One of my Dad’s greatest passions, other than Mint Juleps and the Five & Dime Store (he’s old school), is skiing. He’s skiied since he was a teenager, and with two brothers on the ski team in high school, he didn’t quite follow suit but tagged along on every trip. This was a life-long love that eventually included his girlfriend turned wife- my Mom-who would ski with his brothers and their wives. Soon enough there were babies on skis and one of those babies was me. Since my Dad had his way, I was on a pair of skis before I was potty trained (although I have on good authority that my mother went skiing in Alta, Utah while I was a sleepy little fetus in her belly) and have been skiing ever since.
At that time, my baby brother was born two years after me, and once he was old enough to cruise the powdery slopes with us the family ski trips had one less babysitter and one more active member. According to my Mom, my fun-loving Father was euphoric watching his two little ones pizza their way down the mountains bundled up in coats so thick that, until they came off, our arms never made their way back down to our sides.
Once we were skilled enough to venture up and down Green, Blue, and then Black Diamond marked- trails we abandoned the magic carpet that pulled us up the bunny hill and joined our parents on the larger, more comfortable ski lifts that had us nestled in between them on one big, padded bench. As we sat, with skis dangling, noses running and pink cheeks, I’ll never forget my Dad pull out a bag of either peanut or regular M&M’s candy (it depended on the day and the mountain) from his coat pocket and pour a few into mine and my brother’s tiny palms. Over the years those palms grew bigger, but those M&M’s tasted just as good as they always did.
There’s a distinct flavor that an M&M has when it’s given to you from your Dad while being eaten outside in the snow on a ski lift. I’m completely serious about that. The frosty temperature rushes into your mouth as you chew and swallow one after the next. I’d imagine that perhaps there’s a certain effect the shrunken air molecules have on the hot, fatter ones inside of your mouth that alters its taste. Or maybe it could be that the cold air heightens your taste buds; suddenly enhancing the already delicious M&M’s and bringing it to a whole other level, which is what brings about the new flavor.
Whatever the reason, I know from my Mom that my Father was never happier than when he was skiing with his wife and kids. She told me it was his dream to be able to share and even pass on his passion to me and my brother. When I told her how I’ll never forget that taste like the Pavlov’s dogs of my past, and loved having that memory she laughed and told me it was probably just his way of trying to make us love skiing a little bit more. We are still skiing twenty years later, so I guess he did and I guess it worked. It’s like giving candy to a skiing baby…