The Top Of The World
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I am no thrill seeker which was quite evident during my thirty seconds on skis last week. 

I'm not sure why I'm such a scaredy cat, because I'm not fearful in any other parts of my life. 

It might have to do with my 3 older brothers and our youth.

They weren't hellions. They were more like super hellions. 

Now, before I list some of their terrorist activities, let me just say, all 3 of them grew up to be upstanding men. All good fathers, husbands, citizens. 

But, as children? They were those kids, the ones that made people mutter, "Yeah, those boys next stop is definitely Juvenile Hall!"

This picture for me speaks volumes. My one brother is about to pop his balloon and probably shove it
up his nose. My mom? I'm not sure what she's doing, perhaps looking for a crawlspace in the ceiling
where she can curl up and hide? My other brother is batting a balloon with a hockey stick. That's
right a hockey stick, which will most likely come crashing down on the skull of the baby. And
that baby? How best to describe the pandemonium that circumscribed our lives, than a baby with a 
gun shoved in his mouth. 

The world to which I entered, Internet. 

I think my trauma began when my brothers disconnected my mom's washing machine, flooding the laundry room. 

It could be coincidence, but my mom went into labor with me then. 

They were all under the age of 4. 

When I was still too young to remember, (at least in my conscious mind), they got into the bottle of candy-colored floor cleaner and guzzled it down. From what I've been told, they convinced me to have a little of their caustic cocktail, too. 

We all had our stomachs pumped. 

One of my brothers fell out of a 3-story window when he was supposed to be napping. He was instead at the window, calling to his brothers who were outside playing. That fall resulted in a broken back and full body cast. I'm pretty sure he was under the age of 2.  

They've shoved each other through glass windows, broken bones—their own and each others, 
had stitches and constant black eyes.

I have even witnessed them sawing The Paddle in half. 

The Paddle was just that, a wooden paddle, used to spank the Juvey Hall future out of my brothers. 

The Paddle was never used on me or my sisters. It was reserved for the Jihadists. 

My brothers and I used to play Cowboys and Indians in the days when parents used to spank their 
kids with paddles and no one found it offensive to actually play Cowboys and Indians. 

I was always the Indian. My role was primarily to be caught as soon as the game began, tied up with 
my jumprope to a post in the basement where I languished, hoping to God they wouldn't leave me stranded there when the game ended. They would run around the basement with their toy pistols and rifles and knives, whoopin' and hollerin' and shootin' one another. 

It was just a game, of course . . .  until someone got hurt.

And the hurt was usually me. 

This one I remember. My brother stopped long enough in his whoopin' and hollerin' and shootin' to focus on me tied up to the post. He probably said something about a dirty Injun, (back in the non-politically correct day), and then gave me a firm kick to my mouth with his cowboy boot. 

There was blood and some major yelling on my mom's part. 

I don't think I was ever tied up again.

Here' s another shot that I think best defined my life. I'm the middle one staring at the camera with deer in the headlight eyes. Doesn't it just look like I'm pleading, "Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far, far away from here."

But, here's the incident that I think put me over the edge.

I remember shades of it so clearly. I remember the crunchy white snow so scrumptious it looked like cupcake frosting. I remember wandering over to my brothers who were standing in a clump, a Jihadist clump. I remember them putting me on a sled. I can't be sure of what my age was at the time. Young enough to have never been on a sled before. 

Now, let me stop the story here, to say we had hills in our backyard that God made just for the purpose of sledding. 

Everyone in the neighborhood flocked to our house when the snowfall hit. Big sloping hills—a hefty one that cascaded into a smaller slope which brought the sledder racing down to the edge of our vast property. Our yard ended at the split log fence, the fence that separated the river from the Jihadists and me .

I remember my brothers positioning me on the sled, face-down, setting me up well and good to head down that mountainous hill on that wooden sled.

I remember the exhilaration as I sailed through the white fluff, the wind slicing its cold gusts into my cheeks. I remember hearing my brothers' frantic yells of, "STEER! STEER!" 

And this is the memory that stands out for me: I remember thinking, what does steer mean? 

I had no idea. 

I flew down the first hill, not aware that my mother was standing at the picture window of our house, screaming at the sight of her toddler plummeting down the hill in an unstoppable trajectory, straight towards the icy river. 

Thankfully, I didn't make it to the fence. My sled, on its own direction, veered me into a large thorn bush. My worst injury, a scratched cornea. 

I did get to watch Bozo and chomp on a much sought after Popsicle as my injury reward while my brothers got screamed at and who knows, paddled and sent to their rooms, probably for the rest of winter.

And that free-fall cascade down the hills of my back yard is why I think I hate anything that sends swirls of adrenalined butterflies around my stomach. 

