This week’s topic at http://www.sharingourstoriesmagic.com is snow. Having grown up on an island in South Georgia and remained in the deep south all my life, I have never been around much snow that I can remember. That’s why my best memories of snow are from a church youth trip that we took to go snow skiing in Sky Valley.
The Pie in the Sky Valley
The First Baptist Church of St. Simons Island, Georgia youth group took a trip to go snow skiing in Sky Valley in the 1970s. The Edwards family of Edwards Pie Company just happened to be among the members of the church, and they generously loaned us their lodge for the trip. Funny how a simple word like “snow” can prompt such memories – – I remember so much – and so little – from the winter wonderland scenes of our time high up on that mountainside in the cabin. I was absolutely mesmerized by the icicles and the sparkling trees heavy-laden with snow, and feeling it crunch underfoot when we walked in it, feeling the cold air shock our lungs in ways that we were not used to inhaling cold, dry air. I imagine this is how it would have felt stepping out of the back of the wardrobe into Narnia. So unexpected. So surreal. Island kids, we were all used to sand between our toes – not snow under our feet.
We had Bible studies in the main room of the lodge , sitting in a circle next to the fireplace on the door wall as we shared in fellowship. Julian Ward was our youth minister back in those days. He talked about scripture and brought the Bible’s words to life for us through illuminating the passages. Jesus was not just a concept – He became real to us, and we grew to know Him. The Word became not only relevant, but a guiding force in our lives, and retreats like these were part of what anchored us and solidified our bond as Christian youth.
The boys bunked in one big room, girls in the other. To the immediate left of the front door, there was a small kitchen for preparing food and our favorite drink – hot chocolate. One chaperone made according to directions: one teaspoon of cocoa in six ounces of water – which was waaaaay too watery, but she would not be corrected. Everyone, especially the Hallmark Channel, knows that hot chocolate is only good when it’s heavy on the cocoa and marshmallows. Nevertheless, we drank it just to get warm. There was a long table for dining – and we savored that time together around the table back when people still did that sort of thing. When I look back on these times, I feel blessed to have been among the last generation to understand the importance of the dinner table, and sorrowful that so many of today’s children do not. The disappearance of the dinner table is probably much the same way my grandparents and great grandparents felt about the disappearance of the front porch. Oh no, the world is going to Hell in a handbasket!
Those were what we now call the good old days – before screens took the places of faces, when we still knew how to get along in big groups or to suck it up and deal with it if we had a disagreement about something, and when we appreciated the togetherness of simpler times. As hard as it was, we knew back in those days how to actually apologize and mend fences – to overcome rifts, forgive, and move on. And the next time we found a rift, we did the same thing again. No social media to keep pouring toxic salt in our wounds made things easier.
I reached out to some friends who were also on that trip to see what has stuck with them after all these years. Don Wheeler and I lost our mothers at about the same time of the year (different years), but we both understand the heartache of holiday loss of our mothers. I remember our mothers bringing casseroles for Wednesday night covered dish suppers, and our families being at church together every Sunday. Dad told me about a time he saw Don recently in a restaurant when Don came over to the table to chat. When Dad went to pay his bill, Don had beat him to it – tip and all! Don sent me some photos. I believe we actually went to the Edwards’ cabin more than once for retreats, because in his photos, the lake is not frozen and there is no snow. Don writes:
Kim, I think you took these photos. Do you remember finding that old cabin?
Riding in that bus through the mountains was thrilling. Also tubing down towards the lake.
Lisa Strickland Warren is a friend who lived right around the corner from me. We rode bikes all over St. Simons Island together and spent time climbing the giant oak tree in front of Candy Pruitt’s house, swinging on the rope swing from the tall branches. She lost a son, Michael, New Years Eve (2009, I believe), a student at the University of Georgia who did regular missions work and was going into the missions field. His legacy lives on in powerful ways – many have come to know Christ through Michael, and he has never stopped orchestrating his good works here – now, he does it from Heaven. He sends cardinals to his mother, sister, and father regularly to let them know he is still at work here, but he’s loving life in Heaven. The seeds of our assurances of this life being a temporary place were sown in that youth group in the 1970s. Because of our steadfast faith that was built in those days together as youth, Don, Lisa and I rest assured every single day that we will be reunited with all those we love in time. Each moment here is but a blip on the dash.
Lisa remembers us all wearing blue jeans when we went to Sky Valley to go skiing.
That was so much fun! I had no idea how to ski and surely didn’t have a cute ski outfit! We wore jeans that were sprayed with Scotchgard! I remember the bus couldn’t get to the lodge so we had to walk down the road that was covered with snow with our luggage! I think my favorite part was tubing in the back yard! If you went too fast you ended up on the frozen lake!
I have lost all memory of the bus and the cabin we found in the woods , but I do remember those blue jeans – only mine were not Scotchgarded, and on one fall, I left a blue skidstreak in the snow from the as-of-yet-unwashed denim. I was positioned in such a way that getting back up required help. Some guy on the ski lift yelled out from overhead, ”Will somebody please help that girl? This is my third time going up the lift and she still hasn’t moved!” I was both embarrassed and relieved at the same time when help arrived.
That’s why I was relieved when Lisa added, “….and now I’m retired from skiing! Been there, done that!” I think we were all fortunate that no one broke anything. I replied, “Me, too. And rollercoasters. I’m retired from rollercoasters, too.”
But the one thing I am pretty sure we would all do again well into our fifties is tube down that snow-covered hill. There was nothing more magical, more exhilarating than speeding downhill through the freezing air, lips and cheeks chapped, eyes stinging, toes and fingers practically frostbitten, ears suffering cold-weather earaches, praying we didn’t end up too far out on the frozen lake where the ice was too thin. Some things we just never outgrow – like the magic of snow, and our faith!