Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bananarama, Part II

So I was telling you about bananarama.  I kept laughing out loud today, thinking about how I nearly left a chunk of butt skin stuck to the seat of a pit toilet in the Adirondacks. 

That night, close to 3:30 in the morning, I finally fell asleep, wishing that I could at least hold hands with Mike across the divide between our bunks.  We were head to head, but the aisle was wide and even our quiet talk was public. It was a exquisite agony. 

Dating on Explorer Post trips presented challenges that were absent with your usual dating scenarios.  I liked sleeping so near him, but that just made it all the more difficult.  There was no making out on Explorer Post trips, especially for advisors.  Oh, occasionally, I hugged him and sneaked a kiss or two, but we kept it simple by necessity.  Yet, there I was, sleeping in the same room with him, in a cabin full of twenty-one people.  I could hear him breathing, so close to me, yet forbidden to touch. 

The flip side of it was that this cabin had a kitchen with no door and a single great room.  That was it.  So there was no place for us girls to have privacy and we weren't about to go to the outhouse to change in or out of pajamas.  Can you imagine?  It was twenty below according to the little zipper-tag thermometer I got from Campmor and twenty below was as far down as that tiny thermometer went.  We might have gotten hypothermia in the time it took to change clothes and walk back, postholing in the snow with every step. 

So, it was on this trip that I learned the fine art of public shirt changing.  To do this, a girl put on the shirt she wanted to wear without putting her arms through the holes and pulled it down as far as it would go.  Then, she wrestled her arms out of the shirt she wanted to take off.  After that, she'd put her arms into the sleeves of the shirt she wanted to wear and pulled the old shirt up through the neck hole and over her head.  Changing bras worked in a similar way only they were more complicated.  I also learned to change pants in my mummy bag.  I'd swear it looked like there was an octopus moving around in there when I did.  By then, Mike had bought me a puffy purple sleeping bag that could zip to his.  Is that romantic or what?  I liked my old flannel sleeping bag, but this purple one was heavenly and rated to fifteen below. 

So, I was dreaming a little dream of Mike when folks started to rouse themselves late the next morning.  The sun was shining.  Chocolate chip pancakes were cooking on the griddle, and there was a roar going up every few minutes in the kitchen.

"Banana, banana, banana!" they yelled in unison.  "Banana, banana, bananarama!"  I wandered in after wrestling out of my pajamas and into long johns and shorts.  Jimmy and Dave each had two peeled bananas and at the call of 'bananarama' were shoving them whole into their mouths, chewing, swallowing, and trying to whistle as loudly as they could to earn the next pancake.  It made me gag just a little, watching it.  Couldn't they have used the bananas in the pancakes?  Weren't they going to choke or rupture something? Still, when they were done, there were only five bunches of bananas remaining.  These things didn't look so good anymore.  I made a mental note that bananas didn't take the 210 miles and twenty below temperatures all that gracefully. 

I don't know how they managed, but Jimmy and Dave were revved up and ready to take a group out to ski by the time breakfast dishes were done. 

"Wrap up and buddy up!" Jimmy yelled.  Even though he was only sixteen, he was a natural leader and had gone on this trip twice before.  Since I was pretty new at these temperatures and the local trails, I was relieved we were going as a group.  I'd done some cross country skiing a half a dozen times before, but my Rosignols were still shiny and new despite a couple of trips across golf courses and one long woodsy trek during which I broke my thumb.  I never did tell you the whole story about Asshole, did I?  I'll save that for another day, but I'll tell you, I was not going on another cross country trek just to be called a wimp if I hurt myself.  Eric took over instructions.  "Layer up!  You don't want to get too sweaty or you'll get hypothermia more easily.  We'll scope out sites for snow caves and come back to them after lunch."  More than half of the group loaded on most of the clothes they'd brought, filled a light pack including a canteen and lunch, and traipsed outside to find the skis they'd jammed into a drift the night before.  Mike looked the part in his wool pants and backpack.  He'd jammed the big First Aid kit in along with some extra gloves, a hat, and a length of rope.  I had never heard of the ten essentials at that point in my life, but I'd guess he had them, and then some. 

