Saturday, December 24, 2016

Traditions and Transitions

It’s Christmas Eve, and the rain that is falling now is expected to turn to snow.  Heavy snow.  Until very recently, this would have caused great angst between me and my husband.  You see, my Christmas tradition, from the time I could remember, was to go to Grandma’s house for Christmas Eve.  In the Danish tradition, we had a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  Dessert was Danish apple cake, beautifully painted marzipan fruits, and other Danish goodies that came out only at Christmastime.  And then, best of all, we opened our presents from Grandma and Grandpa.  These Christmas memories are among my happiest.

When we became adults, my parents became Grandma and Grandpa and the tradition continued.  The only problem came when the weather was stormy.  My very practical husband made it clear many times that he was not happy I insisted on driving to Ogden for Christmas Eve unless the roads were officially closed by the Highway Patrol.  That happened only once in the 33 years we made the trek, but we drove in some pretty treacherous conditions over the years.

All good things must come to an end.  Last year my parents made the decision that our family had become too large for them to accommodate the huge gathering, and frankly, they just didn’t have the energy to do it anymore. 

After I recovered from nostalgia’s punch in the gut, I realized that the timing of their decision was actually very good.  Our son is married; our daughter will be soon, and they need to incorporate their life partners in their Christmas traditions.  As for us, we’ve decided that Christmas Eve will involve a steak dinner and Christmas Candlelight service.  The kids are invited but not obligated.  Tonight it will just be the two of us.  On Christmas morning, our family and friends will join us for Eggs Benedict.  This is our 25+ year tradition. 

When I finally graduate to Grandma status (I have faith it will eventually happen), I suspect we’ll continue to celebrate on Christmas Day.  Our son’s in-laws are of German descent and celebrate on Christmas Eve.  Our daughter’s in-laws-to-be also celebrate on Christmas Eve.  We may move the celebration to one of the grandkids’ houses.  We may not.  We’ll face that transition when we come to it – in the joyful spirit of the one in whose name we celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Climbing Walls

It wasn’t on my bucket list.  In fact, it wasn’t anything I’d even contemplated doing.  I’ll take photos of mountains “because they are there,” but I have no interest in climbing them.  But climbing is a passion of my daughter and her boyfriend, and they practice every Monday night on the rock wall at the local rec center.

After declining multiple invitations to join them, I accepted last Monday.  Josh was waiting for me at the desk.  He showed me the harness I would be wearing and taught me how to work the locking carabiner that would hold the rope that would keep me from falling off the wall. 

He went on to explain to me that he would “belay,” which meant he would keep tension on the rope at all times so if I slipped I wouldn’t fall very far.  He showed me the belay device, a complicated system that the rope was threaded through to ensure tension.  As I climbed, he would keep the rope taut.  When he let me down he would do so gradually.

In his best Cyndi Lauper, he crooned

If you fall I will catch you, I’m be-lay-ing
Climb after climb

We both laughed.   He taught me the communication between climber and belayer.  “On belay?” I asked him.  “Belay on,” he replied per the script.  “Climbing,” I said.  “Climb on,” he replied, again per the script.  Then I started up.  He told me that I should use my arms to keep myself on the wall and use my legs to advance up the wall.  Easier said than done. 

It was time to face my biggest fear – coming down.  I had only climbed a few feet when I asked Josh to let me down.  I explained that I just needed to know what it felt like.  He obliged.  It was pretty easy.  I relaxed a bit.

He had one of the staff members belay me the second time up so he could climb alongside me.  As we climbed together, he pointed out the best hand and footholds.  I made it past the halfway point before I got tired.  I hadn’t listened.  I had exhausted my limited upper body strength pulling myself up.

By the time I’d come down the second time, my daughter had arrived.  She asked if I would belay her climb – with Josh helping, of course.  I learned the technique – pull the rope, move the rope hand below the securing hand, slide the securing hand up, move the rope hand back, repeat as needed.  Josh looked over my shoulder, but I did it.  I got Lisa to the top and back down again.

As I watched the others climbing, I observed that it would be OK to let go of the wall if I didn’t like where my hands and feet were placed.  I wouldn’t fall.  I saw that the climbers had complete faith in the rope and belay system.  And I realized that I had to come back.  I had to make it to the top.  

Next time – to the top!