Monday, January 12, 2009
Barbie Hates to Ski
My very first trip to the snow was a wonderland of winter beauty. My mother and I rode a Greyhound bus. I suppose it was easier than putting chains on our AMC Hornet station wagon, although I’m sure my mother could have done it, she could do anything including fix a broken toilet. Gloria Steinem was proud.
A greyhound bus ride when you’re seven-years old in the 1970’s was a journey of euphoria. I would imagine it to be pretty creepy in this millennium but that’s just my cynical suspicions. I was positively freaking out on the inside of my skin and could hardly hold still in the big stiff seat with no seatbelts. The bathroom in the back of the bus was like a visit to a world where everything was my size. There was a tiny toilet with dolphin blue water and a sink that I didn’t even need to get on my tippy-toes to use. I loved the sound that the door lock made when it slid into the “occupied” position. The magical light automatically illuminated and the smell of sweet urinal cakes wafted through the air.
Back in our row, I was allowed to sit by the giant window even though I could hardly see anything down below the aluminum window frame. As we ascended the mountain I could start to see the dirty sludge on the side of the road. It wasn’t at all what I had expected the snow to look like. It was nothing like the Christmas shows on television but I was still bouncing up and down in the seat saying “There it is! There it is!” If they would have let me out of the bus, I would have splayed right out in the brown/black sludge and made a defiled snow angel. But as the miles dropped behind us and our mighty Greyhound downshifted up the mountain, there grew a white wall of snow beside us. It looked like a giant knife had sliced off the messy edges of a towering meringue pie and left the bus with a clean black road to drive on. I sat on top of my feet so that I could see more out the window which had become very cold to touch. I secretly licked the window when my mother was busy reading a book with no pictures and it tasted like dirt, salt, and tin foil. It was marvelous!
A sign on the side of the road read “Soda Springs, next exit” and my mother told me we were almost there. This was the question I had been repeatedly asking for the past four hours and the answer was, to my continuous frustration, vague until now. I had been tuned into Barbieland for the past hour. She had been changed in and out of 35 different outfits reflecting her perfect versatility from beach to evening to flight attendant. None of ensembles matched what was left of her shoe collection though: One yellow pump and a black boot. Like me, Barbie pulled off her own unique style.
It was dusk by the time we arrived at our lodge. Through the window of the bus and in my memory now, there was an unusual electric blue cast on everything leaving only two colors; blue and black. It was stark and supernatural. The driver pulled the mighty Greyhound into the parking lot covered with snow and slush. I was not allowed to leap from the bus the moment it stopped, as I had planned. We had to gather our travel activities, make sure Barbie had her boot on, and give the other passengers a chance to exit. I had been practicing standing in lines and taking turns in elementary school, so I understood the theory, however, I always felt like I was the only one not cutting. I still feel that way.
My first step on real snow crunched and gave me a false sense of stability. The second step was a little less confident. Each step toward the front door of the lodge brought more doubt and fear. I could see that this trip to the snow was not going to live up to my naïve Hollywood expectations. I was not a graceful faller due to my skinny giraffe-like legs and boney butt. In life I avoided anything where I might fall or get hit by a ball. That’s why Barbie was such a good companion for me. She hated all that stuff too.
The next morning we headed for the slopes so that I could play in the snow. My mother had found magical overalls that kept all the snow and water out, even if I sunk all the way up to my armpits. This sinking game lasted for a while and was hilarious until I started to feel funny. My head felt as if it was beating with my heart drums and they were getting faster and faster. Sweat was quickly forming on my face and under my beanie with the big fluffy ball on top. I couldn’t catch my breath and felt like I might throw-up. I looked over at my mom for help and the next thing I knew I was waking up on my back in the snow with my mother fanning my face. I fainted. I’m a fainter.
As I got older, there would be at least one opportunity each year to go to the snow. And each year I’d pretend to like it. Simply put, I’d will myself to be excited because it was too embarrassing to admit that I was the Strange One visiting here from another planet where snow was punishing and scary. Everybody else loves the snow, they love to ski, and they’re good at it. Even geeks and little old ladies are good at skiing but not me. I’d rather play with Barbie.