When family is thousands of miles away, it is often friendship that fills the void and friends become the village you need to raise your child. Friends made in coffee shops and on playgrounds, at a boerewors (South African sausage) making get togethers and walks with the dogs. These are the people that share the everyday small joys, the chaos that often accompanies little ones, the fall down funny stuff and mostly the sheer craziness of being a parent. In a cold, snowy, climate sometimes just getting out of your front door is an accomplishment and it will test every fiber of your character. Try dressing a small wild thing, in three layers of clothing, mitts, socks, boots and have them all stay on his body before you even open the front door.
Now try planning a ski trip with four little boys, four grown ups, two dogs, a cat and ski gear – it’s bit like a travelling circus. The 200 things it usually requires to leave the house for half an hour, now triples. To pull it off requires serious planning, a lot of patience, plenty of food, music that spans several genres and air freshener.
We are headed northwest to the Cobequid Hills and the Wentworth Valley. The valley, located in a glacial trough, provides Nova Scotia’s highest vertical and most skiable terrain. As we drive along the 102 highway, the “Lion Sleeps Tonight” on high volume, somewhere mid “wimba-way”, we pass the sign that indicates we are half way between the equator and the North Pole. Every time I pass that sign on the side of the highway, I catch myself smiling at how far away we are from where we came. Four little boys are in the back of the car eating rusks (a hard, twice baked South African biscuit) that our friend Vicky has baked, and we are going skiing. A friend of hers has given us a ski cabin for a week and everyone is giddy with excitement.
By the time we turn off the highway and drive into the Wentworth Valley, it is already under a blanket of white velvet and soft flakes as big as feathers are falling. The cedars that flank the road are all heavily laden with snow and shining like silver, bringing gentleness to their spikey limbs.
Here they come down the ski hill one by one. Our son Jonah, age 8, and his friends Cameron, age 8, Thomas, age 7 and William, age 4. What were thinking? “We’re from Africa, we don’t ski!” But lets put them in snow gear that always looks too big for their small frames, put helmets on their heads, goggles on their tiny faces that make them look like giant bees, stick them on the edge of a mountain, with wooden planks under their feet and send them hurtling 800 feet down. But they’ve made it! No one died, no one broke anything, and they are all safe. Before the week is over they will be skiing down the black diamond run, begging us to let them do it again and again.
There will also be fights over who can ski the fastest; their declaration that poutine (French fries, cheese curds and gravy) is the best ski food ever; blinked back tears over ski boot fastenings; at least one of them will walk down the hill ski-less; almost all of them will be marched off for a time out. But not now, now they are elated, their courage expanded, their bravery confirmed.
Back at the lodge dinner is around a large table, just off the kitchen. Dinner tonight is a big pot of chili. For the first time all day there is quietness around the table, the kind of silence and dead tired only brought on by a day outside in the snow. The snow has begun to fall heavily and there is already about 10 inches piled up on the railing around the deck. The snowman the boys built in the morning has almost disappeared, only the tip of his carrot nose protruding.
Happy tired parents will sit laughing until late into the evening. Recounting the boys bravery and accomplishments and although we don't say this is in so many words, this is what we mean...thank you for organizing this great cabin. Thank you for this beautiful place. Thanks for the ski goggles. Thanks for the wild miracle of meeting you at a boerewors (sausage) making day. For your children and their friendship with mine.
The moon is a perfect circle and gleams with silvery-white radiance, coloring the night sky a deep blue. A snow moon perhaps? Ancient lore tells us that a snow moon makes people dream of places they would rather be. Our dreams tonight will be of no other place but here, in this cozy cedar cabin with these people. We’re so exhausted. We’re so lucky. Let’s do it all again tomorrow.