Past, present and future converge at Viking Nordic Center
LONDONDERRY — I should have known the moment I pulled into the parking lot snow. Emotions were running high as my boys clambered from the Jeep, their little bodies creating swish-swoosh sounds as their snow gear rubbed against all in its path. As they proudly braced the weight of their cross-country skis I passed in pairs to them, I stopped and wondered: When, during this ski season, had they suddenly grown able to carry them on their own?
Arriving at Viking Nordic Center for my boys' first ever cross-country ski race — a night race, at that — I caught up to my long-time friend Megan, who also has two sons and who, though her sons are younger than mine, is my guiding light through "masculine motherhood experiences." I had brought along my usual pocketful of paper, a pen, and my camera, expecting that the experience I would record was to be outdoor and not motherhood oriented. (What's that they say about hindsight?)
Everything around me felt uncommon and new, but Megan reoriented me by playfully asking, "You're going to take notes about my sons too, right? And photographs please?" That's how we do it: She shows me that new experiences are actually fun, and I snap pictures of her lovable boys. It's such an unfair arrangement that I don't dare ask why she still willingly calls me her friend.
This article could be about how true friends help us explore new outdoor experiences. Or about how charmingly fine the Viking Nordic Center is. I should buckle down and fully delve into how unfailing the West River Sports Association is in its promotion and support of physical and intellectual development of our area's youth- including the cross-country ski program my boys participate in.
Here is where my mama's heart knocks my bearings as a writer off the trail and into the snow bank. I need instead to discuss what happens when past, present and future get entwined as your child disappears into the woods when the bullhorn sounds, and eventually emerges on the far trail, confident and grinning as he glides toward the finish line.
Let's first visit the past. My background is in X-C running. I don't dare put those two letters in front of the word skiing; I have no idea how to do that. But I do know how to run and have barreled into many a wood at the start of a race. And I remember the look on my parents' faces each time. My Dad zeroed in on my race singlet; bursting into his running gait, entering the woods at a different angle than mine so that he would be there ready and cheering as I approach the halfway point. Mom shouted out her most supportive chants for me, my teammates, and every other participant (only quieter). Moving near the finish, she gathered with other team parents and used her enthusiastic chants to guide home each exhausted body across the line.
Back to the present: Standing along the snowy trail with Megan, calling out support as each skier goes by, and straining to see if my child has crested the final hill yet, I get a hitch in my throat as I realize I am the very example of what my parents did for me. Dear Lord, does that mean they always had this lodged emotional lump of something or other too, as they watched each of my races?
If a gal is going to have an emotional moment, then for me, Viking is an excellent place to do it. Lots of familiar faces were floating around that evening, eager to chat. Besides, the Nordic Center itself is such a gem. The beautiful trails need no introduction; as promised, they are gorgeous. The warming hut was cozy, and the ski shop crew was beyond helpful to me as I fumbled through learning how to register for the race.
Here I did whip out my pen and took notes because I anticipate I have a few more X-C ski race registrations in my future. Yes, let's turn to the future.
After both my boys had raced, after I had said my goodbyes to Megan and hellos to my husband, who had been volunteering with the event and was now off duty, we found our way to the snack shack. The Nordic Cafe is housed in the main building alongside the ski shop. It smelled deliciously of comfort and that comfort was personified when the familiar face of Marion Dewey greeted us, over her shoulder from the kitchen, and the equally familiar Dana McNair waved a hello. Dana and her husband Malcolm own Viking Nordic Center, so it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise to see her in some form that evening, but as I was still stuck on processing the fact that most XC ski centers even had snack shacks (fantastic), it took me a second to focus.
Both Dana and Marion are well experienced in the raising of boys. I always enjoy chatting on anything with them, but this night was about garnering some sage advice for my newly astonished heart. Mama to mama, they validated my emotional state. They told me that growing pains and full circle go hand in hand, and are bittersweet. They passed me a perfectly melted grilled cheese, hugged me and said thankfully, children live in the present tense and are immune to these sorts of feelings.
They recounted tales of their mothering moments to balm my heart with humor and remind me of what my future with eventual teenagers will bring, which is the same future as for at any age: a breaking, then expanding, parental heart. It's built to be pliable, tough, perceptive to the bittersweet, and shrewd enough to cherish, but not be brought down by all of it.
I finished my sandwich. The lights on the snow trails were turned off; it was time to go home. My boys surprised me when they independently loaded their skis back into the Jeep. I had to be OK with it.
Tina Weikert lives in Bondville.
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