Especially anything to do with snow. 

Last week on our vacation to Colorado, after I bagged out on skiing, I kept my mouth shut when talk started up about other snow activities. 

Tubing was mentioned and as the kids cheered with excitement, the thought of it sent chills down my spine. We found out the tubing hills were closed for the season in our part of town. I feigned disappointment on that one.  

There was more skiing. I chose the safer sport of shopping. 

There was mention of rafting. God Help Me. I was overjoyed the rivers were still frozen. 

And then we discovered snowmobiling. Phone calls were made. A day was reserved. I was sick . . .  with excitement of course. 

I couldn't say anything because I certainly didn't want to look like the World's Biggest Wuss and so I went along all good sporty-like on the outside, but shaking like a leaf on the inside. 

We're talking motorcycles on snow. 

We're talking fast speeds. 

We're talking potential paralysis and even death. 

Because, that's how I roll— always seeing the freak accident behind the fun. 

It didn't help that our tour guide had to give us the worst-case-possible speech, preaching to us about the deadly side of snowmobiling. And even though he emphasized the bad things RARELY ever happen, in my mind, I saw thick trees and edges of snowy cliffs. 

Since we had two children under the age of 16, both parents had to ride with a child. 

My Tori, who was nicknamed Danger Girl as  a toddler thanks to all of her death defying escapades, wanted to drive our snowmobile. Since she is unlike her older sister and a very capable driver at home, I let her. 

And I have to say, my choking fear quickly dissipated as we zoomed along, on a trail filled with that kind of cupcake frosting snow, glittering icicles and views of the majestic Rockies on all sides of us.

It wasn't until our tour guide stopped to show us where we headed that my fear clutched at my throat with its powerful vise. We thought he was kidding when he pointed at the mountain peak towering over us at 14,000 feet.

He wasn't. 

On and on we zoomed, the path gently winding its way up to the top of the mountain. 

And once again, with my girl's masterful confidence I relaxed and enjoyed the ride. 

And what a ride it was. 

Standing on the edge of 14,000 feet is utter magnificence. 

We overlooked the mountains. The sky encircled us, wrapping her sapphire blue cloak around our shoulders. The clouds floated by, so close it seemed as if we could reach out and gather their airy fluffs in our hands. We could see to Wyoming. 

The top of the world, my friends—everyone should have the chance to go there in their lifetime. 

Precarious? Yes. 

We were told to stand only on the narrow footprinted path. The edges were so blanketed with snow, they created a deadly illusion of sturdy bases when really, the only thing underneath that carpet of snow in places, was air.  

Worth the butterflies?  A hundred times over, YES. 

We descended from our snowmobiles for pictures and a 360° view of the beautiful world around us. There at the pinnacle, the world at our feet, every dream, every hope, every wish in my lifetime seemed right there, underneath my fingertips, just ready for me to take it for my own.

I need to stand on mountaintops more often. 

Here is video of our snow mobile gang up there. I apologize for the wind and the shaky iPhone video. As you can tell, from the way we are holding hands, it was rather slippery treacherous up there. My Hubby is speaking to my daughter, the college girl who didn't get to go because of finals, as he's narrating.

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As hard as it is to believe, the ride down off that mountaintop was the scariest part of it all. 

It was the most vertical part of our ride. And as our tour guide so eloquently put it, "Spread out wide on your snowmobiles and pump your brakes the whole way down. When you think you can't pump anymore, that's when the land will flatten out and you'll no longer be in danger."

Even though she couldn't hear me over the helmet and the roar of the engine, I yelled, "Pump, Tori, Pump!" the whole way down that damn mountain. 

Freeform snowmobiling presented another challenge. Our tour guide brought us into an open field and told us to have at it. He did warn the drivers that veering off the trail into the powdered snow, would give you some great little jumps, but it would be 5 times as jarring for your back passenger. 

Of course Tori headed directly for the powdered snow. A slap to her helmet after a few sharp jumps made her realize her mother wasn't in the same thrill mindset for sweet jumps. 

Luckily, I have child-bearing hips and a strong back. Strong like bull, I am. 

All in all, it was an awe-inspiring, amazing experience. 

It reminded me of my other breathtaking, mountain experience. Although, that trip was on a mule. 

Smellier, but not as noisy. Both had a major amount of fumes from the gas. 

In comparison, even though they both were thrilling and I want to experience them both again, I'd have to side with the mule ride as my favorite. 

In my entire lifetime, I never thought I'd describe myself in this way, but I'd have to say, I'm more of a mule girl. 

Today's Definite Download: Patty Griffin's "Top Of The World". And even though the Dixie Chicks did a phenomenal version of this, it's Patty's song. She wrote it and her quiet, wistful rendition of this is just beautiful. And as a bonus, at the end of her song she has a lovely little recording of her own parents singing "The Impossible Dream." Quite Moving. 

The Top Of The World—I was there and in these days that stretch before me filled with the laborious tasks of coming home and catching up with the day to dayness of my life, I have kept a little bit of that glorious pinnacle in my heart, on that day when I stood there and felt the power of the world right there in my hand. 

Cause everyone's singing
We just wanna be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word
Wanna grab a hold
Of that little songbird
Take her for a ride
To the top of the world
Right now



Fawn. Like a deer. said...

I'm with you sis. I don't do speed, and I don't do cold. You're cooler than I am for allowing your kid to drive you.

Glad you had a good time, and that you made it back in one piece!

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

Your gift of writing is a gift to me right now. As they say 'round these parts, I've "seen better days." THANK you for this blog!

Lisa said...

I'm with you! I don't do the scary stuff. I am a big ol' wuss, and I don't even care any more. My family knows that it will be Dad going on the roller coasters and scary rides at any amusement park...if we go to the beach, they know it will be Dad taking them out to the sandbar to look for sand dollars - Mom will be back on the beach, cell phone in hand, ready to call 911 if/when Jaws attacks them all. When we go out on the boat, I am the one screaming to my husband to SLOW DOWN!!

* Yes, our door is a mess - but Tim somehow got it together. I just hope no one slams it - all bets are off then!!

* F/A # 1 was TOTALLY discriminating against you. Actually, I think she was just power hungry and throwing her weight around. The things she was telling you weren't even right! Write a mean letter - maybe SWA will send you a free pass. If nothing else, it will make you feel better.

ProudSister said...

Awesome. I love the picture of you & the boys. They look so sweet & innocent, like they're not capable of all the deeds they did. The look of fear in your eyes is hilarious. The scenery from your pictures & video is amazing and yes, a little scary.

Pam said...

This is so funny. As an only child, I thought kids were supposed to always be loving and happy with each other. Not sure where I got this idea as I had friends with siblings and they were always trying to kill each other.
My kids have never been loving and happy together. ha!
Following you back from MBC. Looking forward to getting to know you.

Tiffaney said...

Oh your poor mother. She must have needed a martini with a valium chaser, bless her heart!

Joann Mannix said...


Once again, I wish I could contact you! Oh, and by the way, your blog is gorgeous! Dear me, so elegant and fab. I don't think you have comments there and if I'm missing it because sometimes my blondeness shows through, please let me know.

Thank you for your always kind comments. And yes, those were the days of cocktails at 5. I would have been slurping them down.

Bossy Betty said...

Oh dear. First of all, I LOVE that picture of you sitting with your brothers and your description of it. I can only imagine what your mom went through.

Alexandra said...

Beautiful, mixed in with a few stomach butterflies.

View is breathtaking, but pushes me beyond my limits.

You are a brave mama. And thank you for the riveting read on childhood memories.
I remember much the same: sandwiched between 2 brothers, lots of blood and broken bones along the way.

Anonymous said...

I got a hive reading the snowmobiling story. I get them when I am nervous.

What an adventure. I am impressed you let her drive. I'm not so sure i could have let someone else be in control.

As for the stories of your childhood? ROFL!!! Oh my, your poor mother and poor you!

Love the gun in your mouth, could you imagine something like that happening today?

Fabulous story.

pieters said...

morning dear! as always you put a smile on my face. btw, i'm still not getting your posts thru google feed. what's up with that? lauren

Dee said...

You survived your brothers and are scared of skiing? LOL Joking.

The pictures and short vid are amazing. It does, indeed, look beautiful. Sometimes, we have to push through the fear to see beauty unlike we can imagine.

Cheeseboy said...

Your description of childhood reminds me of my 1 sister and my 3 other brothers. I feel so bad for her now.

Anonymous said...

I'm SOOOO glad you're back! :) I've missed your stories!!!

Christine Macdonald said...

You continue to inspire with your magnificent writing. What a story. I'm for the safe roads too. Does that make us old. ;)

Love you, sister sledge. xxoo

PS: Great photos toO!

TesoriTrovati said...

You are one cool mom to even consider a snow filled vacation when you don't care for it yourself. And I can see why. Those hellions would be the root cause of many a year of therapy. Glad to know that they are no longer a hazard to you! Enjoy the day! Erin

LisaPie said...

Well, I don't know what happened but I never got notice of Monday's post till today along with this one! So I am commenting on both at once here.

1. Write Southwest a long letter. Or just link to your blog with photos of you having to clean that vomit. Shame, shame, and more shame upon that flight attendant.

