In two days, we leave for the Alps. The snowboards are out of storage, 4,372,690,114 freshly-baked vacation cookies are cooling on the counter, and, per tradition, my heart is hiding in the tightest part of my esophagus.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in prairie country, but mountains terrify as much as they thrill me. On the drive up, I always imagine our car hitting a pot hole and plunging us down 3,000 feet of sheer rock to perish in a fireball of Die Hard proportions. Once we reach snow, I think about the treacherous ice canyons [probably] gaping under the thin frost on which we stand. Riding the ski lift, I imagine the cable snapping or a gust of wind flipping my chair upside-down over the highest drop. Buckling into my snowboard, I consider the myriad of ways I could die or, at the very least, end up horribly mangled on my way down the mountainside with no effort on my part.
Then I factor in the girls. With stunning internal cinematography, I can see an out-of-control skier lopping off their heads with his pole. I can see the girls tumbling off the edge of a precipice, barreling face-first into a tree, heck, even stumbling on a flat surface and breaking a wrist (which may or may not have actually happened to a certain father of theirs). I imagine fatal icicles, avalanches, surprise blizzards, and death by snowmobile… and they’ve never even been on the slopes yet.
Christina’s post yesterday about mothers’ fear of taking risks set me thinking… or rather, stopped my overly dramatic thinking in its tracks. “What is it about nature,” she asked, “and high places and sharp that seem so terrifying that it’s not even worth the supervised risk?” Well, everything, I thought. Then I began to remember some of my happiest childhood moments—reading on tree branches with leaf shadows dancing across my face and soft air beneath me… jumping from one boulder to another over mysterious, bottomless crevices… sitting on our car windowsill with the wind full in my face as we drove through State Parks… strapping on rollerblades and letting my brothers sling me back and forth across the street with long ropes attached to their bikes… exploring woods alone, wading swift rivers up to my neck, running barefoot through grass… Danger was the big kid on the playground, sure, but he wasn’t an enemy.
I will not be letting my daughters sit halfway out of a moving vehicle anytime soon, but I recognize that my [dramatic and mostly unfounded] fears should not keep them from experiencing the wild joy of nature. So we’re borrowing a sled tonight. We’ll rent a pint-sized snowboard. We’ll save seats for the girls on the cable car and show them the world from snowy peaks. I will make every effort to encourage carpe dieming, to have fun, and to quiet the panic every time one of them peeks down a hill. All the same, don’t be too surprised to find out I’ve stashed a first aid kit and a defibrillator in one my boots.