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When the new man in my life said he liked skiing naked on remote stretches of the Northern California mountains, I thought he was kidding. Now here I am with him, learning to cross-country ski sans clothing.
We are all alone — at least, I hope so. Despite enjoying the rear view of his naked body skiing confidently ahead of me, I can’t help keeping an eye out for other skiers. It appears we have the mountain all to ourselves, just as he said we would. But I’m still too modest to strip all the way down, so I’ve taken off just my shirt.
Our goal for the afternoon is to gain as much altitude as possible before we turn around and ski to the bottom. The trip is two hours up, twenty minutes down, or so he tells me. The high-mountain sun shines relentlessly on the exposed parts of my body. I have to keep stopping to drink water and put on more sunscreen. This new man is patient, waiting silently while I take my breaks. Occasionally he’ll make short downhill runs through the trees, and I am momentarily alone with only the sun, the sky, and the hard-packed snow. Each time he disappears I am gripped with the fear that something will happen to him and he won’t come back, and then how will I get down the mountain? There are no marked trails here, and I’d probably get lost. At least I have my shirt and jacket in my backpack.
Finally we are above the tree line. The view is stupendous, but the light is fading. It’s time to head back down. It will be a fast ride: a thin crust of ice is forming on the snow as the temperature drops. We take off through a glistening forest of spruce and pine. I do my best to stay fluid and relaxed but am just barely keeping up with my partner when I see a group of skiers watching us sail by. They’ll have a good story to tell.
That man and I have been married for more than twenty years. We don’t ski anymore — he’s had back problems, and we’re both in our sixties — but he still likes to run around naked on our rural homestead, and I still like to catch glimpses of his bare body through the trees.
Island Mountain, California
When my siblings and I were kids, our mother would play the same trick on us every year: On the first of April she would wake us early in the morning, shouting, “Quick, get up! It snowed a foot last night! Go see!”
Every year we would kick off the covers, run to the window, and find only the green spring grass. Our mother would laugh and shout, “April Fool!” and we would feel stupid for falling for it yet again. But it was hard to stay angry, seeing her so delighted at having tricked us.
Even after I grew up and had kids of my own, my mother would call me early in the morning every April 1 and ask, “Did you see the snow?” and I would laugh.
Months after my mother died, we really did get a foot of snow on the first of April. I smiled like a fool the whole day.
Albany, New York
I grew up in Los Angeles in the fifties, and every winter my family would drive to Big Bear Lake in the mountains so my brother and I could play in the snow. We’d careen down the hills on sleds or toboggans, trying to hit all the bumps. When we were wet, tired, and hungry, we’d eat the hot chili and cookies our mother had brought.
In 1968, when I was twenty-three, I married Jack, and we moved to his home state of Michigan to go to college. We arrived in August and found a place to rent about three miles from campus.
On Thanksgiving morning we were sitting in our tiny living room with the gas heater blowing when I looked out the window and saw that it was snowing — in my front yard! I didn’t have to get in a car and drive to it; it was right there, falling and sticking. I ran outdoors to play while my husband stayed inside and continued reading, making no comment.
Two days later there was five feet of snow. The plows had pushed it into ten-foot-high mounds along the road. Icicles hung from our eaves, pointy enough to pierce our skulls. It was ten degrees below zero, for God’s sake. There were no snowmen, no sledding, no hot chili. Miserable, I combated the gloom by getting stoned every night and listening to the Beatles’ Abbey Road.
My husband and I were arguing, and he met my complaints with a smug look. The conservatism of the Midwest was getting me down, but most of all I hated that fucking snow. It stayed on the ground all winter, turning brown and crusty. Our car was corroded from the salt on the roads. Everything was gray and cold and wet. Then, in April, the thaw finally came. Hallelujah! No more slippery, dirty, depressing snow.
Two weeks later it snowed another four feet.
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