I usually agree with you, Southwest is a good airline. reasonably priced, safe beyond all others, lots of good things. But there have been some questionable business practices lately that for me are worth boycotting and paying more for someone else. Cause that's how I roll!

2. In spite of the break-neck speed skiing, tubing, rafting, snow-mobile adventures you were willing to try, I hope you had a great time. Sometimes the best vacations are the ones with the least plans.

3. For me, when I am on vacation there is no watch and no makeup. None. I want to spend my time not worrying about time or how I look.

Rae said...

You never fail to entertain! And today I know that there are still scaredie cats in this world and we are both one!
Congrats to you for making the snow mobile ride and coming back unharmed! I suppose sometimes our fears keep us from experiencing the good things in life...
Welcome home.

Rita Templeton said...

Oh, AWESOME! I don't know if I'd ever be as brave, though. I'm just like you ... I'm afraid of anything that offers up even the remotest chance of injuring me (i.e., stuff most people go crazy for). Waverunners, skateboards, bungee jumping, skiing, or anything close - I'm out!

Man, I feel like such a wet blanket sometimes ...

As far as your brothers? All I have to say is, I cringed throughout your entire description of their antics. That is enough to give a mother of three boys NIGHTMARES!! If I lose sleep tonight, I'm blaming you! ;)

duffylou said...

Brave girl! Aren't you glad you went? I'll just live vicariously through you. You'll be the adventurous one and I'll stay with both feet on the ground. It sounds like you had a blast.

Great pics of the family, btw.

Kelly said...

I don't have brothers, just 2 older sisters but out of the 3 of us, 2 of us had to have our stomachs pumped when we were toddlers because 1 of us (the eldest) fed 2 of us entire bottles of that yummy orange flavored baby aspirin. Sister #2 got revenge by pushing the television onto #1's head.

I'm a bit of a wuss too but I love to ride dirtbikes and I have found that going UP the hills is less scary than coming DOWN the hills.

Christina said...

Love that picture of your brothers! As the mom of three boys I can totally relate! Such a crack up!

Katie's Dailies said...

Oh wow! What stories! I've always wanted to go snowmobiling, but I would HAVE to be the passenger. With my luck, I'd drive over a cliff or into a snowbank, I think! Beautiful pictures, too, both of your trip AND your childhood. I would've laughed harder at your brothers if it didn't hurt so much, darned stitches! Have a happy Sunday!

Lula Lola said...

You can describe a scene like no other! I love the photos of the jihadists! Love your little "pleading like a hostage" expression! Don't you just love old photos?
Your mother must have been a tough cookie! Whew! Boys!
Your trip looked beautiful!

Jen said...

I love the way you tell your stories, or maybe it's because I grew up with similar memories but I can feel the snow and the cold air as you tell this. I don't ski either. I won't do a snowmobile because a friend of mine is now paralyzed from a snowmobiling accident but I have no trouble riding on the back of a big hog going 90 down an open highway sans helmet. At 90 mph I'd rather die than be a veggie.

Your poor mother.

injaynesworld said...

I was an only child and, as such, missed out on a helluva lot of really good writing material! You weave an awesome tale, my friend. What a fun post.

Babs-beetle said...

Oh, you're so brave! I will die never having experienced anything like that. Mind you, there isn't much like that to experience in England ;)

Katherine said...

I read your story in utter disbelief! Yes, we all did cowboys and indians, went crazy all over the neighborhood... but YOU... YOU have the SPECIAL family - you guys were just a teeny tiny bit different - and I loved EVERY WORD of your story! Wow you come from an awesome, crazy wild family! Actually we have a family just like that up the street - all boys except one teen girl - she was spared what you had to go through. These kids as babies were flying in to the street on things with wheels, just missing having cars hit them over and over and over. They would venture in to the swamp behind them, no parents in sight, toddlers coming behind... one got his hand stuck in a wood chipper - all kinds of things like that. Thanks for sharing these great stories - you come from the best family EVER!

Anonymous said...

My eyeball hurts just thinking about your thorn scratched cornea.
It's a wonder ANY of your siblings survived and those pics? Were some of the best I've ever seen.
I feel a little bad about it, but I couldn't stop laughing.
I too am ALWAYS ready for the freakish accident-I have a long sat fear that one day the hood of my car will fly open when I am driving and the brakes will give out at the exact moment.

One Photo said...

Hi Joann - I am hopping around the blogosphere to all the places you are mentioned and so have just read this post. Wow! What a childhood filled with crazy adventures and misadventures - now I know where your daughter gets her fearlessness from! Wonderful story, and I am glad you got to climb your mountain!

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