Monday, November 9, 2009

The Sierras Part II of II (A Reunion)

I sent the following letter to the local Three Rivers newspaper:

My girlfriend and I traveled to Three Rivers just this past month for Valentines Day Weekend to spend some time in majestic Sequoia National Park together.  My parents used to bring me to Sequoia when I was very young.  I was adopted when I was five years old, and one of the first things my parents and I did together as a family was to visit the Park.  It was a place where I could see snow for the first time and experience some tranquility after quite an ordeal of having lost my biological father; my only parent at the time.

My new parents and I stayed at the Sequoia Lodge.  I remember all of the cabins being brown with a sort of brighter then natural green trim around the windows and doors.  There was also a big lodge with a cafeteria where I asked my father repeatedly for quarters so that I could choose, “Theme From Shaft” on the jukebox inside.  And I loved to look at the toys in the gift shop, most of which were themed with trees and deer.  I still have a thermometer with a fawn on my bookshelf; other than missing his ears, he’s still pretty much in tact.

My parents thought I should learn to ski.  Back in 1970, Wolverton was manicured for skiing with rope tows on the small ski hills.  They arranged for my ski lessons, and I was assigned to a beautiful blonde ski instructor named Karin, a schoolteacher in Three Rivers for most of the year.  She was very sweet with me and taught me to ski without using poles, I suppose, so that I could internalize balance more solidly.  Karin used to ski backwards ahead of me where she seemed completely at ease on the snow, and she always had a firm hold around me going up the rope tows. 

My parents reminded me recently that I liked her so much that I was always excited to start my ski lessons, and that on one occasion I asked my parents if I could use my souvenir money to buy Karin a gift ring from the lodge.

This past month when my girlfriend and I were in town, I couldn’t drive through Three Rivers without thinking of Karin.  Something about her has always stayed with me; her kindness, her patience with me, and someone I felt I had all to myself to play with on the bunny hill.  She made me feel fearless on the slopes, and my mother tells me with a tinge of envy that in a very short period with Karin, I was a more confident skier than my mother was.

During a time when I had just gone through a tremendous and frightening change in my life, I was fortunate enough to meet a very special and kind person who let me take things at my speed and learn to gain my own sense of control.  I still ski and love to play in the snow, and each time I do, I think of Karin with great fondness.

Within two hours, I received an email back from one of the newspaper editors who said that she knew the woman I was describing and that it wasn’t the Karen who had recently passed away, but rather another Karin who was alive and well and living in a nearby town.  This editor knew this as a result of the picture I had included in my article.  She herself had taken ski lessons as a young girl from Karin.

I was ecstatic to hear this news.  The end of the piece I had written described my sadness of hearing of her passing and was no longer appropriate, so the editor asked me to re-write my letter and promised to publish it in the next issue of the newspaper.  She knew that Karin was a subscriber and thought it would be a great surprise for her to just happen to read the article in the paper.  The letter you just read above was this modified version.

In just a couple of days, I received a voicemail on my phone from Karin, my former ski instructor.  Upon calling her back and catching up, she asked my girlfriend and I to come up to her cabin in Shaver Lake and Ski at Sierra Summit (formerly, China Peak). 

So we drove up there and met her at the ski lodge.  I was so surprised.  After all of these years, she was still beautiful and in better fitness than either my girlfriend or me.  She was still a very active skier as was her thiry-something year old daughter, and they skied circles around us.  I remember at one point, the four of us were skiing down a run and I happened to look at a spectacular view of Huntington Lake, and when I looked back, Karin was well down the hill.

After skiing, we went with Karen, her daughter, and her granddaughter down to the docks around Shaver Lake.  It was cold, and a little dark.  Something I thought was so endearing was how Karen’s daughter was spending time with her daughter, showing her how to bait a simple stick for fishing on the lake.  The little girl didn’t have a rod.  I really mean it was a stick.  So it seemed miraculous that she caught a fish with it.  The look on other fisherman’s faces that did have rods was hilarious.

We stopped for dinner in a little Italian restaurant in the town of Shaver Lake and enjoyed a couple of hours of catching up.  There were a lot of locals dining this evening and I got a flavor of their lives.  Good working folks who enjoyed the recreation that the mountains afford them.

We retired to Karin’s cabin with her.  Her husband had to work these few days from their house near Three Rivers, so it was just Karin, me and my girlfriend.  What a relaxing evening it was.  I did more catching up with Karin including showing her pictures from the time my parents and I used to go to Sequoia, and Karin remembered my parents.

It was a very satisfying and enjoyable weekend, and Karin couldn’t have been more alive and vibrant.