Note: found the below in an old journal, and it struck me as it did then … one of those moments that melts the world around you for a good, long moment … before it, itself melts. When we were kids we’d hold a snowball back and put it in the fridge to save it for summer time. Honoring that feeling by putting this old snowball right here ….
Saturday afternoon, after Peter snowblew the driveway, I shoveled the deck, and Em indulged neighbor kids who came for snow angels and “wheeeeeees” down the humble grade of our yard, the three of us donned our snowsuits, grabbed sleds and tube, and trudged through the woods behind our backyard. Destination: the big hill that technically belongs to the American Legion but which we unofficially commandeer when there’s enough snow to test the wondrous law of gravity.
We assessed the snow’s vintage —soft and puffy, in need of some packing. So, following Peter’s lead, we made investments with each run down the hill —and trudging walk back up — kneading the snow like dough, a little longer, a little wider.
The tube, by far, was the conveyance of choice, offering the pure enchantment of spinning, friction-free descent.
We spent a glorious hour outside, indulging in a good foot of soft powder and mid-20’s temperatures. There were tumbles, wipe outs, and even an inspired attempt to see if the blue sled would hold the three of us at once (um, it didn’t).
But it was all mere prelude to the gifts of Sunday afternoon, when Peter and I returned for seconds. The intervening 24 hours had smoothed away the powder and added a thin crust of ice to the previous day’s paths. With our first couple runs, we glided farther, carving fresh prints into the untouched white. With each foray we pushed our ruts out a little farther still.
After about 20 minutes I looked down from the top of the hill to where Peter had just tubed a new distance record and called out, “We should try for the creek”–pointing to the stream that separates the Legion’s field from the hill of houses on the other side. Even with his last run, we were probably a good 50-60 feet of untouched snow from the water.
But now we had a quest.
And, where Sunday snow days are concerned, life goes much better with a quest.
We took turns with the tube, while the other would run the light blue plastic H-2. Each time, a bit farther. We found ourselves feasting on the rarest and most fleeting of experiences —the kind that only get better the next time. Down I went, the gathering speed perfectly pairing with the tube’s gentle rotation. I broke the plane of brush and weeds that rimmed the creek. I lingered for a good moment, transfixed by the simple, timeless sermon all creeks whisper if you bend your ear close enough.
While I considered this victory, the 14-year-old deemed it ersatz. A purist, he would not be satisfied with anything short of sled touching water. Such are the lessons all children whisper if you bend your ear close enough.
So he made one more run, hugging the path we had carved into the hill over the past 24 hours …gliding …gliding, pushing through the brush and dumping himself —unceremoniously, or quite ceremoniously, depending on your perspective—into the water, his water-proofed steel-toes earning their keep. We hi-fived our chubby, waterlogged gloves (and promised to not mention the splashing in the creek part to Mom).
We paused before beginning our final trudge. The waning Sunday sun peeked through the trees in a reverent bow….
What better image than a glistening hill and an afternoon spent carving it with our initials to serve as a reminder to treasure good moments that too soon melt?
We huffed up the hill and through the woods back home, spent but spurred on by the promise of Karry’s killer hot chocolate.
As I add years, I treasure those experiences that equally captivate the young and those in need of being reminded of their youth.
This is my quest.