Column: “One Year Later”

Rocky Mountain News, June 16, 2008

New Mom Shifts Perspective

There was a time when I could do whatever I wanted, whenever, wherever, for however long. I could ski and bike and surf and travel to far-flung places.

My friends with kids, meanwhile, had to stay close to home and split the days so both parents could recreate. I felt sorry for them.

I wanted nothing to do with babies. They cried when I held them. They cramped my style.

I’d ski past parents snowplowing awkwardly and ministering to their whimpering, snowsuit-mummified kids on the bunny slope, and I’d think: “Sucka!”

When we’d jet down to, say, Mexico for a surf trip, my husband and I would breeze through baggage claim and customs, pick up our board bags stuffed with our surfboards and a couple of changes of clothing and head off. The families with babies, meanwhile, were still camped at the baggage carousel with their pack-n-plays and snap-n-go’s and duffels full of diapers and baby monitors and cheese sticks and beach tents and gallons upon gallons of sunscreen.

Still, I did wonder what all the fuss was about, and last year, I finally succumbed to curiosity and had a baby. Last month, little Delia turned 1.

Needless to say, my adventures have changed since I became a mom. The winter before I got pregnant, I probably logged 60 or so days on the slopes in various mountain destinations, 25 of those in the backcountry. This year, I made it out in the backcountry three times.

My husband and I still ski and bike a fair amount, but rarely together. Now, we split the days.

Nor do we travel light anymore. After a couple of claustrophobic car trips shoehorned in with the dog, the port-a-crib, the stroller, the duffel of diapers and armada of bath toys, we bought a monster storage box for the top of our car. We could even fit Delia’s grandmother in there.

That isn’t to say I don’t still have some excellent adventures from time to time. Last month, for instance, I sneaked away for a few hours to go backcountry skiing with some friends who don’t have kids. A May storm dumped a foot of powder, and I was able to get away while the snow was still fresh.

When we got to the trailhead, I threw on my boots and skins and found that I was ready to set out well before everyone else (mad efficiency being a little-discussed side-effect of parenthood), so I started up ahead of the group. The trees were still coated in snow, and I skinned up the trail accompanied by the rhythmic swish-swish of my skis and the occasional ker-plop of snow dropping from a tree limb as the morning warmed. Solitude and silence are a rarity for me these days, and I savored the aching beauty of a spring morning in the mountains.

We skied a couple of laps on my favorite backcountry shot, a series of tight, north-facing, 1,000-foot alleyways through the trees. The snow was good, the company excellent.

As we drank beers at the trailhead and recapped our adventures, though, I realized that I couldn’t wait to get back home. The skiing had been great. But the experience seemed, somehow, less momentous than it used to. It’s hard to describe, but I’ll try: When I was a kid back in the ’70s, we had a black-and-white TV. Only when we upgraded to color did I realize what I had been missing.

Skiing powder, or making a decent turn on a glassy wave, used to make me feel more alive than anything I did. I still love getting outside. But when I hear Delia laugh, when I watch her learn something new, I don’t feel like I’m missing all that much. It turns out that, for now at least, I am as besotted with this new adventure as I was fanatical about the old ones.

And now I can’t wait to take Delia on the bunny slopes.