He lingered, under the obvious spell of our happiness. We talked. My father introduced my mother as the sweetest singer in Onawa-iowa, which she once was. My husband breathed deeply, as if in sleep. My friend looked out over the plumy treetops and sighed for a lost love. François blinked in a surfeit of content. We all sat about, on felled branches and running boards, and drank some superlative cognac from an unlabeled bottle which my father had bought secretly from a Vevey wine merchant and brought along for just this important moment.
A couple more boulders drifted down and settled, dustily and noisily but without active danger, very close to us.
The mountaineer sang three or four songs of his canton. Then, because of the Zizerser and mostly and mainly because we were for that one moment in all time a group of truly happy people, we began to yodel. My father, as a smalltown editor, had the edge on us: he had practiced for years at the more unbridled of the local service-club luncheons and banquets. My mother found herself shooting off only too easily into Aïda and the more probable sections of Parsifal. My husband and even my friend hummed and buzzed, and I, too, buzzed and hummed. And François? He really yodeled, right along with the man from the mountains.
It was a fine thing. Whatever we had eaten at luncheon, trout, I think, went properly with the Zizerser, and we were full and we were, above all, happy, beyond the wine and the brandy, beyond the immediate danger of blasted boulders and cascading slides, beyond any feeling of foolishness. If we had lunched on milk and pap, that noontime in the Casino, we still would have felt the outer-world bliss that was ours, winy and full, on the Oberland mountainside that summer day.
It happened more than ten years ago, but if I should live a hundred and ten more, I would still feel the freedom of it.…