Out West

The possibility of my family’s first visit — with me included — to a destination in the west occurred at the time of the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. I spent most of that Olympics season watching the skiing events, especially those that Jean-Claude Killy competed in.

That winter, Mom and Dad told me that we now owned a share in a condo in a place with the unwieldy name of Snowmass-at-Aspen, Colorado. This village was not only a ski resort in the Rockies, but it was the very best ski resort in the country and therefore, as Dad always saw it, the world. My mother started to discuss with all of her friends how she planned to decorate the condo, a difficult task to do all the way from Ohio. My father took out a subscription to a skiing magazine. I started reading the magazines and thinking of how wonderful it would be to ski down the mountains as fast as Jean-Claude Killy. Even if I didn’t become a good skier, and of course I would, I would at least get to be Out West: a nearly mythical area to me, home of all of the cowboys and Indians and soldiers that populated the paintings around our house.

But though I kept dreaming, my father’s talk of skiing trailed off, and Mom quit planning her condo decorations. The magazine subscription was allowed to run out unrenewed.

It happened that my parents had, during their discussions of skiing and Colorado with their friends, come to learn that skiing is a dangerous sport. To them, a “dangerous sport” was one in which physical injury was possible. Broken bones were not very uncommon in the sport of skiing; therefore, it was dangerous. After that discovery or realization, some crazy sort of dynastic impulse took over. We three, and especially me, since I was the next generation in miniature, had to remain safe and whole. And so, my skiing dreams came to an end.

A similar change of heart took place during my few years of taking horseback riding lessons. The horses, however, were nearby, not two time zones away, and many of my friends, who were also children of my parents’ friends, also took riding lessons. The collective love or horses shared by my friends and I kept my parents’ fears at bay for a long time, but not forever. One of my friends had a nasty fall from her horse, hitting a post face first as she fell. It took her a couple of months in the hospital and a set of dentures before she recovered. My days of riding horses, as well as hers, had come to an end.