Once More to the Sledding Hill

winter’s not done with us, so I’m not done with it

Mike Paulus, design by Serena Wagner

You could reach down into it, your bare hand vanishing, leaving a perfect, almost cartoonish outline at the surface. Four fingers, a thumb, and your palm. It was icy and soft against your blushing skin.

A robust, sturdy slush. Four days after a big snowstorm it was everywhere, slathered across our yards and the sidewalks people had yet to shovel – an offense for which I didn’t blame them. It was heavy stuff. It stuck to the shovel, reminding you of how irritating physics can be. Reminding you of exactly how much strength your arms possess.

But you could reach down, grab a hunk of this “snow,” and leave behind a deep handprint. And that was cool. The snow required no packing whatsoever. Instantly, you were holding a dense, hefty snowball.

My son asked me over and over to throw these snowballs right at him. So again and again I lofted snowballs at his chest, and he’d punch them right out of the air. They’d explode into a shower of frosty pulp, splattering our faces.

My son asked me over and over to throw these snowballs right at him. So again and again I lofted snowballs at his chest, and he’d punch them right out of the air. They’d explode into a shower of frosty pulp, splattering our faces.

And that also was cool.

We had gone down to the sledding hill that afternoon, just he and I. Some rare time alone after school while his mom was at work and his sister was busy. He acted like it was no big deal, but I know he was jumping at the chance. We pretty much had the hill to ourselves.

But the sledding was awful. Still fun, but awful in how you couldn’t really slide. At most, you could smoosh down the slope, plowing a deep groove into the snow, sometimes right to the mud. Gravity slowed you down, pulling you ever deeper into the long face of the hill.

Since that big snowfall, other sliders had built jumps at various intervals down the hill. But now, after warm temperatures had made the snow all weird and slushy, the jumps were less like onramps to a few glorious moments of flight and more like squishy roadblocks. My son would smash into them, toppling off the sled and down the hillside. He’d end up in a pile of snow pants and mittens, laughing and smiling up at me.

Our boots were shiny and wet. The cuffs of my jeans were soaked through, and the cold damp was creeping up towards my knees.

We took a little walk in the woods. You could see where meltwater had dripped from the branches and fallen logs, where little bits of bark and other crud speckled the snow. We trudged around until my son’s little legs got tired and then we headed back, tossing snowballs at each other. He rolled back down the sledding hill while I skidded down along the side. We climbed into the minivan and drove away.

Late season snowstorms, where you go from brown grass and dark, bare trees back to a thick layer of chilly white cake frosting are always a kind of novelty – annoying some, delighting others. Either way, the snow soon melts and we get on with spring. But this late season snowstorm was in February. So I guess, it was just a “snowstorm.” Temperatures dropped back to normal and the snow hardened.

I’m very much fine with this. Winter’s not done with us, so I’m not done with it. I’ll take the snow – wet and chunky, dry and blowing in the wind, dirty, clean, however it needs to be. I’ll take another month of hats and mittens and boots tumbling all over the floor. I’ll take the cold car seats and the rickety snow shovels – all of it. The blazing sun and the deep grey clouds. All of it. The time we have together, bundled up and full of shivers. I’ll take it.

That sledding hill has a few good afternoons left in it before we slide into spring. Who am I to complain?