So we've had this cash and this hope percolating, but the days we've had with all six of us together and no other obligation since arriving in the US have been, well, very very few. I thought this weekend could be a window, since Luke finished exams mid-day Friday and we didn't need to be in VA until Sunday evening. Not enough time or money to go somewhere with for-sure snow, we would have to take our chances with PA, which lies between New Haven and Virginia. I started surfing the internet. Then my mom "happened" to mention she had points left for 2010 on her time-share that she would need to give away or waste. I jumped to volunteer, and it turned out the choices included a cluster of condos on the NY/PA border, near some Pocono mountain slopes. We booked it. Still now snow in the NE, unlike most of the USA it seems, but we figured we could at least enjoy a day in the woods. . .
We picked Luke up Friday, after untold hours of traffic and detours (nothing like trying to pass through several of the major cities on the East Coast on a Friday before Christmas). Hugs and joy, exams done, first semester survived! We arrived in PA late Friday evening. Saturday broke in, brilliantly sunny and cold. Skeptical, we just though we would check out the local ski slope. If we hadn't had that gift we wouldn't have tried it, given the man-made snow and the weekend-costs. But I'm so glad we did. The lifts and equipment for six was within a few dollars of exactly matching the gift. We had our fifth day of family-ski life, and it was another fantastic one. No lines. Clear skies, empty woods. Powdery snow that scraped away to iciness by sunset. Almost-full moon rising as we flew up the lifts. We skied almost continuously all day, and most of that time we were pretty much together. I was always the last one to reach the bottom, being a fan of sharper speed-decreasing turns than the rest of my family. We would regroup on the lift, take turns choosing the route down, swish and glide through the wintry beauty, encourage the fallen, and then do it all again. The ominous crushing blade of the snow-boarders overtaking me was sometimes unnerving, but we all made it through the day intact. Our rental had a rec center with a pool and hot tub, bubbling hot salt water that was perfect that evening, kindness to rarely-used muscles. By the time we ate dinner I wasn't sure if everyone could stay awake, but we managed to cap the evening off with a fire and a chapter from "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (which we usually read CAMPING in the SAVANNAH pre-Christmas, still by a fire, but otherwise a world away).
So thanks friends, for the gift of sun and exercise and snow and craziness and overcoming fears and doing it together. Thanks mom for the gift of a place to stay along the way. Thanks other friends for the loan of the massive van to move us from here to there. For me, Christmas has come, I'm content.