The secret stash

They say time flies when you’re having fun. Well, if that cliché holds true, I’d say for the last decade or so, I’ve been experiencing the equivalent of a nonstop Disneyland vacation. How else can I explain the fact that I suddenly awoke last week to the shocking realization that I was about to turn 36? I was now closer to retirement than birth. Yes, I was entering the treacherous territory of my late-30s. With all deference to those currently in their late-30s and beyond: It just sounds soooo old.

And as long as we’re trying on clichés like cheap suits, I’ve heard them all, like: “you’re only as old as you feel;” “like fine wine, you only get better with age;” and my new personal favorite, courtesy People magazine, “40 is the new 30.”

But rather than make me feel better, these only help reinforce the fact that I now get birthday cards with “over the hill” and “sagging body part” jokes and find myself actually paying attention to those anti-aging ads. What next? A red sports car and bad hair piece?

Fortunately, my middle-aged anxieties aren’t fueled by a need to assert my waning mojo. Usually, all it takes is some rarified mountain air to clear my head and make me forget that I am now regularly referred to as “ma’am.”

So, when I saw that the day of reckoning was near, I decided to flee town, figuring it’s not really your birthday if no one knows about it. And in a show of middle-aged obstinacy, I called in a few favors and me and the old man went skiing. Alone. As is in the period now wistfully referred to as B.C. – “before children” – when countless winter days were wiled away on the slopes.

“Gosh – just the two of you? What are you going to talk about?” an envious friend asked.

But the idle chairlift chit chat turned out not to be nearly as romantic as she envisioned – unless you consider arthritis a stimulating topic:

“How’s your knee?”

“Not bad. How’s yours?”

“Well, my bad knee feels pretty good. But my good knee is giving me a little trouble.”

“Yeah, I bought a new knee brace but forgot it – you know a neoprene one.”

“You mean with the hole in the middle?”

“Yeah, but no hole, to keep the joint warm.”

I don’t know about you, but nothing screams reckless, youthful abandon like rubber support hose – just ask our poor chair mate, who by now had been bored into semi-consciousness and was dangerously close to slouching out of his chair and plunging to his death.

Before we segued into aching lower backs and god knows what else, I changed the subject to a decidedly cooler topic: where to ski. We soon departed the chair, leaving conversation of crickety knees behind. Once in the trees, I thought at last I would be safe from the ravages of old age. So there I was, doing a mighty admirable job of staying upright, if I don’t say so myself, when the sound of my methodically executed (OK, painfully slow) turns was rudely interrupted by the clatter of a pack of young hipsters. Not one to be shown up without a fight, I tried hopelessly to stay in their midst, only to be churned up in their dust like yesterday’s P-Tex.

I felt even older than before.

But before I took my geriatric limbs to the bar and called it a day, I decided to give it another shot. And it’s a good thing, because at the end of my next run, I received a sign from above that things were about to change. There in the snow, perfectly poised between the tips of my skis, was a plastic baggie full of something that I am too old to regularly partake in, but not too old to recognize. I skewered it with my pole and stuffed it into my pocket.

“What are you going to do with that?” the spousal unit scoffed, highly skeptical (no pun intended).

OK, so the thought of a middle-aged soccer mom such as myself – sorely out of practice in the ways of ski bumdom – rolling her own, uh, cigarettes, was a bit absurd. And I’ll admit, I really had no intentions, not to mention means, with which to do so. But you can’t just let that kind of stuff lie around – what if a little kid got a hold of it and next thing you know, he’s the biggest burnout in the fourth grade? Personally, I did not want to be responsible for the demise of a promising young life. It was my civic duty to keep it off the streets. And, as luck would have it, I soon had the good fortune of sharing a chair with none other that Pete, the town pied piper. A scruffy character in leather boots and skinny skis, he was more than happy to help me dispose of my swag bag properly.

As you can imagine, this came as quite a relief. And for the rest of the ride, I sat in contented silence, scouting out the mountainside for our next run. And that’s when it jumped out at me. An almost perfectly pristine stash that promised about 20 of the best turns of the year. Always the voice of reason, the spousal unit suggested that perhaps it was untracked because it was unopened.

But in an equally convincing line of reasoning (or so it seemed at the time) I argued that if they didn’t want people to ski it, they wouldn’t have put it right there in plain view, for everyone to see. He bit, and we made our way over to the birthday bonanza.

“I don’t have anything to lose,” he shrugged as we not-so stealthily traversed to the top of the powder field.

“Me neither,” I said, knowing full well that if the long, red arm of the law caught up with me, there could be some explaining to do. And then I went for it – savoring the snow softly breaking over my knees as each weightless turn effortlessly led me into the next.

OK, so it was a little reckless, a little immature, a little irresponsible. But what the hell? You’re only young once.

– Missy Votel

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows