A few weekends ago, I skied with my mom. We made the traditional bagel stop before hitting the highway, drove up and over Berthoud Pass, and parked at the base of Mary Jane. Eventually, I would demand we break for a giant brownie at the lodge. Everything was exactly like when I was a kid.
Also like when I was a kid: I spent the entire day trying like hell to keep up with my mom. Despite a knee injury a decade ago and a stress fracture last year, she still skis bumps better than I do—better than most people do. It’s all french fry, no pizza pie.
My mom was my first adventure partner. My first day on the ski slopes, at age four—brave of her, if you ask me—was a success: when all the other toddlers were melting down after their lessons at the end of the day, I was merrily munching on chicken fingers in the lodge. I guess she figured a half day of skiing with a happy kid was more fun than screaming “I paid a fortune for this lift ticket, god dammit, and you will enjoy this!”
I’d probably be a better skier today if she’d pushed me a little harder, but the most important part stuck—I still like skiing. I still like going with my mom. I also still like chicken fingers. I guess you can’t win ’em all.
Most of my memories of early childhood take place outside: riding a pink bike around the neighborhood, teetering up rocky trails, and, of course, snacking. There were no videogames in our house; “I’m bored” was perennially met with “Go outside.”
Eventually, the bike rides got longer and the hikes got harder. Less whining was tolerated. (This, I imagine, is one of the perks of your children growing older.) After a two-ish year phase wherein I was a total douche—mostly just regular shitty teenager stuff—I returned, in my early twenties, to the hobbies and values my mom had spent so many weekends instilling in me.
A few summers ago, I took my mom backpacking. She’d been a few times as a tween, but not, I expect, since the advent of internal-frame backpacks. (Sorry, Mom.) We took the dogs. I made dinner, and was refreshed to have an appreciative audience, as most of my regular companions are no longer impressed by the one dish I can reliably prepare.
We talked about the usual things adult children discuss with their parents—our extended family, the simpler times of my/her childhood, and, when these had been exhausted, our most beloved topic: the dogs. She asked me questions: Which way should I lay out my sleeping bag? Does my toothpaste go in the bear hang? Are you sure? We have to walk back to the bear hang.
It felt odd to be the one answering questions. I’m used to fielding them from kids, clients, peers. But from my mom? It’s supposed to be me doing the asking: Can I borrow your car? How many exemptions should I claim on my W-2? When did you know it was a good idea to marry Dad?
A lot of my life has been guided by my mom’s answers to my questions. I still feel like I should check in on the big things—maybe not What should I make for dinner? but probably That guy at work was totally wrong and I’m not a complete idiot, right? and definitely Is it a bad idea to move in with this guy I’ve known for ten weeks?
I don’t always listen to the answers, but I do care what they are. It doesn’t really matter whether she’s right (usually), just that she’s in my corner (always, even when I’m totally wrong).
Even with me running the show, we finished that backpacking trip in one piece. My mom still asks me questions—How do you block someone on Facebook?—which I’m taking as a sign that I am now a fully fledged adult, a person you can count on for your IT needs.
While I’m glad to have someone in my life I can pose the big questions to—or at least think to myself, What would my mom say?—I like it best when the questions aren’t so serious. More like:
Which run should we do next?
How many more runs until lunch?
Wasn’t that a great day?