Ryan borrows my coat. I now have three coats on the mountain while I sit solitary in the lodge, huddled over a laptop. One of the twins drops their mittens, I retrieve and toss on their table, they thank me. A kindergartener screams to go home, then bustles out the door like Franz Klammer at Innsbruck. Natasha smiles and waves, we chat about the auditions for Bye Bye Birdie, hers was disappointing, at least to her. Miles buys an ice cream cone for $5.70, throws 30 cents on the table. A snowboard falls in a clatter, two skis clang to the floor, the lost and found builds to a leaning tower of hats and hopes. The glass doors swing, pendulums of snow angels and snow pants.
Mothers huddle, some volley work and social. Some, simply work. Some, simply social. Another group ignores the no-outside-food rule and plays cards, “Rummy….” echoing through cookie crumbles and soda cans popping like knuckles on a nervous flight. Some fathers ski, others stake out the bar, others follow their children, picking up, cleaning up, propping up, others are in far-off offices missing all the fun.
I spend most of the day filling out school applications, realizing that Jan. 31 is looming like a train in a tunnel. I describe my son the best I can. I describe our family the best I can. I probably dwell on the fire too much and allow Miles to delve into rock and roll too much. All bittersweet as I think back to the first Ski Friday, way back when I was nervous, and he was hesitant – about the magic carpet and the bunny slope. Now, I’m still nervous, wondering who he’s skiing with as the day turns to dusk. He’s no longer hesitant, he doesn’t need me, oblivious to the ticking clock, the flipping calendar in my head, a son never knows how a father feels. I guess that’s good. I’d never want him to know my apprehension, my angst over him going off to ninth grade, whether it’s around the corner or far up I-81. Oh, to have four children.
I think back to 10 years at Hill School. And, sure, we wound up as those Hill School parents dominating a dinner party with the trials and tribulations of our little school. But only occasionally. And only with other Hill School parents. I swear.
On applications, I’ve skipped and leapt from Miles reciting the presidents in assembly to singing Promised Land, Ragged Old Flag, American Pie and Tangled Up in Blue to mythology exams to soccer games, the BayeuxTapestry in fifth grade (oh, the hours we spent, magic markers we bled dry), the days when Miles wouldn’t run on his own in recess to the day he elbowed and banged in the paint of a three-point loss to Wakefield on the Hill school home court. I’ve skipped the late-to-arrive mornings, sliding under the tag at 8:29, teachers tapping their feet as Miles throws a backpack over his shoulder and runs to homeroom. I’ve skipped a moment or two when we nearly went another way. I’ve skipped the Covid years, because, well, they were skipped. I’ve told Miles there will always be bumps, it’s how you deal with the bumps that counts. We’ve all had our bumps.
Three Ski Fridays to go. And then it’s over. Goodbye Redeye. Goodbye Bootlegger. Goodbye Hangover. Goodbye Bryce. Goodbye Hill School. A 10-year odyssey, from JK to eighth grade. Ryan, Lea, Charlotte, Poppy and Miles, the only five who made every stop on the tour. They’re all here somewhere, on the mountain, in the lodge or on the way home. Their school applications mixed somewhere between hopes and dreams.
I think about all of this as I proof a list of hobbies and academics on the umpteenth page of an umpteenth school application, wondering what is right for Miles, what is right for us.
Miles tromps into an emptying lodge, snow, snot and spit paint his red cheeks. He’s lost his goggles. Most of his friends have gone home. “I’m done, Dad.”
Now where is my coat…?