These goofy little skiers are made from cookie dough, hardened and covered with a protective coating. I love their faces, their funny hats and their candy cane skis, as well as their green and pink ribbon hangers. But most of all, I love them for where I found them on a ski trip to Jackson Hole, Wyo., with my good friend Linda Martelli. She tried to warn me about where my budding obsession with penguin ornaments was going to end up, but it didn’t stop me. I mean, how could I resist something as cute as these little guys. Over the years, Linda dragged me up some of the best ski mountains in North America: Mt. Mansfield, Whiteface, Vail, Snowbird, Alta, the Grand Tetons, Taos. I’m glad she did, because it’s how I learned to ski and how I learned to love being in the beautiful outdoors in winter. (She bugged me to get out on the tennis court too, but without success.) Even later on, when I was the one waiting downhill for her to catch up, I was glad to be on the slopes with such a good and patient friend. Even though she’s gone, I always have her with me when I’m on the mountain, thanks to a Swiss Army skier’s knife she brought me from a trip to the Alps. There are a lot of other memories too: trips to the beach on Long Island and Atlantic City, countless games of Scrabble into the wee hours while watching Mary Tyler Moore reruns, late nights after work singing along at piano bars in Greenwich Village followed by predawn breakfasts at the Empire diner, baseball games (she was a big Phillies fan) and the Ice Capades. One night she and I and our friend José Rivera decided to walk for miles back to our hotel after a night out in Fire Island. It was August and the Leonid meteor shower was on display overhead as we trudged home in the sand, looking straight up almost all the way. Linda died in August 1993 while I was in New Mexico getting ready to move there from New York for the second time. The Leonid meteor shower, that same one from our walk on the beach, was at its peak the night I heard the news. I sat on the deck behind my aunt’s house north of Albuquerque at dusk and watched as the first shooting stars whistled across the still blue sky toward Sandia Peak, and I imagined it was Linda slamming tennis balls across the heavens, teasing me to smack them back to her. No thanks, Linda, but thanks for all the memories.
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