The e-mails would begin to pick up. The phone calls. Who was heading out already? Who was waiting until they could no longer see their breath? Who were the die-hards and kept visiting all winter long? It was the same every spring. As soon as the snow showed signs of disappearing for good, as soon as the trees showed their buds and the frost looked like it had almost sucked its last breath, as soon as we’d had enough of the endless darkness and the bitter cold, the frozen fingers and running noses, the quivering lips and clenched spines, as soon as we thought we could no longer take any more of winter’s blanketed heaviness – spring would pop its head out of a hole for just a second, an important second, and tell us not to give up hope. She was coming. And in anticipation we pulled out the old phone tree and started looking for people to jump with, people to car-pool with, someone to bring out the firewood, someone with a truck to help with a new mattress or fridge or tv, someone to go in on that bottle of Jäger with, all so we could make sure we were present for opening weekend at our DZ.
Spring is the herald, blowing her pristine horn across the crispy air, telling us to escape from the covers and tough it out, to come and clean out your trailer, dispose of the mice droppings, wipe down the fridge, pull out the linen, dig out the heater and get ready to live a brilliant season again. And so you respond to the e-mails and you pick up the phone, and then voices that were silent for four dire months of lacklustre short days and cold nights come waltzing back into your life. And you’re talking about Florida and Arizona and new jumpsuits and canopies, courses and repacks, parties and boogies, who’s dating who and who sold their gear. You wonder if your rig will be ready in time. If your Cypres was due this winter or last. You call your rigger. You call your packer. Like an electric buzz that gets louder by the second, it begins from a tiny squeak and erupts from there.
But you know it’s not going to be wonderful just yet. Do you care? The ground will be soggy. You’ll have to push the plane across the landing area. And the mice really did try their best this year. Oh, and the leak in the corner. What a headache that is. And it’s still raining, but you think, at least it’s rain. But you still have to wear your toque, and if it weren’t for the firewood, the evening would’ve been nearly unbearable, if it weren’t for all those faces you haven’t seen for four months. Does it matter you can see your breath? Does it matter the runway is too wet? So you all go open up the hangar. Pull out the fans. Roll out the carpets. Break out the creepers. Find your hoodie you thought you lost. Breathe the free air.
Everything around you is familiar and special. You think of it as yours, but clearly it’s not. You protect it like a child. You defend it’s honour to anyone who declares any short-comings it may have. This DZ, this landing area, this firepit, this trailer park, even the staff – they are yours. They are extensions of your family. And you have a pride for them that you can’t explain. It’s a vein that runs deep, and if it ever were to disappear, well, you just can’t think about that.
You know this is why you survive through winter. This is why you own a trailer. This is why you’ve no idea what other people do on weekends. And this is where you’ll be until the trees lose their leaves, the days grow shorter, the wind returns the rosy colour to your cheeks and you look to the sky knowing the first snow is about to fall. But until then, you will skydive. You will laugh with your skydiving family. You will brush off your blood family to hang with your skydiving family. You will jump and jump and jump. And you will look around in pride at everything you have and you will wonder whatever it was you did all winter long.