30 December 2010

The weight of circumstances

We'd planned to go to Sequoia at Thanksgiving but my mother-in-law surprised me by announcing they'd decided to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. My in-laws are in their 80s, and I know our time together is limited. They dote on my children, and I couldn't deny them the opportunity to spend that time with the kids.

(No, I'm not the saint my peers nicknamed me back in Catholic school. I was utterly annoyed that I'd have to cook dinner when I was looking forward to someone else doing the deed, even if I knew it wouldn't be as good as mine. But I can be annoyed and still graciously do the right thing, which is nice, but not exactly saintly.)

I told the kids, who were also disappointed in the change of plans, that we'd go at Christmas instead. Brave words from the woman who 15 years ago today, trapped in the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a 20-month-old (it was so not my idea), swore she'd never travel at the holidays ever again.

And so, the morning of the 27th, we packed up to go. And as I proceeded down the front steps to get in the car, my right knee gave way under my weight, not enough so that I fell, but enough to make me murmur in surprise, "That was weird."

Not weird, though. Just my treacherous body betraying me again.

We generally visit Sequoia during the off-season. As it turns out, Christmas is not the off season. It also turned out that the park has seen a vast accumulation of early snow. Chains were required, not a particular difficulty since we tend to carry chains when we go into the mountains in the winter.

We arrived late Monday, and smiled happily at the snowpack and the Milky Way. While we had dinner at the lodge, we planned for sledding the next day. And that occurred, though not so successfully as we might have liked, given the vast numbers of completely clueless individuals crashing into one another on the hill. As we walked across the snowy field, bemoaning the idiots who were letting their dogs relieve themselves everywhere in the crystalline snow at the bottom of the sledding hill, the muscles in my right leg gave way completely and I fell into 18 inches of powder. I waved off the concerned noises of my family, and got back to my feet, but it didn't escape my notice that the inside of my knee was completely numb.

As the day of departure approached, we'd watched the weather carefully, so we knew to expect some snow Wednesday, and we'd packed accordingly. But nothing prepared us (or anybody else, it appeared) for the 4+ feet of snow that started to fall Tuesday night.

Huge, wet flakes.

Yes, under there somewhere was our car. For most people staying at Wuksachi, Wednesday afternoon's entertainment was digging their cars out, even though it was still snowing quite heavily. Some of the younger ones, however, just played in the snow while their parents swung shovels and ice scrapers.

After all that excitement (and a good dinner), we retired to our usual National Park lodge evening preoccupation, a rousing game of Hearts.

(We visit national parks with regularity, and have stayed in numerous lodges, from the TV-free Jackson Lake Lodge to the leaning Oregon Caves Chateau to the sadly filthy Glacier Park Lodge. The daughter always brings a pack of playing cards.)

This morning, the temperature was 10F, and the snow cracked ominously under our feet. We pulled out as early as was practical, and slowly made our way down the road. It was a long and difficult drive home.

Despite the circumstances, we made the best of our little holiday.

The year is drawing to a close, and I see quite a lot of fixing in my future. 2011: the year of fixes. The bathroom must be fixed, the front garden must be fixed.

Ominously, I must be fixed.

Not, frankly, what I had in mind.

Go listen to some good music: "Roll the Bones" from the album Roll the Bones by Rush. It's probably a herniated disc...and yeah, I know, a pretty disjointed little tale. I'm trying to keep the words "excruciating" and "painful" out of the mix. Also: long day. Also: very tired. Also: mad as hell that something else is broken. GAH!

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