Thursday, October 9, 2014

In the Letting Go {Part 3}

{This is part of my 31 Days of Surprise Endings, and the 3rd part of a story I've been telling.  Please read the Part 1 here and Part 2 here}

Yaqoob's Lodge became significantly less interesting when we couldn't play with the puppies any more.  But fortunately we had that one, even more exciting distraction: the snow.  On top of the high, green hills that surrounded the valley, we could see great white patches of it.  My cousins and sisters and I spent our first days there, dreaming about what we would do when we hiked to the snow, how we would have a roaring snowball fight and build a snow man and make snow angels and so on.  Coming from Egypt and Bangladesh, where snow was just something beautiful in books, pictures, and our memories, we couldn't wait.
It didn't look like it would be a long hike to get there, but nevertheless, our dads insisted that we wait to get acclimated.  For several days, we did short, "practice hikes".  None of us dared complain because we didn't want our fathers to have the faintest notion that we were not up to hiking all the way to the snow.
Finally Dad and Uncle Steve decided we were ready.  We were a cheery crowd, the ten of us, as we started out from the center of town.  Our snow discussions continued as we climbed through thick forests of pine that dappled the noonday sunlight – who would be on whose team for the snowball fight, what we would use for the snow man, and so on.  The trees began to thin out as we continued up and the incline of the hills increased.  When we stopped for water, mopping the sweat from our faces, we stared across the valley.  Was it just our imaginations, or was the snow on the other side already lower than us?
"Don't worry, kids," Uncle Steve said, "That means it won't be much further now."  
"That's right," Dad chimed in, "Probably just over the crest right here."
We pushed on over the crest, expecting to see a winter wonderland.  We looked around with dismay.  No snow.   
"Can't be much further," Dad said again, in a tone that held just a hint of surprise.  His shirt was soaked with sweat.  He charged up the hill, and believing him that we were just a short distance from our current vision of paradise, we followed, side-stepping up the steep incline to keep from falling.
"I'm getting tired," my little sister Jackie said.
Jenny, Kristin, Ryan and I simultaneously shot her looks of scathing disdain.  She was going to get the whole expedition shut down if she kept saying that kind of thing.
"All right, water break," Uncle Steve declared.  Once again, we stared across the valley.  It was certain now; on that side, the snow was definitely below us.  
None of us wanted to admit it, but by now, far beneath our sweat and aching muscles in the deepest, darkest parts of our souls, we were all sensing a subtle twinge, the faintest hint of defeat.  
"Well, that's gotta mean we're almost there."  Uncle Steve's words broke through the silence that now shrouded our little troop.  Dad nodded in agreement, and he seemed surer than ever.
"That's right," he said.  "It's gonna be right at the top of this hill."
We looked up where he had indicated.  The next hundred feet or so above us were extremely steep, rocky dirt dotted with sparse and scraggly shrubs.  The dads seemed so certain, though, and after all, we had come so far already, it would have been a tragedy to turn back at this point.  No one made a noise; we just shrugged and sighed and got back to our feet, each of us engaged in a silent struggle to hold onto our dream.  Snow!  Snow.  Snow… snow… It seemed like such an immature and childish fantasy now, and yet we wanted it so bad.

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