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A New Casimiro

The raddest thing happened a couple days ago: My wife gave birth to our first child, a boy. She was a total stud, doing it naturally and without drugs, despite 12 hours of intensely painful contractions.

Actually, as I think about it, “gave birth” is far too mellow and pleasant a term to describe what women go through to squeeze our little progeny into the world. Suffice it to say, if men had to suffer that kind of pain and effect on their bodies, the human race would have died out a long time ago. You think you’re tough because you can pound bumps all day or make nonstops until the lifts shut down? Not even. Try passing a football through your, uh, ear and you’ll have some idea.

From the very beginning of Joni’s pregnancy, we called the fetus Otis. As a working title, Otis was great—odd enough to worry our parents, funny enough to make our friends laugh when they heard it—but we knew it wasn’t permanent. “Otis Casimiro” wasn’t the worst name in the world, but it didn’t have quite the ring to it that we desired.

I really wanted to give the kid a ski name. It seemed important, to honor this thing that’s so huge in my life, and to mark him, too, and give him a nudge toward skiing from the very first day of life. A friend in Greenland named his son Aputsiak, which means “little snowflake,” but that doesn’t sound quite as lyrical when imported to North America. Another friend named his daughter Neve (after the type of snow, not the Rolling Stone covergirl), but we knew Otis was a boy.

So, what would it be? “Winter”? “Powder”? “Avalanche”? Every snow- and ski-related name sounded forced, awkward, and unfair to the boy, who was already cursed with having to spell and explain his last name to everyone he’d meet, let alone his first. Seen in the light of reality, they also seemed selfish—the sign of a parent trying to force a square peg into a round hole. After my family, skiing was the biggest thing in my life. But would it be as important to him? Would he even want a ski-related name?

We bought the name book (“20,001, from Abdul to Zed!”), mined the family tree, got 18 million suggestions from friends (“Sebastian”, Clive”), and through it all kept coming back to one name, a name that wasn’t directly connected with skiing but that was still evocative of it. It was a name that wasn’t too odd, not too plain, hopefully not too trendy. It was a name both my wife and I liked and had heard a lot when we were growing up, me because I lived in Virginia, her because she lived in a family of artists. And it also was the name of a place both of us loved, a place we knew we’d return to again and again.

After 39 weeks, the contractions happened, the labor unfolded, and, with a minimum of screaming, out popped a healthy, really loud baby boy, with a thick mop of blond hair, skier’s thighs, and beautiful olive skin. We named him Jackson, and I think it fits.

Will Jackson be a skier? Will he fall in love, as I did, with the cold, with snow, with the rush of speed in the winter air? It’s hard to say, but you know I’m going to do everything I can to expose him to these things, to give him the ski experience and hope and pray that his passion for it is as strong or stronger than mine. If it isn’t, if he hates skiing and snow, well, that’s OK, as long as he’s happy. But, you know, I think Jackson is gonna be a skier. He’s already dumping several times a day, and you can’t ask for a better omen than that.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 26.3, November 1997. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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