I had many thoughts of disaster when I agreed to take our seven kids, ages, 4 to 17, skiing that winter of 2001. Eleven years ago, the two oldest had had minimal experience, and the youngest five had never been at all. The first day went smoothly enough. However, the second day proved to be much more memorable!
To begin with, I had only gotten four and a half hours of sleep the night before. Fortunately, my husband, Greg, was doing the driving up the torturous mountain road. I arrived only a little car sick. Everyone made it to their respective lesson group. When lessons were over at 11:45 AM, I was on hand to pick up the five youngest and help them find their way around. Greg was still returning from his lesson. The older three kids went ahead of me to start getting their equipment checked in for lunch. I finally herded the youngest four (ages 4, 7,8, and 10) shuffling novices across the flat snow to reach the open air check-in station.
I began helping them get out of their skis. When I was at the point of holding three pair of skis, one set of poles, and helping the last child free, two of them informed me of an urgent need to visit the restroom. By then, we had made it to the front of the line, so I told Beth (10 year old daughter) to start on the way to the restroom with agitated 4 year old Carlie. Ben (15 year old son) showed up just in time to follow Jesse (8 year old son) so that he wouldn’t get lost or kidnapped. I thought, “We can handle this.” I was wrong.
The very polite fellows taking the equipment started trying to take too many things at once and became confused about whose skis they had checked in. If I wanted to be able to get everyone’s skis back after lunch, I needed to stay a few more minutes until they got it sorted out. Those were crucial minutes.
When I was at last on my way to find the loose children, Natalie (age 7) in tow, my ski instructor passed me. She said she thought my four year old was in the bathroom screaming. I took that in stride, because it was something we had been working on with Carlie lately. I arrived in the basement bathroom and she WAS screaming. She and Beth were sandwiched in the privacy of a bathroom stall. They had not managed to get Carlie’s ski garb off, but she no longer had a full bladder. The automatic flush toilet was repeatedly going off behind her every time she moved, spraying her loudly with water all over her miniature backside. Beth was trying to help, but Carlie was combatively hysterical.
I took over. Carlie calmed down after a few stern words from me and was put in fear of her life if she ever treated a helpful sibling like that again. I sent a relieved Beth to the rendezvous point to find Greg and dry clothes. Then, I removed Carlie from the confining stall and stripped her down. I tried to dry her things some with the hand dryer.
So, there I was, with Carlie and Natalie, in the bathroom for what seemed to be an unusually long time. A few women came and went, but then no one for quite a while. I tried to use my cell phone, but there was no service. I poked my head out of the door to see if I could spot anyone I knew. I was surprised to find one of those yellow floor signs posted restricting entrance. The cleaning guy was hanging out waiting for us to leave.
I tried to ask the janitor if he could take down the sign, since I was waiting for help. He didn’t speak English. I used hand motions and received a bored, bothered stare. I asked if he spoke Spanish. He did, so I attempted a few broken Spanish phrases. He shook his head disgustedly. Finally, I went back inside to think of another plan.
When I looked out again, the uncooperative, arrogant janitor was still there. He was apparently prepared for a siege. As I tried to negotiate with him again, Greg appeared. Greg was somewhat frustrated, having been looking all over for me, then finding me “hiding” from him in a barricaded women’s restroom. He hadn’t made contact with Beth. Who knew where she was now. Greg didn’t understand that I had several pair of loose gloves, a bunch of wet clothes, a few snow goggles, some hats, and Carlie’s ski boots to be responsible for. He firmly suggested I wrap the girl in my coat and carry her three stories up in the lodge, to where our lunch was. He would go to the truck for dry clothes. The unpersonable man standing guard between us made communication complicated, so I finally just agreed.
Three flights of stairs is a long way to carry a muscular 4 year old packaged like a sausage roll, while wearing ski boots on my feet, and packing the rest of the paraphernalia hobo-sack style in another coat. Maybe it was the look on my face, but no one offered to help. I was perspiring heavily when I made it to the far upper corner of the lodge. Greg showed up, helped with lunch, and apologized for being impatient.
After lunch, Carlie and I spent extra time in the lodge resting and giving her time to visit the restroom. We did get out to ski again and maybe I had fun. I can’t remember that part. Since that day, I have never been able to think of ski trips without needing to squelch a rising sense of panic. Somehow, that stress is accompanied by the sound of toilets flushing in my head.