A Millie and Sven Love Story
Our noses are touching. "But, I don't want to play golf," I say. "If you try golf, I'll try skiing," he says. My mono vision has turned Sven into one giant uni-brow and a pool of blue and green eyes with little flecks of brown. "Okay, I will try golfing." "Do you promise?" I will do anything for Sven. "I promise." And then we kiss. "I thought you were Norwegian." I say. "I am." "Then why can't you ski?" "I am from Dane," he says. So, I gave golf a try. I hit the ball and hit the ball and hit the ball. And then, Sven hits a ball. And then, I hit the ball and hit the ball and hit the ball and hit the ball. And then, Sven hits a ball. And then, I hit the ball and hit the ball and hit the ball and hit the ball. And then, Sven hits a ball. It's hot out on the golf course. Millie hates hot. Millie spins. Millie twirls. Millie misses the ball. "Why can't I put it on the tee?" I complain. "Because the tee is for teeing off." I miss it again, making two complete circles and almost fall over. Sven puts another mark on the score card. I frown. "What's the matter?" he says. "That shouldn't count. I didn't even touch it." "It's a stroke." I am about ready to stroke Sven with my golf club. "Just keep your eye on the ball," he says again. "Don't lift your head." Do you remember when Tiger's wife smashed in the windows of his car with that golf club? That had nothing to do with that brunette that he was sleeping with, or that he was having affairs with a boatload of women. She went ballistic because he told her to keep her eye on the ball, one too many times. But, unlike Elin, I control my temper and I get back into the golf stance. I lock my fingers around the grip, exactly the way Sven showed me. I was not going to go over the top of that pink dimpled demon, again. I raised the club. And then I swung it with everything I had. The club head came in at full Millie-throttle and it hit the ground about an inch in front of the ball. The jolt from the force of the blow rang throughout my entire body. When it reached my toes it turned around and headed back up my legs, where it ran into the other half of the jolt that had just hit the top of my skull and was heading back down. I see stars. Had my wrists just snapped in half? How embarrassing. I wouldn't be able to wipe my own derriere, because of a golf injury. They don't talk about the dangers of golf. Final score, Sven 37. Millie 110. A few minutes later we were enjoying a cold draft and air conditioning. "Millie hit the ball, all the way from the tee to the green, on the ninth hole," brags Sven. "Wow!" they say. "And then, she nine putted it." "Wow!" they say again. I was too tired to hold my head up. I hated golf more than I had before I'd even tried it. But, I'd kept my half of the promise. And then it snowed. And, my youngest brother was working at a ski resort, in Breckenridge, Colorado. We arrived with borrowed skis and sleeping bags, still humming, 'Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's Door, as we locked up the car. The next morning, Sven and I stood in front of Pitter's apartment complex. A bus pulls up. We follow the others and stick our skis into outside racks and we climb aboard. This is when I realize that I don't really know what Tracy's skis look like. "Sven, what color were they?" "I don't know." Panic sets in. We get to the ski resort and everyone spills out. And then we wait until there is just one set of skis left in the racks. "Well, I think I will take these," I say. For lesson one, I show Sven how to snowplow. "This is very important. To snowplow, is to brake." He gives it a few tries and then we shuffle over to a chair lift. "What do you mean, it isn't going to stop?" Sven says. His eyebrows were way up under his hat, as we approach the top of the mountain. Spoiler alert. This is the same look and phrase that everybody does, their first time on a chair lift. Panic sets in. "It's okay Sven. You just put your skis on the ground, stand up and slide off the chair. It's really easy." "While it's still moving?" he says. "Yes." He plants his skis on the ground. He stands up. He slides off the chair and then his arms start flailing with ski poles whipping around and he lands on his snow-panted rear end. He gets to meet the people in the chair behind us. They seem to really like each other. They are all in a big pile on the ground. The operator stops the lift. And then, I show Sven how to ski. He is better at picking up the slalom, than he was at the chair dismount. He crisses and he stops. Then he crosses and he stops. Then he crisses and he stops. Then he crosses and he stops. He skis like he golfs He contemplates his every move. I am not sure if we chose to take a black diamond run, or if it was an accident.
But there we were, on a cliff with nothing but moguls.
Sven went back and forth and sat on every one of those bumps for a really, really long time.
