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Skiing: A Love Story that Ends in the ER

8 Mar

Skiing and I have endured a rocky relationship spanning two decades. It all started in high school when some of my best friends were avid skiers. They’d travel north on the weekends to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, arriving at school on Monday with lift tickets swinging off their brightly colored Columbia jackets like badges of honor. Skiing held an allure of exclusivity: It required special gear, hours of travel, and, not least of all, money.

There was another draw. No one in my family could ski. This would be my thing, a mild rebellion to our typical family activities. I was a teenager; I wanted to assimilate with the “in” crowd while breaking away from my parents.

I was determined to be a skier.

During my four years of high school, I signed up for as many ski trips as I could. The bus rides up to Killington, Stratton, Sunday River, Gunstock, and other mountains across the Northeast held anticipation and promise. The bus rides home usually consisted of ice packs and disappointment.

My mistakes were rooted in 16 year-old bravado–no lessons, no bunny hills. I became well known among the group, but for all the wrong reasons. I was a total hazard. With no ability to stop, I’d crash into classmates, ski schoolers, families, and most notably, trees. On one occasion, I arrived home with a fat lip and a gash under my eye from a wipeout during which my ski popped off and smacked me in the face. I was dreadful.

After high school, skiing and I took some time off. College, career, and marriage left little time, or cash, for snowy pursuits. But then my in-laws announced that they were buying a condo in New Hampshire near Waterville Valley ski resort. The familiar excitement returned. Maybe I could leave injury and idiocy behind. As many parents do, I shifted my attention to my children.

Sure, I was a hack, but my kids? My kids are going to be awesome!

Here’s the thing, it is hard to be awesome when you are four years old, you’re cold, and you can’t stand up because your parents have strapped what seems like torture devices to your feet. My husband and I were baffled. Why aren’t they having fun. This is so much fun! Isn’t it? Isn’t it?

It wasn’t, for a while. Then, with age and experience, the kids got the hang of it. And so did I. Now, our trips “up North” are the kind of family bonding experiences that once seemed out of reach. We ride the lifts together, sometimes three generations of us, criss-crossing each other down the trails and commiserating about the conditions of each run. The whole scene, including apres ski with beers (for us) and hot chocolate (for the boys), is idyllic.

That is . . . until last weekend.

As the title of this post portends, my discord with skiing abruptly returned on our most recent visit to Waterville. I decided, at 36 years old, that a trip through the terrain park on my last run of the day was a swell idea. A terrain park, for those readers who do not ski, is like a skatepark in the snow, full of jumps, rails, and other objects for doing tricks. It’s a lot of fun, unless…

I took a jump faster than I had intended, vaulted into the air, and landed in tumble of ski poles and snow.

A burst of adrenaline allowed me to make it down the mountain on a leg that felt all mushy and wobbly inside. A couple of hours later in the emergency room, I got my diagnosis: bad knee sprain and some pulled ligaments.

Crutches and pain killers in hand I left the hospital with a sobering realization. I am back in high school again, except this time it’s my kids I’m trying to keep up with. Sigh.

So skiing and I had another falling out, literally. But next year, when the temperature drops, I’ll run back into the arms of a sport I’ll never master, willing to endure the bumps and bruises. I may steer clear of the terrain park, though.

Setting the Rivers on Fire

6 Oct

In the late 1990s, Providence, RI, enjoyed a Renaissance.

Credited to the infamous and much-loved former mayor, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., the capital city underwent a massive revitalization project, uncovering two rivers that were once buried below concrete. Cobblestone walkways along the rivers, quaint bridges, and the creation of Waterplace Park led to the sprouting of shops, restaurants, residences, and the mammoth Providence Place mall.

The biggest coup for the city during this period was the creation of WaterFire, an award-winning installation of 80-plus bonfires along the Providence rivers.

WaterFire is quite the event. The small state buzzes in anticipation of the dozen or so lightings between Memorial Day and Columbus Day each year.

A couple of weeks ago, Scott and I decided to take the kids to the penultimate lighting of the year.

First stop: Harry’s Bar & Burger for some delicious–and affordable–wings and sliders.

And a jalapeno bloody mary, ya know, for energy.

The threat of rain kept the crowds manageable, so we walked along the river pre-lighting and watched the gondoliers.

And the lighting begins . . .

We even got a preview of the Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular–WaterFire style.

A Quickie in Portsmouth, NH

30 May Portsmouth, NH

After the final whistle at Will’s soccer game, we kissed the kids, checked our watches, and all but ran to the car.

Portsmouth, NHWe were on our way to Portsmouth, NH, for a quick anniversary get-away. We had 24 hours. Our anniversary lands in early fall, the high season for sports in our house; football and soccer were in full swing. But with lots of finagling, and help from Scott’s parents, we managed to squeeze in a short get-away to celebrate.

Stay: The Sise Inn

This gorgeous Victorian is the perfect alternative to a bed and breakfast. Our large corner room reminded me of my grandmother’s house–in a good way. The furniture was antique, the bedspread was white and nubby, the lamps were brass, and everything was clean, clean, clean. The Sise Inn has 34 rooms hidden away in its interesting maze of hallways and stairwells. Just blocks away from bustling Congress Street, we felt secluded but not isolated. A lovely spot. After we checked in and dropped our bag, we went into town.

Visit: Strawberry Banke Museum

This living history museum, a la Plimouth Plantation, is dotted with historic homes and pretty gardens. By the time we stumbled upon the museum, it was closing time, so we explored the outer gardens. It is a very romantic spot (though I know the kids would dig it, too). We  walked away holding hands, ready for a drink.

The Green Monkey

Enjoying a martini at The Green Monkey in Portsmouth, NH.

Drink: The Green Monkey

Scott and I are the best of drinking buddies. So naturally, we bar hopped around town before and after dinner. Of all the places we stopped, this was our favorite spot. I’d never had an honest to goodness martini (I figure the frou-frou appletinis don’t count), so I decided to give it a try. It arrived dirty, lots of olives, with a small monkey hanging off the side. Yum.

Shop: Marco Polo

Let me just say, post-martini shopping is the best. And there are so many fun shops all over Portsmouth’s Market and Congress streets. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but Scott and I had the best time in Marco Polo. Silly novelties of the Fred Flare variety (think bacon band-aids and Life is Crap mugs) kept us laughing–and buying. Another favorite, for girly goods: Serendipity.

Dinner: The Black Trumpet

When we finally made our way to dinner, we were starving. The Black Trumpet was ready for us with delicious food and an atmosphere to match. The two-levelled restaurant is tucked away in small alley by the water. The dark wood and exposed brick interior made us feel cozy on one of the first chilly nights of fall. We were lucky to get a window looking out at the tug boats (request one if you visit). It was the perfect spot for an anniversary dinner for two sometimes-foodies.

Breakfast: The Friendly Toast

After a night of the three Ds (dinner, dancing, and debauchery) we needed a good breakfast. We slid into a 1950’s era kitchenette at The Friendly Toast, and ordered off a menu filled with homemade breads, specialty teas, and a wide selection of omelets and breakfast burritos. This kitschy breakfast spot came highly recommended, and we loved the circus-esque memorabilia and old-time advertisements that filled the place. Bellies and hearts full, it was the perfect finish to a happy 24 hours in Portsmouth.