Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Slippery Slope

On Sunday morning after much planning and purchasing of the minimal snow gear, the entire Bliss clan (entire: my family, my sister's family and my brother's family) took a jaunt to Wrightwood, California, in order to tube down a slope. Yes, a very short slope with 8 different "slides." Hundreds of people lined up to buy tickets and then got in another line to slide down the slope on a plastic innertube. I'll give that the line moved fast, I'll give that as I slid down the slippery slope (yeah, I used that cliched phrase on purpose) I was slightly afraid that I'd fall off and when I went zooming up the up-slope, I shut my eyes out of slight fear. Run #2 was fast! The funny part (besides the ridiculously long line of snow bunnies waiting for the slide down the hill) was seeing everyone come up the slope via the conveyor belt. That, and the tow. People sitting on their innertubes being dragged up the slope via a tow rope. Or tow wire.
Clearly, I don't have the lingo down.
We had a fun in this radically different place, a place that hit 22 degrees near ten in the morning, especially when we pulled over and played in someone's private driveway (see picture) in order to make snow angels, yellow snow, snowballs, and collect snow for our cooler. Whoever you are, thank you for allowing us to indulge for about 15 minutes. You made the day for the little Blissians, three of whom never have been in snow, like ever.
Well, that's not true. One cold morning long ago, my mother and I took A and J, ages 3 and 5 respectively, up Mountain Avenue towards Mount Baldy, driving until we hit snow. We tumbled out of the car and joined several other families who found the same snow patch. The boys used an old cardboard box to slide down the small hill a couple of times, then they just played. After they were sufficiently wet, we got them out of their clothes and wrapped them in blankets and our jackets for the ride home. I guess we forgot how wet snow can be. My mother took pictures of the boys that day. Later, she cut the photos, cut around their angelic faces and placed them on "flowers," sticking the "flowers" in a narrow glass vase as a bouquet. The vase is still on my kitchen window sill, the photographs unfaded although they are a little water marked.
Then there is my own personal experience with snow - skiing. Yes, it's true, back in my college days I used to ski every season. Not a lot of skiing, just enough to take the intermediate runs at a good clip, without too much slowing down. I think I actually managed to swoop a little, you know, swoop, that rhythmic back and forth thing that looks so easy in the winter Olympics. I really enjoyed it - I'm thinking of taking the kids back to Wrightwood for snowboard lessons (the boys) and skiing lessons (M and myself). D says he'll wait in the lodge with hot chocolate and a book (he says when he was learning to ski, he knocked over enough people in his mad dashes down the bunny slope to last a lifetime). But...the money. Skiing is definitely a hobby for the wealthy.
And wealthy we are not.
Still...to escape into that cold. Might be worth a little debt.
The change of pace was a blessing. The icy ground, the tailgating sandwiches, getting a chance to feel cold that never hits the city during daylight hours...relieving.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


We spent a windy day at Legoland on Friday – my sister, myself, and five of our six children. We had a guest, too, a cousin the same age as our kids. J didn’t go because he’s grown out of the park. In truth, I didn’t want to go either. The thought of an amusement park just rubbed me wrong. The thought of expending energy rubbed me wrong. When my sister rang me up in the early morning, all dressed and ready to hit the road, I sank deeper into the sheets, my eyes drawn to the curtains where shadows of trees swayed, behind which leaves brushed the windows. D was anxious for me to go, so he could get stuff done without the children hanging on him. He popped out of bed and got coffee going.

A kind of depression had come on. I felt sorry for myself, for J with his intense tics, tics I could hear across the house with doors closed. I’d spent the night awake, staring into the dark, tossing and turning, listening to D’s snoring. I found myself crying over J’s condition, crying in utter disappointment that the medication had quit working, that we were back to square one, where nothing worked and we were just going to have to try something else.


The drive to Carlsbad seemed interminably long, the children happy though, happy to be hanging out together. They’re easy that way. We arrived and spent a long lunch with JE, our cousin who works there. She left her son RE with us for the afternoon. Again, easy. I walked and had a coffee and chatted with Sister. Little energy had to be expended. As the sun began to go down, the temperature in the park did, too. I put gloves on, put my coat on. Huddled on a Lego-red metal chair to watch M ride the little cars while my sister entertained two-year-old Izzy nearby.

With all the other children in the group, she ran and got into a Lego-blue car. The announcer asked everyone to raise their hands if they buckled their seat belts. Like the kindergartener she is, she raised her hand. They were off. Except M’s car didn’t move. She raised her hand. An attendant ran to her and tried to get the thing moving but it still didn’t move. He pushed her to the side and got her into another car. Lego-yellow. She buckled up and began her first loop around the track.

She rode an entire thirty seconds before the announcer told everyone to stop their cars because their run was over. M made it around half the track. Everyone popped open their buckles and began running to the exit.

Except M. She fumbled with the seatbelt and when she couldn't get it off, she raised her hand high in the air like a good student. Just like the attendants told her to do.

And she sat. And sat, her arm unmoving and as high up as she could get it. Without getting a single attendant to look at her.

I began to fight the exiting kids, trying to get in through the exit, waving and calling out to A and AH who were coming out, too, “No, no, turn back! M is stuck in the car! Go get her!”

The attendants were too far away to hear me and too wrapped up in managing exiting riders to care. My poor little M continued to hold her hand in the air and no doubt was in a state of pure mortification. The attendants of course continued to be completely oblivious to the trauma that was happening across the track. I couldn’t see M’s face clearly, just her little hand in the air, waiting, waiting. But I knew her heart.

She then got the clue that she was going to have to save herself, that nobody was going to come, so she began to squirm out of the belt, just as third-grade AH arrived to save her. The tears started as the two girls walked closely together off the track, AH’s arm around M, AH flashing nasty looks to the Lego-workers.

Normally, I’d have ripped the attendants new you-know-whats but you know, I just grabbed M into my arms as she sobbed over the ridiculous humiliation of being trapped by a seatbelt.

I couldn’t help but chuckle and yet…

The wind picked up and the kids rode one last ride, the awful seatbelt nightmare forgotten by everyone but me.

From there, tiredness fell over me that I cannot describe. But first we had to have dinner with my cousin, JE. The pizza was late, didn’t get to her house until eight that evening, an entire two and a half hours after we left the park. She had ice cream sandwiches to offer, pictures to share and pictures to take. Truly a lovely hostess. We had a long ride home. By the time I got into bed, it was after midnight and all I could see in the dark was M in that car, far away from me, with her hand up and nobody coming. I couldn't sleep a wink.

D said across the bed in the lightless room, “Forget it. It was kind of funny, wasn’t it? Classic even. I mean, who can’t get out of seatbelt other than blonds and Polish people?”

“But it wasn’t funny. She was helpless. Kind of like how we are to J’s tics. Completely and utterly helpless. Mortified.”

Silence met me.

“You’re too deep for this hour of the night. Stop thinking in analogies.”

“I can’t help it, it’s what I do. I think in analogies. Constantly. My entire blogging life is made up of analogies. What would I write about if not for the analogies?”

“What would you write about?” Not a question. A statement. Sleep overtook him. I got up and watched TV. I’m going to call UCLA, I thought. I’m going to stop that lousy new medication he’s on that isn’t working. I’m going to look more seriously into dietary changes. I’m going to wiggle out of this medical seatbelt.

We are not helpless, goddamnit.