|Christmas in June|
I was a jet-setting executive, away most of the time, and it sure cost me a lot. I ended up a single parent, had to stay away even more, and left my three daughters to the care of nannies. Now I try to compensate by helping them whenever possible, in their homes in San Francisco (Seattle before), Calgary, and Manila (London before, soon Melbourne). That, incidentally, is how I get to travel a lot!
|the snowy woods|
Recently, my career-oriented middle daughter Claudine needed help. For the fifth time after I retired, I flew to Canada to take care of three young ones. Weekend trips brought my husband Bill and me to Yoho and Kootenay, 3 ½ hours away from my daughter’s home, completing the four national parks, the World Heritage Site of the Canadian Rockies. The last visit was to the newly opened Glacier Skywalk in the largest icefields between Banff and Jasper, the two we had visited earlier.
Scheduled late into spring, the weather was forecast to be good. But, true to itself, it took a sudden, nasty turn. We still proceeded with our plan and stayed in Banff for the night. We hoped it would clear out the following day, but it didn’t. The operator at the Columbia Icefields Visitor Center was encouraging, “It’s snowing, but it’s gorgeous out here.” I have suffered through many Philippine storms, but snow takes me directly inside a freezer. Bill, however, gave the final push, “I am not driving back here. It's now or never!” We had to go. Our tour of duty was almost over.
|a fashion show of RVs|
We had passed through the Icefields Parkway, one of National Geographic’s“20 drives of a lifetime” in 2009. We were driving our first motor home, hurrying to reach Jasper for a week of glamping. It was the height of summer then, but this time it was still spring. At more than 6,000 feet in elevation, the evergreens turned frosty. Snow still settled on each branch.
“You have to take my picture!” I insisted. Bill explained, “You know I am just getting over a bad cold. I have to stay inside the car.” After a few seconds, I bravely stepped out into the cold. Wet fluffy things instantly brushed against my face. I shivered, but a different kind of warmth came over me as I “smelled” chestnuts roasting. It was wonderful to feel Christmas, in June!
There were already all kinds of RVs on the road: small camper vans, large motorhomes, and tagalongs like trailers and fifth-wheels. I murmured, “Wish we’d brought ours. We could now be having sweet hot cocoa. Remember I always made it during chilly drives?” Sigh. Our 37.5-foot motorhome would have struck a stunning stance against those glacier-draped mountains. She would have been part of the fashion show of current models of the cruising lifestyle on the road.
|into the mountains|
“No use crying over spilled beans,” Bill pronounced. Just then, I caught a glimpse of a car, driving straight into a massive glacier-draped mountain. The road had a slight rise to it, very much like a ramp in a high-end fashion show, showing off this one particular model. I quickly grabbed the Nikon and, just before the car dropped off the edge, I got the shot. Then it vanished. I thought a red car would have looked better. Bill disagreed, “Black adds to the mystique like those low-lying clouds that partly hide the mountain.”
|my yellow van|
When we reached the Visitor Center, the snowfall got heavier. I certainly didn’t need a red carpet but having to negotiate a huge parking lot under those conditions was not the welcome we deserved. All of a sudden, I spotted a beaming bright yellow SUV prominently displayed in front. Bill chuckled when I asked, “How did they know my favorite color is yellow?” She was the star of what had been parading before us all morning in a fashion show consisting of vehicles on ice. My day magically brightened. It was as if the sun had started shining.
|the Observation Deck|
Once I stepped inside the Center, warmth enveloped me. I rushed to the tourist-filled Gift Shop, but Bill put an end to all the shopping, wanting to go to the Cafeteria. I was reluctant at first but, once there, we were comforted by bowls of chicken noodle soup so good, steaming hot, and tasting homemade. Satisfied, we stepped into the Observation Deck for another whiff of the world of winter.
|the Glacier Skywalk|
The Athabasca Glacier is the Icefield’s biggest. But it appeared strangely smaller. We wanted to know why but it was time to board the shuttle. Besides, the snowfall was getting even heavier. It wasthe driver who answered our burning question, “The Glacier recedes about 5 meters a year. Our operations may cease in as early as 15 years.” What a hint of global warming. We were glad we made it in time.
I shouldn’t have been glad. What waited for me at the Skywalk was a huge disappointment. Pictures of it in brochures were the exact opposite! It was all there, the largest cantilevered platform in America with an enormous, polygonal steel support shaped like an H, holding the all-glass curved tension bridge that loops about 150 degrees around the cliff’s edge at a thousand feet high. The interpretive trail leading to it is about 400 meters long. Sadly, there was absolutely no hint of glaciers. I cried, “We have to get a refund! Bill merely shrugged, "Good luck!"
|on the Glacier Catwalk|
Custodians kept wiping off the snow from the slippery Skywalk, turning it into MY Catwalk. Bill stepped up to the plate of a fashion photographer, taking my photos at many spots and at different angles. Forgetting that Bill had taken off his gloves to fiddle with the Nikon settings and to set up the tripod, I snapped out of my trance only when he hollered, "Hurry up! My fingers are already frozen!” Even that didn’t diminish the fun. I had gotten to like snow, and Bill had made me a glamorous model, at 67!
|in my children's eyes|
Hugged tight by my grandkids, I couldn’t stop showing off my photos. Claudine exclaimed, “Mama, you’re much more than a fashion model!” That’s when I realized that being a jet-setting grand nanny is not about compensating for my early shortcomings. In fact, it is the best job I could ever hope to have. Now I know why the notion of models stayed with me all day. In the Canadian Rockies, I had the most liberating moment of my life. I found out that, in my children’s eyes, I have been and will always be a good role model.