It’s 3,182 feet from base to summit on Apex Express, but you might as well have been on your way to Planet Nine.
We’ve been getting ready for this day for quite some time. For nearly six years, really — that’s how long it’s been since you first stepped onto a snowboard. I remember that day as if it was this morning — it was not my finest hour — but I could not have imagined then the mixture of pride and anguish I would feel today when you slid onto a chairlift all by yourself for the very first time.
But it was time. We are exceptionally fortunate to have a home that is about 75 meters away from the nearest lift. From where I sit right now, in fact, sipping hot chocolate next to a fire in our living room, I can watch lift chair after lift chair, filled with skiers and boarders, ascending Apex. This ski resort is, quite literally, right in your backyard, and it is right for you to be able to explore your backyard. You are eight years old, after all, and that is what eight year olds do.
We’ve shredded this run together 100 times, maybe more. You’re a black diamond boarder and this is a blue square run at best. You are more comfortable and confident on a snowboard than most adults are on their own two feet. This is part of who you are.
And you were ready. We took a run together this morning and then I asked: “Want to do it by yourself?” You didn’t hesitate. You were moving toward the lift before you’d even finished saying “yes.”
Then you were on your way. You popped onto a chair, all by your lonesome, and didn’t look back at me even once.
I watched you as you flew away, remembering with certain horror all of the things I meant to tell you before you did this all by yourself, remembering with great remorse that I had forgotten to give you a mobile phone, remembering all the times that you’ve taken a tumble, been knocked head over heels by heedless boarders and skiers two times and three times and four times your size.
And then, remembering what it felt like to watch you take your first steps, releasing you from my arms into the great big world. It was five feet from me to your mother on that day in the carpeted hallway of our home, but you might as well have been on your way to Pluto.
I waited. And waited. And as I waited I thought of all the other times I’ve let you go, in literal and figurative ways, and all the times that are on their way, just beyond the bend.
And then, over the bend, on the top of Main Street, you appeared, unmistakable in your trademark purple jacket and pink pants. You typically stop and take a short break there, but you did not rest. You flew over the precipice, cutting perfect S-turns down the middle of the mountain before tucking in and locking down on a perfect vector, gaining speed the way you always do when you’re on your way home.
I readied myself to receive you. To have you slide right into my arms. To lift you up and hug you and tell you how proud I am of you. But you flew past me with a perfect little salute.
You might as well have been on your way to a planet we have yet to discover, in some far flung reach of our galaxy where no one’s ever been before or ever even thought to look.
And that is fine. I lifted my goggles and wiped a tear from my eye and I knew. That is how it’s supposed to be.