Special to Medium
Every year my husband goes to a conference for three days in Breckenridge, Colorado. It’s only about an hour & a half to two hours from our house in Aurora, and it has been a tradition for many years for the family. While he attends seminars and networks/shmoozes, the kids and I go into town, have brunch, then shop.
Breckenridge is a pretty little mountain town, but it’s neither Aspen nor Vail chi chi shmancy. Still expensive (by my lower middle-class values), it is one of the more reasonable of the lot. We’ll go to a rock shop with all the pretty stones, and other funky little shops like the Space Cowboy or Shirt Off My Back, and I’ll get myself a silver ring or a t-shirt. And just walk up and down the Main Street, watching other visitors and tourists and dogs (most mountain towns are amazingly dog-friendly). We usually come in off-season (early October), which is not ski season nor is it summer tourist season. And while yesterday it snowed, in glorious white-out conditions of huge flakes but no accumulations, today the day was much warmer, the sun brilliant bright, the color of the sky that particular Colorado blue that would have made Monet cry with jealousy.
We drove up two days ago. Coming up always reminds me that I live in one of the most beautiful states in the Union. We drove from a partly cloudy day into a cloud. Suddenly the jagged rocks and the pine trees were covered in silver. The visibility was obscured by swirling, spitting flakes, and the world became quiet outside, wrapped inside the cocoon of fog made solid. Even a small storm is dangerous; a slippery road is also a quickly plunging road. All mountain roads climb and dip, winding like asphalt snakes.
And every year I always wonder, how the hell did the pioneers do it? They most definitely didn’t just drive their wagons on the smooth highways. They didn’t travel always in the summer, and even if they did, the thunderstorms in the mountains can come up suddenly and be deadly. The winters here in the mountains are (usually) harsh and unforgiving. The roads were built over graves of women and children, the weak and the sick. The natives, justifiably, weren’t always friendly. I look at the tops of the mountain ridges. I can imagine riders on horses, armies of them. It would have been a fierce sight to behold. I would have turned my wagon around and headed back to Kansas or Missouri. But then again, if I lived back then but followed the trajectory of my present life, I would have died at 14 from an appendicitis attack, so it could have been my grave the highway was built over!
As we entered Frisco, Colorado, about 9 miles outside of Breckenridge, we used to stop at the local A&W restaurant for a snack. Obviously owned by a sole proprietor, the person who owned it was a Jew for Jesus. The sign outside usually had an Old Testament quote like, “Justice, justice shall you pursue — Duet. 16:20 …. Cheese curds .99cents” Inside, it was like Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat threw up religion. There were Ten Commandment signs in Hebrew and English, quoting from both the Torah and the Christian Bible. Pictures showed various Bible scenes. The music usually had oldies like Elvis, and then something familiar to us from services in our synagogue. Not being shy, we generally sang along, “Heinei mah tov …Yai lai lai lai lai!” I once knew a man who was a Jew for Jesus. He described himself as a man who sat between two thrones. I liked that description. Sitting at that A&W restaurant, eating cheese curds and drinking a root beer float, I liked to think that we occupied one of those thrones.
That A&W closed two years ago, to our great and lasting disappointment. Now there is a Wendy’s/car wash combination. Seriously?!?
I don’t ski, nor do I collect Western art (or any other art), I don’t ride mountain bikes, I don’t ride snowmobiles, I don’t run up and down mountains (yes, I know, I do actually live in Colorado, but I can’t prove my provenance). Plus, to add insult to injury, I have trouble breathing at high altitudes, my blood just doesn’t want to thin. Now the kids are older, they get gifts for their girl- and boy-friends, mostly with the money they make themselves, with their jobs. Soon, too soon, they will move out of the house and won’t come to Breckenridge with us. Will I come up without them? Maybe, just to write.
In any case, our annual pilgrimage to Breckenridge has become so enmeshed in my mind with our family that it’s difficult to separate the two. The kids and I know this town so well, and yet I never feel like I fully belong here. Neither a native nor a true tourist. Now I, too, in a non-religious way, sit between two thrones.