Descending Snow Mountain

Descending Snow Mountain

Chana Shapiro

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Plummeting straight down Snow Mountain in a six-person inner tube at approximately 1,000 mph, I had a single overarching thought: There was an outside chance I would live to write about it. I lived, and I’m writing.

It all started with a lofty (yet occasionally misguided) plan to spend more time trying new things. To be sure, I would occasionally do laundry, but the majority of my life would henceforth be devoted to challenging activities.

There would be two phases. The first would require optimism, diligence and scheduling. Easy enough.

Phase 1 opened a world of newness. Formerly a high school teacher, I began to assist in an elementary school. After years of writing columns and magazine stories, I co-wrote a book.

Previously eschewing all forms of physical exertion, I joined a gym. I bade a teary goodbye to my ancient cellphone and said hello to apps and texting. Content with instant coffee in the past, I boldly purchased a French press.

You may think I felt fulfilled by the novelty of Phase 1, but soon I was itching for Phase 2. It was time for the hard stuff.

To begin, I invited people who spoke only Hebrew to lunch. My secret weapon was my husband, but I tried to use him sparingly. This was partially successful, and we did break bread with some interesting folks.

Well, they seemed interesting, but I’m not sure because I may have missed random crucial parts of the conversation, and I got into hot water when I confused the words for noodles, umbrellas and mushrooms, which sound maddeningly alike in Hebrew. There were moments when my inability to correctly affix masculine and feminine verb endings caused a bit of confusion, but our guests’ guffaws cleared the air.

With that moderate success behind me, I decided to tackle an even harder challenge: to publicly experience personal danger and as a result make my grandchildren proud of me.

“What would you like to do during winter vacation?” I asked them.

“Anything we want?”

“As long as it doesn’t break the bank, and as long as we won’t hate each other when it’s over.”

“Let’s go to Snow Mountain!” they decided. I agreed.

After many long hours on the Internet and phone, trying to make reservations for a perfect date and entry time, and after finally securing tickets, and after having them canceled twice because of the wrong kind of weather (too hot and too rainy), and after successfully rescheduling the adventure, we made our way to Stone Mountain Park, where fake snow covered a fake mountain.

We were early, so we spent an hour in the engineered-snow field. We built a snowman and threw snowballs at a target. Fun but lame.

It was Snow Mountain itself, looming high and menacingly above us, that would test my strength and bravery.

Nearing the entrance, we got the full impact of the men, women and children hurtling earthward in gigantic inner tubes. There was a warning, too: No one with a heart condition or taking blood pressure meds was allowed to plunge. If one wasn’t scared before, this would fix that.

A few of the people balked before getting into the rubber containers, but most of them boldly climbed in and allowed themselves to be pushed over the edge by teenagers cleverly wearing ear plugs. Only we lambs fully heard the screams as the tubes raced down.

Vowing to give tzedakah upon a successful fall-bump-and-slide, I joined my daughter, the kids and two strangers who were as terrified as I was. The inner tube was now fully populated. A smiling teen dragged us to the edge. One big shove, and down we went.

When we landed, it took me a while to recover. The two strangers limped away as the members of Team Bubbe pulled me out.

“Wasn’t that fun?” one asked.

“I know you loved it!” another declared.

“Let’s go again!” opined a third.

“It was great!” I lied, feeling extremely brave and strong (see above), fully aware that there are many hard things in life we should do but only once.

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