I asked for skis but Santa Claus did not deliver; now the rest of the story – The Daily Gazette

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Christmas day had passed and nothing.

The only gift I really wanted that year – really, really wanted – wasn’t under the tree. And it wasn’t in the pillowcase at the foot of my bed, either.

I was very disappointed.

But that’s not the end of the story. This is just the beginning.

For months I dreamed of Christmas morning. It would be the day. Finally, fabulously, it would come true.

What I wanted more than anything in the world was a pair of skis. But not just any old ski. New skis. The ones I call mine.

Even though I was barely 6 or 7 years old, I had already been skiing for quite some time. Fortunately, my parents started my sister and I as soon as possible. We have old family snaps that show me on skis at age 3 or 4, a boy’s twig with a giant smile, and even bigger pocket ski gear.

Every fall my parents would pick up used gear our size at one of the local school’s ski exchange centers. Trading was a big thing back then, when downhill skiing was still a big deal in most northern states and Canada.

On winter weekends, my parents dutifully packed my sister and I, helping us buckle our boots and put on our bindings. I’m sure it hasn’t always been easy.

At first we mostly went to the local ski slopes. Some came with cables, but others required our own locomotion uphill – or, more often than not, that of our devoted parents.

My mom and dad would take us up hills and then ski down.

Up and down. Up and down.

We were skiing all day, or at least until we were exhausted from the intense exercise and the often freezing cold.

After a few years we moved on to bigger hills. Then to the ski areas.

Index – Celebrate: There is still so much to celebrate

Nearby Willard Mountain in Washington County was one of our regular spots.

Eventually we broadened our horizons with regular visits to some of the greats – Killington Mountain in Vermont and Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks were two favorites.

By the age of 6 or 7 my sister and I were regulars. We were skiers.

All summer long, we dreamed of hitting the slopes. To prepare for the ski season, we regularly hiked with the family on weekends. My father emphasized the importance of developing our wind and leg strength. We’ve hiked mountains with names like Crane and Tongue and Buck. We ate it, often climbing the mountains long before our parents.

By the time December rolled around each year, we were eager to leave, even before the first flakes began to fly. To add even more heat to the fire, we followed all the famous skiers of the day.

In the early 1970s, downhill skiing was an integral part of the American experience. Names like Billy Kidd, Spider Sabich, and Suzy Chaffee were seemingly ubiquitous on Saturday afternoon TV and glossy newsstand magazines. American idols? You bet.

At night, I sometimes fell asleep with visions of my future life as a skier. Would I grow up to be a World Cup rider like Jean-Claude Killy or Ingemar Stenmark? Or maybe I’d move to Colorado to star in a ski-bro movie with superstar singer-songwriter John Denver. All I needed was cold, crisp mountain air and a pair of soft skis.

And there was the problem.

How the hell was I going to get to Rocky Mountain on some crappy old skis that had already been used by the street boy for three seasons, and his brother before that? I needed new boards. New sticks.

Index – Celebrate: There is still so much to celebrate

So I turned to Santa, a guy who certainly understands the undeniable gravitational pull of cold, northern climates.

All these years later, I can’t remember exactly what I wrote on my wishlist that year. But I remember the first element with complete certainty: the skis.

In an effort to increase my chances, I kept the rest of my list short. No need to appear greedy.

When the big day finally arrived, I was overwhelmed with impatience. It would surely be my year. I was getting older, I was growing. I was a big boy and more than ready for new skis.

It wasn’t meant to be, however. There were no skis under the tree. I was crushed.

Today, almost half a century later, I can’t remember how I handled my disappointment that day. I think it’s safe to say that I wasn’t exactly stoic. (My poor parents, I’m sorry mom and dad.)

But this is where my story takes a turn. A large.

A day or two after Christmas early in the morning we were all home when we heard something on the roof ringing like sleigh bells. Or at least my mom heard it. So we went to the front door to investigate.

Inside the door was a handwritten note. It was you-know-who. And it was addressed to me.

Unfortunately, Santa wrote, he and his team at the North Pole had experienced delays in the supply chain. (Talk about déjà vu!) He was really sorry, he said.

Without further explanation, the note ordered us to walk around the back of the house. I paved the way.

And they were there.

Skis. My skis.

Index – Celebrate: There is still so much to celebrate

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