I’m not sure how it happened. One minute I was celebrating my 21st birthday, partying and getting a drunken tattoo, and the next minute I was turning 40, heading to Sundance for 4 days to celebrate with my mother — just the two of us for the first time since before I got married, before my 2 sons were born.

Here’s the thing about Mom. She’s a young 63 and my best friend. But when it comes to her balance, the kindest thing I can say is that she’s challenged. She’s like a Weeble Wobble, upright then off kilter, veering to the right or lurching to the left, tripping over a tree root, a crack in the sidewalk, or nothing at all. I call her Shakes.

Day One at Sundance, Shakes and I went fly-fishing, something she’d always wanted to do. My husband is an obsessed fisherman, so I had tried fly-fishing before. Jeremy, our guide, was great looking and personable, and he supplied all the gear, snacks and instruction we would need. It was a picture-postcard, River-Runs-Through-It perfect sort of day. Suited up in our waders and boots  and equipped with fantastic rods, we were ready to take on the Provo river and hook some brown and rainbow trout.

I’m a jock. I have great balance, which I clearly got from my father, not my mother. For me, wading out into the fast-moving river and navigating the rocky bottom upstream to my appointed place was a no-brainer. No so much for Shakes. Two steps into the river and the Weeble was wobbling, stumbling over slippery rocks. Jeremy morphed into Superman and somehow managed to keep her from face-planting in the icy water as he bodily hauled her upstream and planted her midstream between a couple of rocks.

Jeremy was a great teacher and in no time we were casting like pros. Not really, but we felt like we were. I loved the rhythmic motion, the anticipation, the sun sparkling on the water. Within 10 minutes I had caught and released 5 decent sized trout. Five for me, zero for Shakes. But she was a great sport, laughing and happily chirping that it was my birthday and I deserved to catch all the fish. Three hours later when Shakes still hadn’t gotten even a nibble and I was still hauling them in, she was swearing at me. Gone was the birthday love.

And then, mid-curse, Jaws struck Shakes’ line. “Holy s*@t! Fish on!” she yelled. Jeremy leapt into action, his net ready, as Shakes reeled in her catch of the day. It was as huge and beautiful as the Sundance sky. Jeremy said it was the biggest fish he’d seen all season. The only thing bigger was Shakes’ smile.

That night, snuggled in front of a crackling fire in our cabin, Shakes said to me, “I’m so glad you were born.” I was glad, too. We agreed that it had been a great day to be alive.

Browse Categories