Pilgrimage is good. Especially if it involves a mountain.
Four years ago we were given an overnight ski package. Our youngest was two, I am not a skiing whiz. . . I left thinking I would enjoy it because the kids were enjoying it. This is now our fourth trip to the mountain and for all of us, it is a much anticipated winter highlight.
Our traditionalist children expect the order of liturgy intact whenever possible. We leave Friday in time to settle into our hotel suite before dinner. We walk across the parking lot to the same restaurant and talk about the stuffed monkey’s hanging from the ceiling while we wait for our food. We play our billioneth imagination game (Magic Fairy).
After dinner we swim. I fidget about hotel hot tubs and keep sending people back to the pool. My husband says it’s okay. To calm me, the children swear on oath that they are in perfect health. They take vows of fidelity to sleep, water, fruits, vegetables, hand washing, and sharing. I applaud the many tricks and triumphs of their water play.
At bedtime my husband gets out the map of the ski hill and the older ones make plans. The next morning I ferry out the early risers for breakfast. We watch cartoons on the lobby television until we can’t wait any longer. I remind all breakfast comers about their nutrition vows. I smugly allow a small danish pastry after winning the yes fruit, yes yogurt, no chocolate milk, no sugared cereal contests.
We check out and pack in. For the ten minutes it takes to get to the mountain the children fight because we aren’t there yet. We arrive. With a nod to the really irritated psalms, while everyone remembers how to put on skis, kids fight about who is going too fast or slow. I use this opportunity for ecclesiastical instruction about the danish pastry, which may be the reason we are fighting. Something to remember. But only if we care about having fun, and loving each other, and a happy life.
With that part of the liturgy complete, the kids take ski lessons while adults get in a run or two. The rest of the day is free. I pack a lunch (with clean tablecloth for the well used indoor picnic tables). The kids say almost nothing because everything is familiar enough that they feel safe, but foreign enough that it thrills them and fills them. They like being pilgrims.
On the way home we stop at the same restaurant. (Last year’s bids to change either restaurant were rejected.) For all I know they pick the same things from the buffet. We say closing litanies of brave deeds and success. A few hymns of wonder in the car and a prayer or two to live at the bottom of the mountain when they grow up and the whole thing comes to a quiet Amen.