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Our march of penguins

My 7-year-old son looked up to me, discerning, “I didn’t know that we had an IMAX in Vail, Mommy.” I whispered, “This is a National Geographic film.”

After a birthday party, we hustled to the Cascade Theater to view the best little G picture show to hit Vail in years, “March of the Penguins.” Our hurry was rewarded.

The ease of popping into the theater, free parking, no line, choice seats and a bargain-priced Kiddie Combo was a satisfaction of its own. But the film got under my skin.



I related to the theme of co-parenting.

If ever there were a film to make one feel relevant, this is it! Have you ever had one of those days, driving east to west on I-70 wondering, what’s this all about? Working, driving, always feeling five minutes late? Will those frustrating five minutes be the undoing of all you’ve tried to accomplish that day? Maybe we Vail Valley locals have a kindred spirit in the movie’s star, the emperor penguin. Our new term for a local could be penguin.



Richard Carnes so aptly dubbed our home Happy Valley. The name stuck. But who are we who live within? We need a name to coin ourselves. The Penguins. I hear it being chanted in grocery stores, parks, hockey arenas, soccer fields, dance studios, rec centers and all other popular gathering places where hurried parents cross paths. “We are the Penguins, the mighty, mighty Penguins, everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are …”

Without risk of ruining the punch line for those of you yet to see this march, an overriding theme is how both the male and the female journey back-and-forth over 70 miles from the ocean to the breeding grounds to create and care for their children. Jay Leno’s monologue the other night added, “Did you know that penguins have to walk 70 miles for sex? That’s a long walk home! Must be good. Did you ever see how they walk?”

Jokes aside, it made me think of parenting in the Vail Valley. The I-70 corridor is our March of the Penguins. It can be the grueling, defining separation to parenting in the mountains vs. the city. It is harder here, in many ways. But the benefits far outweigh the disparity.



To parent here, one is truly an emperor penguin. The cost of housing, gasoline, the stuff of life that kids need. It all is tough to acquire up here. It makes you proud to be a penguin.

Mostly, it highlights the contributions of the dads in our valley. Life here isn’t as simplistic as Mayberry. It takes two people, plus friends, neighbors, and grandparents when possible, to make it all doable in our nestled valley. For those who are raising our kids singly, it is that hometown connection for support that makes parenting doable, too. We need each other to make our families hum. Knowing this makes all of the difference.

Narcissism doesn’t make it while parenting in our hometown. Partiality, bias, preferential treatment melt away just as the snow in spring. I’ve enjoyed the Vail Daily’s recent series of articles regarding making a living and living in the Vail Valley. They relate to this theme: It takes a special parent to raise a kid in a ski town.

Finding that mate, a lover of the mountains and the life that it offers is a passage that’s well worth it. The film is a must-see to anyone contemplating nesting here or who has nested here many years ago and wants to savor what he/she accomplished to be here! Our 70-mile penguin trek for food is a symbol of our daily route, dubbed I-70. Our bread and butter may be miles from our house. It often takes two to make it all work. Heartbreak and loss can happen. But we keep plodding along. We are High Country folk. We belong here. Never mind the rhyme or reason. We march along in one of the world’s most beautiful places.

This is Elizabeth H. Chicoine’s first column for the Daily. She will write weekly.

Vail Colorado


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