The boys of summer and Bluebird Days

by Meghan McKenna

We call them ‘the boys of summer.” They wear shorts and tee shirts and swimming trunks. Hats and sunscreen, sunglasses and flip flops. They play in the sand, they run on hot pavement with no shoes and stay up late under warm breezes and wake to sunrises with skies of pink and shades of yellow proclaiming happiness for the day ahead, nearly year round for the last six years. 

 

In December 2018 we experienced our first Christmas home since we’ve lived abroad. A decision made easy after we signed a new contract to extend our time in Bangkok, and the kids being of a “more manageable” (what does that even mean?) age. The idea of making the three week trip home with the duration of the long flight and time difference possible. It was time to embrace what Home for the Holidays truly means, time to let grandparents and extended family see the magic of Christmas and all it’s enchantment and joy through our son’s eyes. This also meant it was time to put those swimming trunks away, throw on some cold weather gear and hit the slopes, as they say. 

 

Pete grew up skiing, he was on the slopes at 5 years old and never stopped shredding.  His parents and grandparents, especially his Pup, giving him the gift of the sport they believed would last a lifetime, and one he could pass down to his children. He spent his childhood skiing with his Pup, brother and cousins and as he got older piled in a car with friends and spent weekends living the snowy mountain and lodge life.

 

For the boys inaugural trip, we set our standards low. Most importantly because Brody, Parker and Cam hadn’t existed in cold temperatures in 4 years. Ryker was 2 and his only feeling of cold was in an air conditioned mall or while travelling on an airplane. What would it be like for them, could they manage the feeling of cold toes?  We decided 3 days on the mountain, two days of lessons and most of all the understanding that it may not be smooth, they may all not enjoy it and we had to be flexible, gentle and understanding of the elements and the experience itself. Fingers, and at that time warm toes crossed, we shook on it and away we went. 

 

I had organised ski suits, boots and jackets alike for months. Friends in Bangkok, family and friends in our hometown’s adding to the stockpile of four sizes of every item and doubles for the ‘just in case’ moments. I was chanting sizes, and mitten versus glove reviews and left bewildered over the tightness of ski socks and boot sizes being too big or too small depending on the brand. They needed ski goggles and hand warmers and head masks. The last minute shopping which was all easily available in our area shopping centres added no stress but more a part of the fun of the journey ahead.  

The car was loaded up, two days after arriving from Bangkok we were jet lagged and full of warm loving relative hugs and slept on fleece blanket covered beds and drank hot cocoa.  Yet we were determined to head to Vermont before the school holiday began for the area children and the holiday festivities began with our families. The boys were buckled in, movie playing, the heat was blasting on our two pairs of socks feet and we were off to see snow and what skies felt like.  

 

I sit here today, the current day in Bangkok, February 2020. Our family hit the slopes that first year in 2018 and December 2019 as well. The planning shaped the same this past year, with an extra day added in and lessons booked for our hopeful, newest skier Ryker.  

 

It is all a marvel to me. I watch them purchase their lessons, I sign on dotted lines, put on their ski helmets and shyly need assistance in buckling the straps, the instructor steps in, whom I barely know albeit trusting them with all I have, looking in their eyes and believing they will teach them and keep them safe the entire day. I snap my last photo and they turn as stiff as anything, boots and skis attached now, scooting to the meeting point, I wave them off with tears and excitement. It isn’t until hours later I spot their jacket zipping down the mountain, unable to see their expressions on their faces only their bodies showing me the thrill they are having.  

The first and second trip were very similar in that we had a condo that sat on the side of the mountain, one in which you could ski to the lifts to and from. It was our little home with cold, dark quiet mornings (with jet lag I say very early mornings). We cooked all of our meals in the kitchen stocked with pans and coffee filters, winter themed mugs and a refrigerator large enough to fill it with enough food that we might not have to shop the entire holiday. Monopoly and playing cards, books and puzzles were left out for days, iPads when it was allowed or they could keep their tired eyes open. The average bedtime was 6:30pm.  

 

While they skied during the day I tended to the house, did the dishes and prepared for the next meal and visitors and little did I know was soon to be named the “Lodge Mom”, which I wear as a badge of honour. Grandparents, Aunties, and Uncles, cousins and friends came for visits to either ski or see the delight for themselves, adding to the richness of the occasion. 

 

I was on standby, ready and waiting for a call to rescue a cold, tired boy, it never came.  The buzz on my phone alerting me of photos sent by Pete as he spent the day skiing and “bumping into”  the boys were nothing but rosy cheeked and chapped lipped smiles.  

My emotions for the boys and this trip was nothing compared to what Pete was feeling and experiencing. He had memories thick in the trees and the trails that ran through that very mountain. His grandfather had taught him, showed him and in the in between moments on the chairlifts, the ride to the resort and warm cocoa conversations were deep and are deep inside Pete’s heart and the very fibre of who he is. Pup was a man taken from earth at a young age of 62 when Pete was 18 years old, the year before he and I even met. Yet in that short time he made a lasting impression on a little boy who took up skiing and golf due to his influence and encouragement. I have always admired that gift from his Pup and seeing the impact it has had on his life, as an outsider with a birds eye view, it is magnificent and precious.

Which is why, these few but robust 6 days in total have filled us with gratitude, adrenaline and a love for a new sport as a family. An adventure led by Pete who guided them and taught them, just as he was and gave them the confidence to get out there and fly. No freezing temperatures, record wind gusts, cold feet (literally and figuratively) fear or worry could stop them from embracing every single minute of those Bluebird Days.

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