California 2010: “Hand in Hand”

It was her father’s sixty-fifth birthday.  One the day of event, Jess ceremoniously presented her visiting parents a curious piece of electronic art: a beautiful locked wooden box with a button on its lid.

When they first turned it on, a pretty blue display suggested something astonishing: from the back garden of their daughter’s Pasadena home it was nearly 2800 miles to the “special place” where it would open.

The initial consensus was that this mysterious destination must their house in New Hampshire — Jess’s childhood home. But when they returned to New England a few days later and repeated the experiment, they found that they were still a distant 100 miles away.  Discouraged, they consigned the box to a living room bookshelf, where it languished.

Into the Woods

Weeks later the pair set off again with maps and pencils, intent on finally solving their daughter’s puzzle.  Following its clues they drove off into the New England wilderness, first confidently, and then less so as the surrounding woods grew deeper and darker.

And then suddenly the box unlocked at what seemed the unlikeliest of destinations: the dilapidated mountain resort where, decades ago, the family had skied together. None of them had been back here since Jess was a very young girl.

And here’s where the threads of the great quest come together. In the shadow of the old ski lift, some 3000 miles from his starting point, Jess’s father lifted the unlocked lid and found…

  • three dusty old Polaroids, showing him and a giggly seven-year-old skiing happily together hand in hand,
  • some ancient family ski passes, lovingly culled from an old scrapbook,
  • two glossy new lift tickets,
  • and finally, a heartfelt and sentimental note…a love letter really, from Jess to her beloved Daddy, thanking him for his always being there when she needed a hand.

Jess’s mother reports that when they finished reading the letter, they just sat in the car digesting it all. Then they both burst into tears. It was an experience neither of them will ever, ever forget.