Time with family, friends is the best gift of all
There is something magical about the holiday season in Alaska. The land is covered in a blanket of snow, creating a white wonderland for all to play. Wool blankets are being pulled from storage, and fireplaces are being stoked. This is the time of year when we are thinking of others and trying to track down the perfect gift for our loved ones.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the commercialization of the season and checking off our lists that we forget that the best gift that we can give is time. In my opinion, the best place to spend this quality time is outside. I have fond memories of caravanning our kids across the snow, to the base of Denali, to take in the beauty of this mountain and to spend time together. These trips – whether a long weekend or over the Christmas break – would begin at one of the lodges or bed and breakfasts available in either Petersville or Eureka. My husband and I have a blended family with seven kids, so the logistics of these trips was astounding. We would pack the machines, the gear and sometimes the food and head up in two vehicles. Luckily, many of the locations we would stay would have a main room with board games or a pool table to entertain the kids. Bear rugs and taxidermy animal busts lined the walls. If we could afford it, we would stay in a place where someone else was cooking the food, which was always a plus for me. No preparation or cleanup and the kids could fill up on hamburgers and fries to sustain them on our long rides outside.
In thinking back, there are so many family rides that I can’t pick just one as my favorite. They have melded together in my memory and bring back a feeling of peace and warmth. It’s funny how memories have a way of doing this, I am sure when I was wrangling seven kids in and out of winter gear, the feeling of contentment may have been far away. We would sometimes have one or two kids crying at the same time. There were sibling arguments over whose turn it was to ride the machine and how long the other person had been on it. They were all sure their turn had just been a few minutes and their brother or sister had been riding “forever.” On the other hand, there were kids helping each other get unstuck or encouraging the others to go bigger and farther. When someone would fall off their sled before we could get to their sides, a sibling would be there to assess the situation and get the other one back to riding. Now as our kids are mostly grown, they are using the same lessons learned and applying them to their own lives and in helping those around them.
This year, the time during the holidays will be a little different. My husband and I will still spend it outside, but we find that we are spending short periods with just a few of our kids at a time. If we are lucky they will take a day off work and travel up to the cabin to go out on a ride with our friends. We will have them over to play board games or to enjoy some hot chocolate by the fire while we watch the snow fall. While the kids have less and less time, we tend to have more. One blessing that I wasn’t expecting is now we can spend additional time with our retired parents. Our parents are always up for an adventure and we have made plenty of new memories with them. Instead of purchasing snowmachines that will work well for the kids, we recently picked up a wide track with a two-up seat for our parents and towing capacity for the groomer.
I ran across a saying the other day that described time perfectly to me: “The days are long but the years are short.” This has been my experience. While in the midst of raising small children or wrestling with teenage drama, time seems to be long and drawn out. Then one day you turn around and you can smile at the things that seemed hard and are surprised at how quickly the years have passed. The best advice that I can give is this: Make plans for adventure. Spend the most precious gift that we each have, spend the time.