Sled Astray, or The Winters of My Discontent

The extended spate of bitterly cold weather this season has, ironically, thawed memories of winters past…

I remember playing outside in the snow until my toes and fingers were frozen, and icicles hung from my eyelashes. I’d come inside with cheeks rosy as apples, looking forward to a cup of hot chocolate. “Not so fast!” my mother would proclaim. “First, we’ve got to get that soaking wet snowsuit taken care of.” Thirty minutes later, dizzy and nauseated from tumbling around in the dryer, I would pass on the cocoa and ask for some St. Joseph Aspirin for Children instead.

When I woke up to find it snowing I’d press my ear to the radio, waiting anxiously to hear if school was going to be canceled. One morning, my mother came into my room to ask what I had heard. Sensing an opportunity, I fibbed and told her they had *just* announced no school that day. “Well, in that case,” said Mother with a smile on her face, “let’s get some breakfast into you so I can drop you off at the steel mill and you can work my shift for me. Momma needs to take a ‘mental health day’.”

We lived at the bottom of a street that sloped downward, ending in a cul de sac — perfect for sledding and no worries about traffic. My friends and I would hurtle down the road, sometimes piled two- and three-deep on our Flexible Flyers, tumbling into a snowbank at the bottom and then rushing back up to the crest of the road for another fleeting run. “I’m reminding you for the last time,” my mother warned me — “if you get your tongue stuck on the metal frame of that sled again, I’m going to give it away!” Of course, curiosity got the better of me; I couldn’t resist the temptation to stick out my tongue and — yes —  managed once more to get it stuck. True to her word, my mother picked up the sled, tossed it in the back of our station wagon, and dropped it off at the nearest Goodwill. I had been warned and so remained silent in the face of this punishment — mostly since my tongue was still frozen to the metal. By the next morning the sled had warmed up enough to permit separation, so I called Mother to come and fetch me, telling her I was thorry I hadn’t lithened to her and promithed never to dithobey her again.

After one particularly heavy snow, my father helped me build an “igloo” in our yard. We packed snow into the shape of a hollow dome, carving out an entrance barely big enough for me to crawl inside. Once within the structure, there was just enough room for me to sit up. “How do you like it?” Dad called out. “I loooove it!” I exclaimed. “I’m going to live in here until the snow melts!” Dad chuckled, saying, “In that case, let me make you a sandwich to tide you over.” Ten minutes later, he tossed an unwrapped ham-and-cheese spuckie through the opening, shouting he and Mom were going to fly down to Florida for the rest of the week and I’d see them when they got back. I was very upset by this, having lost count of how many times I’d asked for mustard only, no mayo.

Another time, the power went out during a blizzard. We had no lights, no heat, and no generator. We did, however, have a fireplace in the living room; Dad told me to go outside and bring in some logs so he could start a fire. I bundled up and went into the yard but didn’t see any wood stacked up, so came inside to inform him of such. “Yeah, so?” he snarled. “Grab an ax and start chopping, you useless git!” Two hours and three fingers later, I’d lugged in half a cord of firewood and soon was basking in the warmth radiating from the hearth. At that moment, I turned to my parents to say how much I loved them but had to wait until the ax blade warmed up and I could theparate my tongue from it before thpeaking.

As I reflect on these memories, I am reminded of the Japanese proverb: “One kind word can warm three winter months.” This sounds much more comforting than being tossed around in an appliance drum during a Wrinkle-Free cycle.

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