We were up in the mountains skiing for the start of the new year, but first it was my turn to have Christmas with the boys, and Nine had asked for a quiet Christmas at home and could we invite his dad, so that’s what we did.
Christmas Eve is my chance to celebrate with my family’s American traditions, baking cookies for Santa Claus, preparing the easy, yet festive dinner of beef fondue while holiday music plays in the background and Christmas lights blink on the tree, all while relaxing thanks to Santa and the threat of no gifts keeping the kids from tearing the house apart. My ex brought a panettone from Milan so I didn’t even have to make dessert.
On Christmas Day we opened presents and did the mandatory four-hour long Italian lunch with relatives and in-laws of in-laws (of in-laws), then a movie. On Saint Stephen’s Day, the 26th, we went up to the mountain town where we used to live to see other Italian relatives and a bunch of old friends for the day.
It was a fairly quiet, satisfying Christmas, and if every Christmas could be just like that, I’d have no complaints.
The best part though was the 27th when we drove farther north to the Dolomites for a week of skiing, la settimana bianca, is what they call it here, and it is quickly becoming our New Year tradition. If we could spend every new year skiing, I’d have no complaints.
There has been very little snow so far this season, but we were lucky. It started snowing around lunchtime and didn’t stop until late into the night, then got cold for a few days. On top of that, the artificial snow wasn’t too bad for skiing, and now that the boys are much more confident on the slopes, we were able to ski a lot, every day, and everyone enjoyed it. There were no tears! Except maybe once! It helped that their dad was there and most days we had lunch with another family with two young boys and then skiied with them in the afternoon.
Thursday was my favorite day: we were out on the slopes around nine and skiied for an hour before the boys’ ski class began. It was a beautiful, sunny day, although a little too warm for the snow, and the new year crowds hadn’t completely taken over yet. Their dad and I skiied skiied skiied until it was time to pick up the boys, and then we had lunch with our friends outside a rifugio at the top of the mountain, overlooking the mountaintops all around.
Six was tired after a few more runs and asked to go in; I stayed out with Nine and we skiied until the lifts closed at four. I asked Nine if he wanted to ski all the way down into town on the challenging slope that had just opened that day, and he said he was up for it. The slope was steeper than I remembered and strewn with fallen bodies. I started to regret bringing him down it when, just before a particularly sharp, narrow turn, I stopped to wait for him and realized the woman near me was crying while her husband whispered words of encouragement. But there came Nine, cool as can be, practicing his turns around the bodies in the snow.
“Hi Mommy,” he said.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said, and skiied off again in that methodical way of his.
When we got to the bottom I bought him a cream-filled donut fresh from the oven at the pastry shop on the way up to our little apartment in town.