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Live a Little

“Look up!” The thickly-accented command came as my skis crested the top of the conveyor belt. I obeyed just as I fell flat on my face and tried to remember what the hell I was doing here.

I hadn't skied in over a quarter of a century and didn't remember getting to the top of the bunny hill was so humiliating. Free lesson and equipment rental are rare, however, and I was committed to being able to ski with the boys for Vermont's junior ski program (JISP) next year.

JISP got our kids skating and skiing almost as soon as they learned to walk. For me, however, winter has been mostly a spectator sport. I'd been big on spectator sports until last summer, when a retreat from another abyss, made me question the affinity.

Twelve-year-old Thing1, had followed his cousin to a cliff's at one edge of a lake. The only remnant of an ancient waterfall that had once dwarfed Niagara Falls, the lake attracted swimmers and jumpers. Thing1 was ready for both.

My nephew went first, doffing his shirt and flip-flops before raceing off the cliff. We heard a whoop and a splash. Thing1 and I walked to the edge and looked down. The drop was about 25 feet, but the water looked plenty deep, so I kept my worries to myself. Thing1's cousin joined us again and took another jump.

“I'm going to do it.” The second splash was too much for Thing1. “Mom, can you take my shoes back?” Not waiting for an answer he setup for his maiden run. “I'm going.”

There was silence and then a massive splash. Thing1's whoops echoed through the canyon, and he scrambled back up the cliff. “Mom! You gotta try this!”

I nodded and smiled and retreated to the picnic area. The family swam while the boys jumped, each splash a siren call to join the fun. I soon found myself paddling toward the tiny beach by the cliff.

Another group of divers appeared at the top of the cliff, and my stomach tightened as I thought about marching my paunchy body up the beach in a bathing suit. I'd wait until they were gone, I decided. The strangers lingered, however, and I never jumped.

Now I waited for direction at the top of the bunny hill. Thirty minutes passed, and no instructor was to be found.

“I'm going,” I said to myself. I slowly slid down the hill, muscle memories reviving as I banked and turned. At the bottom, accident free, I surveyed the line for the bunny hill lift, trying to decide if my pride would endure another run.

Just then, Thing1 and seven-year-old Thing2 came racing up behind me, their faces flushed with exertion.

“Mom!” Thing2 got to me first. “We went up the big hill! You gotta try this!”

“I'm still wondering about the bunny hill,” said to him. “I fell flat on my face. I may wait.”

“I fell too,” answered Thing2. He patted my sleeve. “But he got me back on my feet.” He gestured at his older brother. “You just have to try again.”

“Yeah, Mom.” Thing1 nodded. “You just have to live a little.”

So, forced into life for and now by my boys, I went again. And next year, I'll jump.