A case of bad timing
We had all been out all day, frying in the sun on the slopes of Winter Park. The boys had skied one race and trained for another, and were still going: now seeing who could jump the highest up the condo stairs.
One particularly loud boomer: and then Roy came hopping up the stairs, exclaiming, “I broke my toe!”
We were at the Junior Olympics, held in latter March, the culminating event of the ski-race season. All the kids had worked hard to get here, and trained extra lately. We adults had secured the shared lodging, organized cook shifts, packed vehicles, shopped for food, lugged wax and tuning benches. We had come here for four days, paid entry fees, bought banquet tickets. We had carpooled. Had Roy pooched the whole deal?
The toe didn’t look too good. It doglegged gently sideways, was red and bulbous. When I barely touched it, he yelped.
Luckily one of those in our little commune was our physician friend Kim, handily just coming in the door. Without an x-ray, Kim could promise nothing, but he thought Roy might have jammed the joint. He gently “tractioned” the toe as Roy silently grimaced.
That night, as Tanner, Chapin and the host of other preteens tromped off to the “mixer” at a lodge, Roy lay on the couch, still and apprehensive, his foot aloft and in ice. He hopped to go anywhere. Mike and I narrowed our eyes accusingly, and he glared back.
Kids display a fine carelessness, heedlessness leavened by optimism. They recognize important events, yet are apparently unburdened by the forethought befitting adults.
Last February, various of us traveled to a race in Telluride, driving on winter roads, finding lodging or barging in on friends or family. Midday Sunday, in between two slalom races, Roy, Chapin and Tanner (funny, same team) went skiing in the terrain park, and next thing you know Chapin jumped up and thwacked down, and was bundled into a patrol sled, wrapped in a neck brace and strapped to a backboard. Fortunately, the injury was minor, and only grounded him for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, Roy protested that it hadn’t been a very big jump, and the coach Rohan decreed: No more terrain parks at races.
A year ago, right after my older son, Teddy, strove to qualify for his Junior Olympics, he somehow chose to huck a 360 into the steeps of Steeplechase, at Aspen Highlands. He got in the “back seat,” and, landing, smacked calves to boot tops so hard he could barely make it down the hill when I fetched him. As the JOs loomed, he was still limping gingerly around the house.
It’s easy to laugh when it’s other people’s kids, of course. Last year, on the day of the big annual school play, young Brandon “cased” a jump in the terrain park. His part in the play was a dual tap dance, and I will never forget how his fellow cowboy clattered and clicked, with Brandon beside him eking out sad, soggy motions.
Worst was when Teddy was 12, at his first JOs, and a group went to that same opening mixer, then by incredible logic decided to try jumping over a netting fence. Apparently not everyone, or perhaps even anyone, knew that the ground on the other side was not level but dropped down several feet. As Teddy recalled it, his friend Luke “Supermanned over ” and just flattened.” Luke broke his arm, and that concluded his JOs.
In their cases, both my sons got reprieves. Teddy’s bone bruises eased in the nick of time for the first race. Kim splinted Roy’s toe and Roy managed to wedge it inside his boot. Soon a half-dollar-size bruise emanated stainlike from the toe base.
Was he able to ski normally? Well, he never said he couldn’t, and I didn’t feel like asking.
Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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