"One problem in gaining support for global warming is that some of its effects are downright pleasant. ... The warmest year on record in the U.S. has just segued into what has been, for New England at least, an abnormally warm and snow-free January."
- The Boston Globe
I smiled when the lady next to me asked, "Is this January?"
My thoughts, exactly. Here I was on my annual "writing getaway" at the beach, dying in my customary, wintry long sleeves - the only clothing I had with me - while folks all around me were in shorts, tees and more than a few in swim trunks and bare feet.
January is supposed to be cold, invigorating, hot-tea weather. Why, I can remember...
"Ski week is an experience your child will remember forever," read the notice my 6th-grader thrust into my hands, "if," the note continued, "we get enough parents to go along as chaperons."
No match for the coalition of one overworked father and one pleading son, two weeks later I found myself going along for the downhill ride with 113 pre-adolescents, 15 other twisted-arm adults, 128 suitcases, two dozen cassette players, and one aging Pooh Bear. By the end of the week the Armed Forces Recreation Area in Germany's Bavarian Alps would never be the same.
A late afternoon arrival, equipment sign-out plus an alleged "quiet hour" preceded dinner and the real sports event of the week: the 50-yard dash for the pinball machines. Hours later, when the hotel had run out of quarters, the machines grew silent and the lights finally went out - in all rooms but one.
"Can we have some clean sheets? Ronald just threw up."
The hotel obliged, Ronald promised to save the rest of his candy and chips for another day, and all was quiet at last - until an overanxious adult awakened everyone at 5 a.m., two hours ahead of schedule.
No one was late for breakfast or the buses, which were late, except four girls whose pool game didn't end in time. At last we were on the slopes, listening to instructions:
"If you are a beginner, don't put on your skis until your instructor shows you how."
All three seasoned skiers and half the beginners put on their skis.
"Ski boots are supposed to hurt," we were told sympathetically. We skeptics put on our boots and a brave front.
Slightly past noon on day one we found a half-dozen kids sitting in the First Aid truck. (They had less pride than the adults.) The truly injured were sorted from the pinched-boot clan, the latter given band-aids and sent back to the slopes. By late afternoon the buses arrived to take the tail-wagging bunch back to the showers, dinner and stomach-damaging candy and chips, another alleged quiet hour and the pin-ball machines. The hotel had trucked in a new supply of quarters and sheets.
Dinner and ski movies took up the evening - except for the restricted "poolroom four," and a male quartet who spent the evening washing coke from the walls and ceiling of their room, said liquid having been sprayed fire-hose fashion on same during quiet hour.
For most of us, except for one case of homesickness, another of chicken pox and a few foot and leg injuries beyond the help of band-aids, the week improved with each session. Despite sore feet and misunderstood instructions, my son and I were among those who learned to ski. We still have our "graduation certificates" and ski-week tales to prove it. The school's brochure was correct: "Ski week is an experience your child - and his chaperon - will never forget."
Does all this nostalgia mean I prefer slopes and skis to surf, seagulls, and summer temperatures in January? Given the passage of time, an aging body, and the closer (cheaper) proximity of the beach than the German Alps, I'm happy with my current location.
But I have this adorable new fleece outfit, cool set of matching earmuffs, and plenty of New England blood still coursing through my non-adaptive Southern veins. I'd just like it cool enough for long sleeves, rosy cheeks and an early morning frost-bitten nose - at least in January. If I wanted it warm at the beach I'd come in July.
Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.
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