There's something about cross country skiing.  At first, your skis cross and you lose your center of gravity, but then something kicks in and you get to flying across the snow.  I became elated.

"These are nice flat fields," I yelled back to Mike after zoning out to the sound of the skis for a while.

"These aren't fields, hon, they're lakes."

I froze in my tracks.  Ice?  I'd seen my dad on a pond he was testing for ice skating as the whole thing started to groan and crack.  One false move, I thought.

"Relax.  It's been solid for two months.  That ice is probably two feet thick by now," Mike said breezily. "You could drive your car out onto this and it would stay parked here until April." I got back into my groove and tried to catch up with the Explorer in front of me. 

The more experienced skiers took turns leading, creating nice tracks for us to follow in.  Since I didn't have a map or any knowledge of the area, I stayed in the middle.  We'd swung around in a great arc and I could tell we were almost back when we came upon a small Victorian house, obviously old, but with clunky decorative cutouts over the porch.

"Hey, it's the doll house," Eric said.

"What?" I said.

"The doll house."

"That's a real house," I said.  It sounded kind of snooty, even to me. "Looks Victorian, but it wasn't done all that carefully."

"That's because it's the doll house," Eric said.  "Some guy had it built for his daughter, made it to look like the big house, only smaller."

"That's small?" I asked.

"Compared to the big house, it is" he said.

"Well, where's the big house?"

"It's gone.  Only the doll house is left." 

We ate lunch in the abandoned doll house.  It was beautiful and sad, standing abandoned without even the original as company.  We tramped around and made some snow angels after we ate.  The guys did face plants in the snow, but after the sting on bare skin of just two, I didn't mind if my face didn't adorn my angel's wings.  These three-dimensional angels, faces and all, were a bit eerie.  I kept thinking that the angels would keep the doll house company, at least until it snowed again.  Why was it all the more lonely, knowing that this place had belonged to a little girl who no longer existed?  It felt something like finding an abandoned teddy bear. 

On our way again, it wasn't long until we finally caught sight of our little cabin. I was relieved.  I hadn't realized how thirsty I'd become.  As I sank onto my bunk with a mug of hot chocolate, I could feel the skin on my legs begin to warm up.  The Explorers that had stayed behind had kept the wood stove going at a good clip.  They'd even brought in more wood to fill the bin.  The warmth drained my energy.

After drinking something hot and snacking it up, Jimmy and Dave got bananarama going again, though this time, there was a smaller cheering squad and no pancake prizes.  I noticed that no one had touched the twelve boxes of onion soup mix, but at least they'd still be edible after the trip.  Did you know that it took us two years to finally finish off all of those boxes?  Bananas, on the other hand, were spoiling.

"Banana, banana, banana! Banana, banana, bananarama!"  Two more bunches of bananas disappeared.  Then, unbelievably, they geared up again to lead a smaller group out to find deep drift sites for building snow caves.  Mike and Harold were going with them.  Before they left, they told me that the secret to keeping warm in a snow cave in this weather was to dig the entrance lower than the cave floor so that the warm air that you generated inside didn't escape up through your door.  The air that you heated would naturally rise and become trapped. I wondered how much oxygen you'd need in an ice cave to get through the night.  They told me you also had to dig the entrance big enough that melting ice on the inside surface wouldn't make an ice trap out of the place.  Lovely thought. 

It was beyond me.  Though I was curious, I had no interest in awakening my claustrophobia or going back outside in those freezing temperatures.  It was bad enough that I had to pee.  This time, I was careful to keep my skin intact. When I got inside where it was warm, I curled up with a book and promptly fell asleep.  The warmth and the hot chocolate had done its work.

Thank you for listening, jb

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