The Sledding Hill

I remember being woken up in the middle of the night, when it snowed.  Everything outside my window would be blue and shimmery.

We’d stumble downstairs and dig into the coat closet underneath the stairs, rummaging around for the basket full of snow clothes.  Snoopy hats and thick gloves that were too big for me…  Several layers of clothes, and hiking boots that were big enough to be my brother’s.  Fuzzy pink earmuffs.  And off we’d go, into the snowy night.

Sometimes it was windy and cold, other times just quiet and still.  Our sleds scraped over the fresh snow behind us.  We’d tied ropes through the front so we could pull them.  Mine was pink and my brother’s was orange.  Snowball, our Samoyed mix dog, would thunder around us, kicking up snow and chasing out sleeping rabbits from under the bushes.

We’d follow dad up the road, past my best friend’s house, and all the way to the main street where we’d fight past our heavy snow clothes and climb onto the wall made of stone and brick.  Then we’d carefully march up and down the steps of the wall, over the big humps of the posts, and on, the frigid air tingling in our noses.  Whoever went first was lucky, because they got to shove off the piles of fresh snow from the fence posts.  Early on, I was so small I had to sit on the posts and spin around to get over them.  When I was older, I could step up onto them, or over them.

Sometimes we could see the stars, but sometimes it was still snowing and there were huge clouds covering everything.  Dad would help us off the wall before we reached the ditch where the cow skeletons were, and we’d start on the long trudge up the sledding hill.  It was all covered in weeds, and even cactus here and there, but it would snow so much, you didn’t really notice.  It took so long to climb up the hill, but when you reached the top, the air was so crisp and you had such a long way to sled down the hill, it was all worth it.

Sometimes I’d be scared, looking straight down that huge hill all the way to the bottom, or be afraid I might slide all the way into the ditch.  But I never did.  Sometimes dad would sit behind me, or push me so I’d go fast.  Sometimes my brother would go with me, and sometimes we would race each other.  Snowball would run along beside us, trying to climb into our sleds on the way down.  We’d laugh and scream and our voices were the only sound in that huge empty field.

It was fun sliding down the hill but took so long and it was so hard climbing all the way back up again.  My boots would slip in the snow and so I would try to walk in dad’s footprints, but they were always too big for me to reach.  But up I’d climb, over and over, until we couldn’t breathe from the cold and our noses were red and our toes were numb.

Then we’d climb back up on the wall and make the trek back home, where Mom would always be waiting for us to tell her how much fun we had sledding, while we drank hot chocolate and tried to warm up.  Then we would finally curl up warm and tight in our beds again and fall asleep, waking up the next morning to a beautiful white world.

Several years later, bulldozers leveled my sledding hill flat and built a school where it should have been.  But every time I drive down that road and look at the wall, I remember walking on it through the snow in the dark, and smile.  I will never forget the sledding hill.

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