After my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 1972, my father made the bold step of cashing in on his retirement account. My parents made the decision to purchase a two level condominium at our winter weekend home at Alpental ski resort. We had lived in many places at the resort. First, when my father was general manager of the resort, we lived in the second floor apartment of the main lodge on the weekends. Then for a short time, we lived in our small truck camper before the purchase of the condominium. When my mom had her lung removed, the condo was purchased. It was a dream come true. I can remember walking in to the property for the first time. It was on the second floor of the AlpineRose condominium complex. I remember walking in and immediately noticing the storage closets on the left of the hallway and the bathroom was immediately on the right. Walking further down the short hallway, there was a small kitchen unit on the right and an iron black spiral staircase on the left going up to the bedroom loft that had two bunkbeds. The loft overlooked the living room below. There was an outdoor balcony on the far end of the living room what went outside. I remember that I walked out onto the balcony and gazed at the mountain in front of me. The balcony was where we would practice our back flips as we had ten feet of snow to land in. The hallway and living area had short red shag carpet. It was our home on the weekends during the winters. So, some of you might be asking the question, ” Ok Todd, it’s a condo in the cascades, So what’s your point? Well, let me tell you something. When I look back on these memories, our condo was our weekend palace where our family reigned in the middle of our uncertainty and doubt. Our pain and fear always went on the back burner when we spent our winter weekends at our home in Alpental valley. For me, all of my doubt and fears went away when we were at the mountain on Snoqualmie Pass.
I need to reference a movie that I have had some strong feelings about. The movie is called “The Prince of Tides.” There are so many horrible and wrong things that happen in the film. But the one thing that I talk about with my clients in therapy is the one scene. There’s a scene where the three siblings run off the dock into a lake while their holding hands together. The three siblings jump off the dock into the lake holding hands as they sink to the bottom of the lake. Holding their breath and holding hands, the three of the young children felt no pain when they were at the bottom of the lake. They were surrounded by the quiet and the water. This was the place where there was no hurt and no pain. It was a place of stillness. They would stay at the bottom of the lake as long as they could, before they would have to return to the surface so they could get a breath of air. That was the way it was for us as a family at our home at Alpenrose. It was a place to escape. It was a place to forget. It was a place to laugh, party, and live life large. My parents had a 8 track player on the shelf in the living room. I can still hear the music of Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar, Sammy Davis Jr., The Carpenters, and Paul Revere and the Raiders playing in our condo living room. I have some incredible memories of this place, including my powerful encounter with Abba, when I slipped off the cliff when I was ten.
After a day of skiing, I would head down to the outdoor pool that was surrounded by snow. For those who were with us for the weekend, after a long hard day of skiing, we would relax in the heated pool, then move to the indoor sauna, then return to the outdoor pool. I would normally bring up my friends from the harbor for the weekend. My guests included Eric Jorgenson, Steve Smith, along with the Rossi, Hemphill, and Fraser families. After dinner, my parents and their friends from the harbor would head to the bar at the beer stube at Alpental lodge or at Snoqualmie pass for the evening. Ironically, the adults would party until the late evening and then get up in the morning and we would hit the ski slope and do the whole thing over again. I can say this now, but it was both a crazy and an insane time yet our winter home provided a respite and a peace in the middle of the storm. With my mother’s cancer being remission, there were still so many unknowns. Many of my friends over the years have had conversations with me about the spoiled kid who lived on the wollochet bay in the summer, while living in the mountains on Snoqualmie Pass during the winters. My response has always been the same. I remain extremely grateful for our home away from home in Alpental valley. For my Minnesota friends, it was more than our ‘cabin up nort’, it was a place where the Riggs’ could forget about what was happening in real time. In my book, I wrote an entire chapter on what it was like to live at Alpental. Truthfully, we never really knew if the future would come. There was an unspoken fear that was put on pause when we were at the mountain condominium.
Little did I know that I would return to our home in the Alpental valley for a summer two years after my mothers death before I started my Bible school education at the Lutheran Bible Institute. It was an extremely difficult summer, as my father had remarried and told me that I couldn’t live at our home on wollochet for the three months during the summer before starting LBI. That summer I was both devastated and broken. I retreated to our winter home at the mountain. Abba and I had some precious one on one time that season. I can’t begin to describe both the comfort and consolation that I received from Him. It was a season of hiddenness. I only had Him to rely on. Jesus helped me wipe the slate clean before my next chapter of my life living on campus at Providence Heights in Issaquah.
I have no regrets, and now as I think back on our four years living in the AlpenRose condominium at the base of Denny Mountain, I can only smile. It was a place of respite and great solace. It was our place of laughter and rest. Similar to the film, We too were surrounded by water as it was in the form of snow. On countless occasions while night skiing, I would shut my eyes while riding up the chair lift at the base of the lodge and feel the falling snow hit my face while listening to the sound of the chair lift carrying me up the slopes. It was so quiet and dark. I was alone with my thoughts. I was with my family and my fears and anxieties about the future would disappear. All was well.. You have no idea how I miss this place. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
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