I didn't tell the tale of our first trip to the snow. Things have been busy. But it was an extraordinary trip.
We drove up to Lake Mountain through mostly bushfire-blackened country. Shells of former homes stood, roofless, with sad figures stumbling over the wreckage. FOR SALE signs waited for takers. The random horror was exacerbated by chunks of brilliant green missed by the fire, and immaculate houses, sometimes with the charred ground running to the doorstep. It was heartbreaking.
Marysville of course was decimated, but little businesses operated in makeshift premises centred around the bakehouse, the very same one where Beloved and I enjoyed a lazy breakfast years ago, before Bear and Mitts, when she brought me to the same place to experience cross country skiing for my birthday.
There had been snow a couple of days earlier, but the weather was set to warm slightly and rain was on the cards so we were nervous. The expectations a girl had been building up all autumn were about to be realised or pathetically dashed.
Look Bear, it's dark, why? Coz it's getting close to winter. And what happens in winter? We're going to the SNOWW!
The final drive to the snow line has always built this sense of excitement and trepidation- I'm instantly taken back to my childhood as we snake higher up the mountain and the drizzle commences. Staring at the ditches, into the undergrowth, trying to spot early lumps of snow.
Parks Victoria advertised the previous day that the facilities had been damaged in a fire (another one!). They stated on their website that no entry fee would apply. This was in marked conflict with the truth on the mountain (to put it diplomatically). While I could appreciate the need to support and fund their services on the mountain and so had no major objection to paying, it never ceases to amaze me how many of my fellow public servants believe they can breach both the code of conduct and laws against misleading and deceptive conduct without batting an eyelid.
I'm sure if they'd asked for donations on the day most people would still have paid. Anyway, moving along...
A short time later the clumps appeared, then bigger white patches, and I started to get a slight sense of euphoria. Happy, I felt happy. I wanted to clap. I repeated myself over and over while pointing out the window. The cover got deeper, deep enough to play.
We got to the parking area, were guided into a tight spot designed for single people to effortlessly step out in designer gear and run to the slopes. Not for parents who have to change 2 kids while propping the door open halfway. I propped, commenced, the wind blew the drizzle into the car and on the kids' faces and reality hit. Easy. The snow would not be easy.
1 mitten was missing, a great start with the temperature hovering around 0.5 degrees.
15 minutes later Bear and I stumbled through the car park towards the main slope while Beloved and Mitts headed for a quiet spot to feed. I found a quiet spot with other young families, plopped her on the snow, and the fun began. And, despite the missing mitten (we did a lot of tucking into the sleeve!) and some of the worst winter weather possible, she had cackling good fun!
Kids are so hardy when there's stuff to play on- I was reminded of one trip to the snow when I was about 14, we got to the resort in the evening, and I insisted on going up in the chairlift and skiing the last run despite being dressed in just a cheap tracksuit. Shivering is for wimps!
We staggered around for a while trying to find Beloved, and came across a quiet pocket of untrammelled powder. There was a snowman, we built another, using little woodchips as facial features. I got Bear to smash a couple of snowballs on my chest. Her nose and cheeks were bright pink and wet, that little hand was getting icy, but she laughed and smiled and I forgot how much work it was for a while and just enjoyed.
We found the others, and our friends from Melbourne, and put their girl and Bear on a toboggan together. My mate dragged them down the slope, narrowly avoiding various other nutters, while I gave Beloved a break and carried Mitts.
He snuggled up to my chest in the Baby Bjorn, under my ski jacket, and went to sleep. Bless him and his cotton socks.
Soon the kids (a euphemism for the adults) were a bit too cold and we headed down to our cottage, Holly Lane Mews. The girls shared a room and minxed until we had to separate them (with much laughter). We ate and drank and chatted like real people do. It was good, and the setting was beautiful.
Yet charred ground ran to the edge of this property as well, and we were to learn that the fire came close, so close. People died a couple of hundred metres away. I think they appreciated the visit, and would not be averse to more.
And the postscript is- when we got back to the car after the snow, all cold and wet, the missing mitten fell out onto the asphalt. Like a smoking gun, the jury shaking their heads, the charges of parental incapacity looking indefensible...
Stop now - From Hester Jones’ “Stop Now” at MaMSIE Art Collection.
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