96 months and counting

Friday, September 4, 2009
As we're hiking up St. Mary's Glacier, I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing. I'm eight and a half months pregnant, I have a backpack that is overflowing with snacks, shoes, fleeces, water, a mini first-aid kit, and a camera, and chances are I'm going to have to carry E at some point because this is a really rocky hike. Not to mention that the three of us are all fighting a cold and do I have to remind you that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

D is a bit flustered because we got a late start. The snow will be fine because it's a glacier, but we're racing against the lunch time/nap time clock. Tick, Tock. And D usually keeps his streak alive with his imaginary friend, Andy (he's been friends with this guy for years and I've never met him and only seen one picture - highly suspect.) D typically packs up the car the night before - crampons, splitboard, avalanche beacon and sustenance - and he's usually out of the house by 4:30 am, parking lot by 6:00 am, up at 14,000 feet by 11:00 am (yes, they hike for 5 solid hours) and skiing down an avalanche path or couloir shortly thereafter. But not today. This hiking up with a pregnant wife and toddler in tow...well, it almost seems more dangerous than what he's used to.

E insists on wearing his "agua shoes" (tevas) and in keeping with the whole natural consequences parenting thing, we let him...even though it goes against our better judgment. But after he trips for the second time, we warn him that the next time he falls we are putting his sneakers on. So he falls. And we put his sneakers on. This sets him off and I'm afraid he's going to cause a landslide with his screaming and crying, it's that loud.

Once we get going again, we finally find our rhythm. A dread-locked woman with three malamutes is catching up to us and yells ahead that she'll get past us. But it takes her a while. And I realize, "Huh. We're not moving that slowly after all." Surprisingly enough, I'm not short of breath, which is amazing considering my lungs are smooshed up into the top third of my rib cage, we're at almost 11,000 feet elevation, I'm carrying 20+ lbs of crap on my back and a baby in my front. Yeah, that's a touch of smug you hear in my voice.

When we were packing up the car it was a pleasant end-of-summer morning, but up here, it is all crisp and hinting of fall. It's chilly in the shade and when we break through the trees, the sun provides a delicious warmth. I fight the urge to stop walking and turn my face up to the sun...mostly because my bladder is so full that B has started to complain and I know D is eager to get up to the top of the glacier. At this point, we can still hear the ticking of the nap clock, but it is growing fainter by the minute.

We get up to the lake and it is absolutely beautiful. E and I start scoping out the landscape for a good sitting rock and D and Scout leave us there with an I love you tossed over the shoulder. We have a snack and E throws rocks into the lake, briefly disrupting the crystal calm waters.

Then we head up to the bottom of the glacier so that we can see Dad and Scout come down the snow. I'm hoping to get there in time to take a couple of decent pictures, but I'm also trying to temper my expectations - something I've been working on a lot lately. I get these ideas in my head and then when they don't come to fruition, I'm disappointed. But I digress...

I scoop E up into my arms and sprint up the last 100 feet or so because I can see Scout careening down the glacier and I knew that D isn't too far behind. I drop E on his feet as soon as we come out of the low-growing shrubs, grab the camera and start snapping away - we need a zoom lens. Maybe for Christmas. But I have a few pics that aren't too bad. And E is so excited that he can see Dad and oh my god there's Scout!

E starts hiking up towards Scout and his dad and I take my chances. It's rocky and unstable but I think it'll make a good picture so I stay down and practically lay on the ground to get the right angle. E manages to stay on his feet and actually makes some serious progress up the slope. The boys meet up and at that moment - when Scout is yelping with excitement, D is proudly showing E the snow on his board and laughing because E thinks his snowboard boots look like gravity boots (Roaring Rockets is a current favorite) - all the morning's stresses dissolve and what I am left with is this very moment. This is the moment I will remember. This is the moment the camera will capture and everything else will fade away.

As we're hiking back down, I realize that I don't want to leave. It is a remarkably beautiful day and while it's been a mild summer, this is the first real taste of fall, and it leaves me craving more. A smile creeps across my lips when I remember all the things we've done up here over the years - none of which I can repeat here - and my heart swells to think that even though it seemed daunting initially, we managed to put our heads down and accomplish our goal. D kept his streak alive (he has skied at least once every single month for the past 8 years) and E and I were a part of it. One of the things I am most proud of is that as parents, D and I have managed to keep the most essential parts of who we are, the very core things that make us us. We are dedicated heart and soul to E and will soon be as head-over-heels in love with B, but in all the messiness that is being mom and dad, we still find ways to be him and me.

We find ourselves at a new restaurant and devour a surprisingly good lunch at Mangia in Idaho Springs. Small mountain towns are infamous for their crappy food and sub-par service but this place is a culinary oasis. We're about to pile back into the car when the smell of waffle cones has me wandering the streets with my nose up in the air like PePe Le Pew on the scent of a lady cat. D recognizes the look in my eye and takes E into the consignment shop next door to look for toddler skis so that I can peruse the ice cream flavors unhurriedly. I emerge from the ice cream shoppe with two melty cones - the girl was literally peeling the waffles off of the iron when I walked in the door. My boys sit outside the shoppe and share a cone while I try not to get ice cream on what is quickly becoming one of my favorite possessions. As I snap away, laughing at how eagerly E devours the ice cream, stopping only to look up at the motorcycles and to let D get a few licks in, I feel like my ice cream - all melty. It's not going to be just the three of us for much longer, and I know that I will look back at these times with a yearning. But I look forward to what's ahead. Today's hike serves as the perfect metaphor for the challenges, and the payoffs, of the adventure we are about to take on.

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