Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Polite Pole Vaulter

His name was Mitchell. He was 8 years old, from Texas, and called me ma'am. He and another kid from Texas, Brady, were my only charges that day, and both had kind of gotten to the point where they could wedge themselves to a stop, so I decided to take them up to the beginner chair up on the hill via another chairlift. Despite my extensive explanations, they both biffed it trying to get off, but really this is nothing new. I tried to get them to ski down a hill about as steep as a table top, trying to teach them to stop on their own without falling, turn maybe, and God forbid they be able to get up by themselves. Brady could stop, about 50 feet ahead of where I was at any given time, but Mitchell was having problems with even that. Near the bottom of the hill, I was hot from lifting them, tired and frustrated and threw off my coat as they mewed in little heaps of snot around me. Right then a seasoned instructor and his row of perfectly skiing ducklings slid to a stop behind me. As the kids began to push each other, Tom asked me if I was all right. "How do you,” I gasped, trying to focus on something productive. It didn’t work. “WHAAA!"
Okay, so maybe that's a little melodramatic, but I felt like a fool trying to stop crying like my 8-year-olds. Tom took me by the shoulders and made me look at him.
"Don't let them see that they're getting to you, or it will all be over." I felt like I was stuck in a kennel with rabid dogs that I had to keep from seeing my fear.
I pulled myself together and put my goggles back on before we parted ways, them down the hill in a perfect line and I leading my group to the chair lift. It is our policy that the instructor go up the chair first so that someone could help them off at the top, and after I got on I turned around and watched Mitchell keep walking instead of stopping at the line to get on the chairlift, his little snot-encrusted face staring up at me as he walked right off the front of the loading platform. The lift operator sideswiped Brady before he could be whacked in the head by the chair he was supposed to sit on. I sat on the non-moving chair for five minutes watching the liftie take my kids' skis off, move them out of the way, help them put the skis back on and stand them on the line with the explicit instructions to stay put. When they got to the top, I was waiting for them, but the liftie wasn't watching, and neither of them made any move to get off. I lifted them down after they tripped the safety gate, then pointed to a distant spot across the hill where we would meet. Too bad they couldn't make it to that distant spot. Right at that moment, like a bad horror movie, I saw my boss incognito in a baseball cap because it was his day off,, and before I could stop them, both my kids tried to go across the hill, but they were pulled DOWN the hill in a gravity riptide into a hole with a big pole sticking out of it, inconveniently placed below the offloading ramp. Brady, the better stopper, managed to fall down with one of his skies halfway into the hole, as I'm screaming in slow motion to Mitchell to fall down, FALL DOWN MITCHELL! before I watch his little frame pick up speed, launch over the hole and literally wrap himself momentarily around the pole before I hear the thud of his helmet whacking into the cold metal. Then he is a crumpled heap at the bottom of the hole. I almost fainted. I ran over, unclicked my skies, and touched his arm. "Are you alright, Mitchell?" I am on the point of hysterics. "Yes," came his muffled reply, since his face way half-hidden in his coat and halfway into the snow. When I had established that nothing hurt and I could lift him out without doing him any harm, I did so and sat with him in my lap.
"Are you sure you're alright?"
His little snow-covered eyes blinked at me.
"Yes, ma'am."