But prunes were not (and are still not) one of my favorite aromas. There are worse smells, certainly, but my 8-year-old self was tired and not in a charitable mood. So even though the mask would have kept the sting from my cheeks, I refused to use it because it smelled like prunes.

I did make it down the mountain. A serious amount of the way was spent going down sideways and backwards (side-slipping and an admirable backwards snowplow). My poor dad must have been so relieved for us to reach the bottom. I know I certainly was. I believe that hot cocoa went a long way toward restoring my spirits.

I was cheerfully back on the mountain the next day and the next year.

And now I'm the one who carries things "just in case". I always carry a bandana (in all seasons of the year). But in the winter, unless all the weather forecasts agree on bright, warm, and sunny, you can be sure I have one of those fleece turtle things with me, in case my cheeks need protecting. And somehow, I don't think I've ever carried prunes with me onto the mountain.


myrtle beached whale said...

great story. thanks for your comments on my blog.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed reading this, its always good to have things with you just in case. i would never have thought of prunes as energy food for expeditions though.

DJPare said...

Great story!
My pockets are always filled with things I THINK I'll need on the mountain as well.
Can't wait to share that with a child of my own someday.

nonizamboni said...

What a great story. I was touched by the 'just in case' aromatic surgical mask. My daughter is in medical school and has some close encounters. . .I'm sending the link to her as I know she'll appreciate your writing.
Thanks for sharing!