Ski Bunnies - Part Two

Wednesday – Ski Turoa

Awesome day. Anita and I realise that we have made it to a significant milestone – all the kids are carrying their own gear – this hasn’t always been the case, and our sense of achievement is probably disproportionate to the actual achievement. However, we will take our successes as they come. Surely development from here should be exponential.

Zoe then surprises me by falling apart emotionally while waiting to get on the chairlift. She has fallen off this particular lift before, the chair being just a bit tall for her, but I know she has been on it since. She is obviously scared each time she hops on but manages to hold it together. In the presence of mum however, all the emotions hang out. I give her words to use with the chair lift attendant and encouragement to ask for help. This young woman is very good, talking the process through with Zoe as she helps her get on. The whole process takes about 20 seconds, but it feels much longer. Zoe is obviously pleased with her success and relieved that she has a plan of action for next time.

Sitting on the chair lift in a mix of relief for actually getting on and awe at the natural surroundings. Dangling high above the slopes, surrendered to the path of the pulley system, I have a sense of happy helplessness, revelling in the presence of the majestic mass that is Mount Ruapehu. It is very easy to see how Maori and many other indigenous peoples regard these amazing physical features as ‘gods’. There is a tangible divinity; it is the artwork of the Creator and I have a wonderful sense of Him when I am here.

Zoe skis off the chair lift effortlessly, confident in her body. Without adult direction the kids pair up, big kids with little kids, and ski together. Zoe and Sandra enjoy finding themselves capable teachers of the four 7 year olds. Only a few short years ago, we wondered about the wisdom of sending the then ten-year-old Courtney and six year old Sandra down the slopes now known as Clary’s track. Those six year olds are now the ten year olds and the teachers, or at the very least; the inspiring big kids. I look skyward in silent prayer as my little people head off in pursuit of very mature and fairly dangerous adventure. The biggest threats are the snowboarders who are confident beginners, who have just enough skill to be dangerous. Out of control they can plow into unsuspecting skiers with their full weight crashing in feet first. The thought places my heart in my mouth quite regularly, and an involuntary nausea whenever we see a body go past on a snow gurney.

Ethan is just awesome as he realises his own abilities and learns to control his speed. Jack is a daredevil and can’t seem to go fast enough, places his ski parallel down the mountain and takes off. Courtney carries herself with grace and skill, as always, and Zoe, is somewhere in between. Having ones centre of gravity quite close to the ground is obviously a benefit as all my kids look quite stable next to some of our taller members.

The adults share parenting responsibilities which the kids respond to surprisingly well. Any parent is everyone’s parent and we all back each other up. I find myself in supervision of Ben and Erik, nearly eight year old twins, one of whom has also just gotten the hang of skiing this year also, and who is delighted in his new found abilities. As we zig zag down the hill, Erik turns to check that I am watching before practising his jumps. It touches my heart that I am someone worth showing off to; that he wants me to witness his efforts. I have become family to him. It’s these sorts of occasions that transform friends into family, the family that you choose.

Communal living is very attractive at these times of the year, before the novelty has time to wear off. You present your best self when in a group, you are a better parent, a better friend, a better helper, a better cook, a better comedian. When you are tired, there is another adult to step in and relieve the immediate pressure of caring for other smaller people. It’s a tribe. It’s community. It doesn’t mean that people don’t see your faults, they do, more so than normal life, in all its glorious and messy splendour. You have to let go a little of the façade that we build up in our nuclear family / urban setting. You have to trust that your faults will be seen, accepted for, accounted for and covered by someone else, and you will be loved all the same, in fact more so because you have let someone see your vulnerabilities, let someone else into your sphere of humanness, and trusted them. Its powerful, it’s simple, yet it’s one of the hardest things to do. The fear of letting others in prevents us from experiencing deeper satisfaction in human relationships. We have to be willing to let go to receive something very precious. It is the currency of friendship, true friendship, and friends that become your tribe. It is the substance of life.

Enough of that rubbish...

At one point I am waiting for a poma, and notice a young woman coming up beside me. She is noticeable for the fact that she is wearing a significant amount of make-up. Looking around me I notice that she is a rarity. Most of these young, gorgeous women are beautifully un-made-up. They are wearing head to toe sleeping bags, skivvies, scarves, hats and gloves. Skiing is a sexy sport and I realise that it obviously has nothing at all to do with the amount of flesh showing. I like it.

Back at the house the fridge has been malfunctioning this week, and we congratulate ourselves on being ingenious and resourceful and creating a catering system that requires very little refrigeration. A new fridge arrives on the Wednesday afternoon not long after we have returned from the mountain, delivered by a quirky looking dude, in his fifties, wearing a necklace that makes him look like a hippy surfer. Anita and I are not surprised when we meet his business partner later in the week, a very well spoken and ‘delightful’ character who refers to his ‘partner’ and wants to gossip with us about a property on the market and the controversial issues surrounding that sale. Life is full of colour and I enjoy the interaction with this interesting man, in a tiny second hand shop set up in the garage of a B&B in Ohakune.

Thursday – NO SKI

Turoa is closed and Whakapapa is incredibly unfriendly. One of our families has gone home to Wellington, but we are still left with four adults and seven children. After about an hour battling unpleasantness at Happy Valley we decide that we should go home in search of warmer activities. We attempt to refund our tickets but we have not returned within the hour that they allow. Feeling a little hard done by as we are only a few minutes out of their terms, we argue (I say we but really I stood in full support next to the tall, cross, slightly intimidating Dutch lady) our extenuating circumstances. The pregnant manager eventually relents and refunds some of our passes, mainly to get us out of the office as there are other disgruntled customers. This is worth $250 to me and $200 to Anita so I am relieved.

Back home, eating and hopefully reading if I can find my book. I am sure a 500 tournament will start shortly, and I think the kids will work on their holiday folder of memories and photos soon. If the weather is the same tomorrow we will make our way home.


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