I grew up in a family of downhill skiers. My parents spent their honeymoon skiing at the King’s Gateway in the UP. I learned to ski at the age of five, going up the hill between my dad’s legs as he rode the T-bar. Skiing was a family affair, rising early to drive to the ski hill, eating the lunch that Mom packed in the leather travel case, and skiing until the slopes closed. My best birthday present was the pair of Head skis my parents gave me – I felt like I’d reached the big league.
From an early age, I remember spending Christmas Eve skiing. All the excitement of Christmas seemed to crescendo, reaching its peak on that day. The anticipation of all the presents and the holiday made the day endless. We probably drove our parents crazy, snooping under the tree and getting under foot while they made the final preparations. So they instituted the tradition of going skiing. We’d ski all day and get home tired and happy, just in time for dinner and a hot bath.
In the early years, the whole family spent the day skiing. As we got older and my siblings got their driver’s licenses, they would drive us to the ski hill while Mom and Dad stayed home. I didn’t realize it then, but it must have been a welcome opportunity to prepare for Christmas undisturbed.
I’m still a skier, but I’ve long since traded downhill for cross-country skiing. I love the quiet, the trails, the constant motion and the challenge of the uphills. So this Christmas Eve found me out in the woods instead of out on the slopes, but still skiing. It seemed so right. And just like in years past, it helped stem the tide of my anticipation. It’s not the presents under the tree that fuel my excitement these days, it’s the arrival of my children and their children. The cooking and baking are nearly complete for the holiday meals, the house and tree are decorated, and the presents are all wrapped. I’m ready to trade empty nesting for a house full of family, noise, and togetherness. The new house will be overflowing, putting airbeds into use and slipping grandkids into small corners to sleep. But that’s what memories are made of. Bring it on – it’s Christmas Eve!