I am going to preface this post with “No children were harmed in the making of the story” (well not permanently anyway). If you were a child of the 1970s or before, you will appreciate this story. If you are a Gen Xer or a Millennial, there is a chance you might be horrified- at least mildly. This story starts in the time before. The time before bicycle helmets and elbow pads. The time before car seats with 5-point harnesses held children securely until they age of 11. The time before seatbelts, safety glasses, and earplugs. This is a story that starts in the time when children went out to play unhampered by schedules and unmonitored by parents. It was a time when you never admitted that you were having an argument over kickball because your parents would say “Work it out or you can all just come in the house, take a bath, and get ready for bed”. Now let me be clear, it wasn’t Nirvana by any stretch of the imagination. It was just a different time. And I was nine.
I wanted so badly to learn to ski. My dad, being very supportive of anything outdoorsy and adventurous, signed me up. He took me to the Jaycee Ski School orientation. He bought me a starter set of used ski boots, poles, and skis. He outfitted me in warm, waterproof clothes. And then he dropped me off at crack of dawn at Aurora Village where the ski bus picked up all of the Olympic hopefuls who were raring to tackle the bunny slope.
I was so excited! I literally vibrated with anticipation as I sweltered in the seat of the Greyhound Bus. I was sweltering, by the way, because I loved my parka and ski pants so much I refused to take them off. We approached Snoqualmie Pass and I was on high alert. Unfortunately, I had never been there before, so my high alert was completely ineffective.
I got off at the wrong stop. I went to the wrong ski school. By the time I found the right ski school, I had missed my lesson. I was completely deflated and near tears. I drug my skis to the lodge- quite dramatically I am sure because I swear there was a dirge playing in the background. I found a pay phone (Gen Xers and Millennials- I didn’t have a cell phone! They were invented yet.) and I called my dad collect (ask your grandma or grandpa what calling collect was). I tearfully told my dad what happened. I just knew he would jump in his car and come get me. I was never, ever going to brave the cold, wet snow of the ski slopes again. I contemplated less risky activities like piano lessons or Blue Birds. My dad’s response came as quite a shock.
“Do you still have your skis?”
I sniffed a weak “yes”.
He then asked, “Do you still have your ski pass?”
By now, I knew. I knew he was not rushing through the house putting on his coat, searching for his keys.
He said, “You should go skiing.”
I could not believe it! I must admit at that moment I said words in my head that I was not allowed to say out loud. Colorful words. Expressive words. I was so mad. At that moment, I just said “Fine”, which was short for ‘Fine, you jerk, I can’t believe you are not going to come save me, so I will go skiing, so there, I’ll show you!’
And I went skiing. It was awesome. I loved every second and I was back the next week. I never missed another lesson.
At the time, I was so angry at him. But I am a parent now, so I know it would have been a lot easier for him to just save me. I know now just how hard it is to watch your child struggle. But in so doing, he was telling me that he knew I could do it. He gave me a great gift. He gave me the chance to show myself that I would not fold at the first obstacle. He gave me the gift of persistence. I had not had a ski lesson. I had no idea what I was doing. But I watched everyone else and I hoofed it over to the tow rope on the bunny slope and I tried until I got it right. I fell and got up- over and over. It was skill that has made it possible for me to do the really hard things in my life without giving up. It was a skill that has allowed me to face difficult times without folding.
It is a different time now. But persistence is still a skill every person needs to learn. Children need to learn that they might have to try something more than once to get it. They might have to ask for help or find a book or take a class. They need to learn that failure is not terminal and the reward for persistence is great. It is not just achieving whatever you set out to achieve but it is also learning to trust and believe in yourself. It is learning that with a little effort, you can improve or learn or conquer. Success always feels so much better after you have had to get back up, dust yourself off and try again. Honestly, I am not that proud of anything that came easily to me. But I remember when I struggled and how sweet it was to finally get it.
If you have been reading my blog, you know I have been on a quest to photograph the elk herd outside of Concrete and to catch the eagles over the Skagit. Four trips. Four 4 am alarms. Four long drives. Four standing out in the cold watching the sunrise. Four just missing them. I am making it sound horrible, but I loved every single one of these trips because I learned something every time. I learned about shooting at dawn. I learned about the importance of monitoring the dew point. I learned about vantage points and lighting and perspective. In the end, I was successful. The struggle was sweet. They are my pictures of persistence.
(1/500 sec., f/6.3, 3200 ISO, 500 mm)
(1/60 sec., f/6.3, 3200 ISO, 600mm)