I couldn’t ski the winter after Eric died. He had once said about me, “Grace would choose cross-country skiing above everything except her children,” and he’d been right. Though I had started as a downhill skier (I cut insignias and racing numbers out of sticky cloth for my father’s sail making business as a young teen, 5 cents a number, saving to buy myself inexpensive downhill skis and skiing lessons at the ridiculously small, but still skiable, Blue Hill Ski Area outside Boston) from the first time I cross-country skied I was in love.
My parents gave me wooden Bona skis for Christmas in 1977. Eric and I were living with friends in Williamstown, MA, and there was an abundance of snow and hills. I went out into the sloping fields across the street from our house one afternoon and came home and told Eric he needed to buy skis. He did, though he’d never done any kind of skiing before, and gamely followed me up and down hills, learning to snowplow, learning to turn, learning to glide. That was the beginning of almost 30 years of skiing together. When I was first faced with skiing without him, I just couldn’t do it.
Then the next winter came, and I realized that not skiing, because Eric couldn’t ski, wasn’t doing anyone any good, least of all me. “Get over yourself and get out there,” I said to myself, and I did.
When the grand dump of snow blew in to New Hampshire at the end of last week I was delighted. The idea of a blizzard, as long as people could be safe and warm and dry, was exciting. Waking up Saturday to continued snow and drifts up to my hips all I could think about was getting out skiing. Which made me think about Eric. “Active with glide,” was how Eric described his favorite outdoor activities — skiing, kayaking, biking, swimming.
I was in touch with Adrienne and Sam Saturday morning, both of them wanting to ski as much as me, but too far away to join me. And my sister, who loves to ski but can’t manage it right now due to health challenges, had told me to ski for her. So I had a whole pack skiing in my head this past weekend, gliding along for the ride.