28 November 2010

winter memory

Sunday. My father excited like a kid behind the steering wheel, a load of family, sandwiches, thermos flasks, skis on the roof. My mother is chain smoking and checking her watch. Fighting in the back of the car. My brother in tears. My sister furiously kicking me. Every inch of space on the back seat has to be fought over. I get car sick.
We arrive at the slope. My father carefully examines the snow, shows us how to put wax on our ski, I struggle getting my boots attached, my sister calls me a baby and heads of into the crowd of energetic happy skiers. My brother hangs onto my mother until she gets impatient with him. We are told to be careful and warned of various dangers and to get on with it, Sunday fun.
I halfheartedly go up and down the slope a few times.
My feet are cold. My hands are cold. My nose is running. My sister and my father fly past me. Soon I just watch, take off my ski and jump up and down to get some warmth into my feet. I stack my ski into the snow and wander off into the little wood pretending I am a polar explorer tramping through the snow until I get to a fence with the motorway running behind it. My mother angrily calls me back to the slope.
I am bored and I am cold. I try to get my boots back into the complicated fitting on the ski, no luck. I kick my ski and they start sliding down and I fall into the snow trying to catch them.
I want to go home. My mother tells me to get a grip and moves on. My father gives me the car keys. The car windows are frozen on the inside and for a while I scratch patterns and faces, numbers and letters I already know. I can erase them with my breath and soon another layer of ice forms. My mother opens the door and pushes my brother next to me. He is crying and the tears are little frozen drops on his cheeks. She sits down on the passenger seat and lights a cigarette.
We know she is mad. It has started to snow again. The car fills with the smell of damp mittens and cigarette smoke. My brother has stopped crying and is picking the ice from his bootlaces, licking it. My mother slaps it off his hands and there are more tears. She silently lights another cigarette.
We sit there for a long time, silent, watching her smoke. Finally my sister and my father come back with red cheeks and laughter. My mother hands out ice cold apples and sandwiches, passes around cups of tea. We burn our tongues.
On the way home I get car sick again.

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