One More Lesson from Mom: “Fun”

About a thousand feet from the top of Quandary Peak, a fourteener in Colorado, I pulled my gloved hand off my ski pole and swing my hand around, trying to force warm blood into my numb fingers and thumb. It had been nine degrees Fahrenheit when we started skinning up at the trailhead, and we assumed the sun would rapidly warm the air temperature. But a cold breeze blowing from the northwest chilled everything, and both Hilary and I had numb hands with another hour of climbing up to the summit.

Brendan Leonard and his mom standing on Quandary Peak

Here’s good advice my mom told me: Swing your arms around to warm your hands up when they’re cold.

Here’s another thing my mom taught me: You don’t have to be having fun to be having fun.

I grew up in the mountainless state of Iowa, with a mother who made the best of the available terrain. In the summer, we rode bikes everywhere, and she ran three or four times a week.

In the winter, we went ice skating—outside. We didn’t live anywhere close to an indoor ice rink with immaculately Zambonied planes of ice to skate on. My childhood memory of ice skating is a few dozen days merged into one aggregate scene: I’m ten years old on a cold, cloudy, humid day on Viking Lake in southwest Iowa, pushing my black figure skates around the semi-flat ice, probably layered up like Randy Parker from “A Christmas Story,” wishing I was indoors playing with my G.I. Joe action figures instead of wishing my fingertips didn’t ache so much from the cold.

And there’s my mom, insisting this is fun, as if we’re splashing around the town swimming pool on…

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