Tuesday, December 18, 2012

finding that old thrill of Christmas morning.

We had a red velvet chair during the years Santa visited our house. It was bright red. I would insist on camping out behind this chair on Christmas Eve. I needed to see the man who brought me all those wonderful gifts.

But every time I tried to sneak my spot my mom would send me to bed. My sister and I had to be content with making final arrangements on Santa's midnight snack. We made sure we selected the candy cane cookies which were the best of the batch. Making sure to place our letter to Santa next the cookies.

The night was endless. Tossing and turning. The anticipation of dawn was palpable. That complete and utter joy of Christmas morning as a child is something made of magic. Magic because during those years you have no idea you could possibly feel anything other than absolute joy and happiness when that morning finally arrives.

Now, at 32, as Christmas morning approaches I'm a little older. A little wiser. I value the morning but not for reasons I used to. Now I enjoy the intangible moments of sharing laughs with my family. But I remember with great fondness how I felt during those golden years when I would lay my head down on Christmas Eve stirring with boundless excitement.

And so it was, the other night, as I prepared my alpine touring (ski) gear for a ritual called Dawn Patrol, that I caught myself feeling an old rush of excitement. Maybe it was because it was the first Dawn Patrol of the season. Maybe it was that I was excited to share some laughs with a few guys I dont get to see that often. Maybe it was because there was an element of unknown, how would the conditions be? Was there fresh snow? Would there be a clear view of the sunrise?

That night I methodically laid out all my gear, I had a list and I checked it twice. I was ready for the morning. My skis and boots, clothes, poles, everything was neatly laid out next to the Christmas tree. I switched off the light and headed to bed. The whole night I was restless, worried I would miss the 4:15am alarm I had set.

I couldn't wait. I was 10 minutes ahead of my alarm. I was up. Moving with quiet purpose, packing the car I could feel the excitement building. Coffee in hand I met up with my friend Travis in the cold dark parking lot near the base of Mt. Spokane.

From there it was a nice drive up the mountain, chatting about holiday traditions, music, and of course skiing. It was my first gift of the morning. Sharing the friendliest of banter with an old friend.

When we arrived at the bottom of the ski hill it was still dark. We started to gear up while trading laughs with Jeff, a SOON-to-be father who made the drive in his own rig due to his "on-call" status.

During our steady skin to the top of Mt. Spokane I gave thanks for my second gift of the morning. The short span of time that had the three of us chatting among a pure white winter morning. Every tree encased in a thousand layers of snow. There was no gift of a great view thanks to a low, lingering, fog but that's like getting the thick hand-knitted socks from Auntie Carol, not even on Christmas morning can you get everything you want.

Once at the top, with the wind kicking up a good chill, we pulled off the skins and prepared for the descent. I stood there with my friends and realized I was happy. Real happy. Like little kid happy. And then came the turns. Fresh cuts in powder. Yes a gift to be sure. There are few feelings like skis slicing through the fresh stuff. Wide sweeping turns that feel as though you're floating on a cloud.

And like that, it's over. Popping out of my bindings, a round of high-fives, a couple compliments on the conditions and its back down the mountain. Its called Dawn Patrol, but really, it's the closest thing to finding that old thrill on Christmas morning.

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