And then it was time for lunch.We met up with my brother and the three of us ski the rest of the day together. We are in Colo-fucking-rado. There is powder. We are flying. The trail splits in front of us. My brother takes a right. I take a right. We skid to a halt at the bottom and we turn around to wait for Sven. But Sven does not come. I gasp. "Where is he?" I say. "I think he went the other way." "What will become of him?" "It depends which lift he gets on." We ride the chair lift up in silence. There is a chalet at the top, with more than one set of lifts coming to it. "Odds are that he will end up here," says Pitter. And so, my brother and I stick our skis into the snow and we sit down. The sun is warm and bouncing off the white crystals. We drink a glass of wine and we watch for Sven. And then I bump one of Tracy's skis with my elbow, trying to loosen my scarf. It falls over and begins to slide down the mountain. It is picking up speed and Millie Noe is clunking after it in unbuckled ski boots, yelling, "Stop that ski. Stop that ski. Stop that ski!" Fortunately, that ski rammed into a guy on skis and he fell over on top of it. "Thank you," I said. We order a bowl of chili. "What if Sven doesn't show up?" I say. "They close the lift from the other mountain at four o'clock. If he is over there and he doesn't catch a ride over here, he will be spending the night on that hill." And then, I see Elmer Fud's hat. "That's him," I point up to the swaying chair. "Sven!" The love of my life waves a pole at us and possibly a middle finger. It was hard to tell with those big mittens. He slides off the lift and snowplows to a stop. "You love to ski. You love to ski. You love to ski," I would say for months to come, while swinging a pocket watch in front of his face. Sven could have been a New Years Day baby and he could have won all kinds of prizes in his small home town, for his mother, but instead, the one time in his life that he was in a big hurry, was December 31st, 1948. He was born minutes before midnight and the beginning of the New Year. What better way to celebrate your honey bun's milestone, 40th birthday, than to take your honey bun skiing? I know. That's what I thought, too. "She wants me dead," I heard him say. So, there we all were, in a big old house, in Ironwood Michigan, on the eve of New Year's Eve, 1988. We were playing Trivial Pursuit and it was still snowing, big fluttery flakes, even though the stars were out. "It's the lake effect." The first day out on the slopes had been a complete success. That terrifying moment that I thought I'd lost my dad to a skiing accident, turned out to be a false alarm. I was just minding my own business, swishing my way down the hill, when I spotted his unmistakable, red and blue tasseled beanie, sitting on an embankment on the side of the hill. And he was not in it. I darted over there. My heart was in my throat. I slowly peeked over the edge. How big of a cliff was it going to be? What was I about to see? Well, it was just a big pile of snow and my father was laying on his back the other side of it. And he was looking up at me. "Oh, hi Millie," he says. "Can you help me out of here?" This feat proves to be quite difficult. "Where is Mom?" I say after the struggle is over. "Your mother did not get along with the tow rope." I could picture it. "But I got her up there," he says. "Yeah?" "And then she just sat down and said, "You might as well build a house right here, Kerm, because I am not going anywhere." "Is she still there?" "No, she's in the chalet." And then, there was that little issue when Sven fell down and broke his ski binding and he hurt his knee and he went to stay in the chalet. But his little brother, unlike Sven, skied like a Kamikaze pilot, never stopping, never looking, never making a turn. So, I skied in his suicidal, tail wind. My sister Louisa, pictured here, and my brothers and all their spouses were all in one piece after a really fun time. There was no frostbite, no broken bones and no worries. I sucked at Trivial Pursuit, as always, but, I was on my dad's team, so. The next morning was Sven's big day. It was still snowing, big, fluttery, flakes. "It's the lake effect." "Happy Birthday, Sven," I say. And then off I went with the Kamikaze pilot, while Sven skied with a mended ski, a tender knee and some ten year old boy, that he met. And what amazing leg strength my father must have had. I saw his tassel moving underneath us, while riding on the lift. "How can he be going that slow, when he is on skis and he going down a hill?" I said to Sven's brother. My mother? She was in the chalet. That night, after dinner Sven opened all of his presents. Is he cute or what? And then we bundled up and walked to a saloon with wood slatted floors. There were big, fluttery, flakes, falling from the stars. "How?" "Lake effect." The place was decorated with crepe paper and balloons and there was live music, in honor of New Year's Eve. We drank. We danced. We laughed. "It is 11:45," somebody said, "Let's go." The locals booed at our rudeness. "What will we do with all of these horns?" they said as we threw on our coats. I think the door may have hit us on our way out. We walked back through the snowflakes. And that big old house, the one that we were renting, was locked. And the keys seemed to be inside, sitting on the kitchen table. "Well, son of a bitch!" Pierre pried open a door, while the rest of us were trying to decide who we should hoist through, what window. We piled in. "POP!" sang out the cork, precisely at midnight and the champagne flowed. And my sweet Sven had survived his fortieth birthday party. This year, for Sven's birthday, we are not going skiing and we are not going golfing. Instead, we are going to eat lobster, dripping in butter. And Sven will not be wearing his birthday present until he is done eating. Did you hear the news? Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn, split up. Yep. They say she hates golf. She should have talked to me first. I'm a pretty good love counselor. It's simple. All you have to do is, ignore it. And now, I would like to take this opportunity to pass on a handy tip. If you are shopping and you see a certain sweater that is on a mannequin, that you must have for your husband, for his birthday present, and that mannequin is wearing the only size medium, and there are no sales people readily available to assist, do not attempt to undress that mannequin.