Im off on the morning train to cross the raging main,
Im taking a trip on a government bus, 500 miles away!
- With apologies to the author of Ten Thousand Miles Away
Before the sun gets too warm, and the grass too green, please indulge me while I wallow in one more story about snow.
Ski Week is an experience your child will remember forever, read the notice from my then-sixth-grade sons teacher, if we get enough parents to go along as chaperons.
No match for my sons pleas, I soon found myself going along for the downhill ride with 113 pre-adolescents, 15 other reluctant adults, 45 blaring cassette players, and one aging Pooh Bear. By the end of the week neither the chaperons nor the Armed Forces Recreation Area near Munich, Germany, would ever be the same.
A late afternoon arrival, equipment sign-out, and an alleged quiet hour preceded dinner and the real sports event of the week: the 50-yard dash to the pinball machines. Hours later, when the hotel had run out of quarters and fatigue had finally set in, all rooms were quiet - except one.
We need some clean sheets. Ronald just threw up. Clean sheets and a lecture on the dangers of junk food, and the sick room crew was finally asleep, too.
An over-anxious adult awakened everyone at 5 a.m. No one was late for breakfast or the buses, except the four girls whose pool game didnt end in time. Soon the rest of us were on the slopes listening to instructions:
If you are a beginning skier, dont put on your skis until your instructor shows you how. All the seasoned skiers and half the beginners put on their skis.
An hour into the first session, we lost a half-dozen kids, who were quickly found sitting in the first-aid truck. The truly injured were sorted from the actors, and the latter sent back to the slopes. Ski boots are supposed to hurt, the understanding medic said.
At days end the buses returned the tired bunch to their rooms, showers, another alleged quiet hour, and the pinball machines. The hotel had trucked in a new supply of quarters.
Ski movies followed dinner for everyone except the Poolroom Four and a male quartet who spent the evening washing Coke from the walls and ceiling of their room.
Few rose before 7 the next morning, or on the first call. Breakfast was late, but the buses and pool sharks were on time. By midday two sprains, one sore throat, and a suspected case of chicken pox rode the First Aid truck to the dispensary. Throat lozenges, two pairs of crutches and one confirmed case of chicken pox returned. An isolation ward was found for the spotted one, and those bearing crutches became the weeks first heroes.
More tales of sickness ushered sagging chaperons and limping skiers into day three. One child, greeting the wake-up detail with, Im going to throw up, was snatched off his still-clean sheets and dumped head first into the nearest wastebasket. Lecture No. 17 about resisting junk food and eating the nourishing food supplied by the hotel made us late for the buses again.
(There was some discussion about which menu causes disease.)
That night even the hotel staff looked weary. We chaperons understood: The boys are raiding our rooms... Dont wear your ski boots in the hotel... Can you catch chicken pox twice? Isolated Annie wouldnt stay in her room.
Chaperons and hotel staff alike cheered the dawning of Ski Weeks fifth and final day - but not for long. Beginners renamed themselves experts and invited injuries, including two broken legs, two more sprains, and a minor concussion. But the ski Patrol performed admirably, in spite of 16 hysterical, what-will-we-tell-their-parents? chaperons. Thankfully, 93 slightly matured sixth-graders - minus the two hurt on day two, and minus Isolated Annie and the two girls who got homesick and flew home on day three - made up for their previous misdemeanors by tending their fallen comrades.
We left 50 disheveled rooms, 258 dirty sheets, 1,000 candy wrappers on the floor, 43 wet towels on the beds, and a smiling hotel staff who managed to add, come again! to their feeble good-bye waves.
Chaperons slept, boys compared prowess on the ski slopes, and girls compared boys as the hours and kilometers between Ski Week and normalcy sped by.
Ski Week is an experience your child will remember forever....
So will his mother, I mused between cat naps.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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