I admit that I had never been sledding before my wife and I and our two young kids moved to Lancaster, New Hampshire. One day, my wife insisted that we had to take the little ones out, one-year-old Button and two-year-old Boots, and let them experience this wintery right of passage. She had already picked up a small sled and inner-tube at the store a few weeks prior, so any excuse I might have had was going to fall on deaf ears.
We had just spent the last few days trapped inside our little apartment of horrors in this dark, cold corner of the U.S., and so it was high time to get out and have some fun. We planned our adventure to make sure we would be outside during the few hours of precious light we were gifted with each day. Not because it was warmer, but mentally we felt warmer with the sunlight shining on our faces.
In truth, we are Southern California-weather people and not used to the kind of cold which freezes your tears to your eyelashes. We bundled up in layers to keep as warm as possible, but it was really futile when the temperature outside was hovering at -20° F. Alas, that did not stop us.
We put on three pairs of pants, two shirts and a sweater, one thick pair of wool socks and topped it all off with our winter jackets, hats and gloves. In spite of all this preparation, we were not ready for the cold.
The children hated getting dressed before going out, but my wife and I had a synchronized dance by taking turns holding the kids’ body parts while dressing other parts. Both of them screamed the entire time, as if we were preparing to send them to a wintery death.
We headed out into the frigid morning, got in our jeep and drove two blocks to the city park / Methodist church back yard / graveyard. Ah, yes, Lancaster knows how to make the most of its open spaces. We picked this park because the hill, which connected the graveyard to the soccer fields, was steep but short enough for our adventure, and it seemed a safe bet for a bunch of first-timers. By that I mean, for me, and my two children. Apparently, my wife had done this before and that made her an “expert.”
The snow was pretty deep, but there was a thick layer of ice underneath, which made it a slightly more dangerous path. However, we persevered, refusing to become discouraged from making family-sledding history.
We put one child on the sled, the other in the inner-tube and pulled them behind us, as if we were their private sherpas in the Himalayas. It was a long 500 feet to the base of our “mountain,” and we were tired before our day of fun got underway. Of course, we had spent the last two months bundled up inside, so we were completely out of shape.
My wife and I stood staring up at the hill and tried to plan the best route to take. We saw some footprints by others, who had gone before us, and decided that that was our best option. About half way up, though, our feet began to give way to that thick layer of ice, which was intent on bringing us down not helping us up. We slowly climbed to the top on our hands and knees, all the while dragging our kids behind us.
When we reached the top, we found a point that was relatively safe to be our so-called “base camp” and my wife insisted that I would be the first to sled down. At that moment, I had absolutely no fight in me to disagree, and like any good husband I did what she told me.
I placed my ass firmly in the inner-tube, and then my wife placed both kids on my lap, safely tucking each one under my arms. Then, without any warning, I felt a shove on my back with the foot of a boot that hurled me down the hill. “Wait! How do I hold on with both kids?” I screamed.
“Oh, honey, you’ll be fine; it’s a short hill,” my wife replied. Her words did little to reassure me.
I held my breath as we began sliding down the hill, but we came to an abrupt halt in a snow drift—just 10 feet from where we had started. The kids and I were trapped in the bright-orange inner-tube and waited until my wife came down to help. When she reached us, she used her foot to push us again, and this time we made it another 15 feet. At the rate we were going, I figured it would take an hour to arrive at the bottom.
But my wife is one tough and determined woman, and when she sets her mind to something she makes it happen. She followed us down, but this time she got a running start before pushing us onward. It was just the momentum we needed to glide on top of the snow instead of plowing through it.
Before I knew it, my life became a white blur, with snow slapping me in the face at such an accelerated speed. Images of alpine rescues for stranded skiers and other ill-fated accidents flashed through my mind, and I was sure that this wasn’t going to end any differently. I pictured live TV footage of me handing my young children from the deep blanket of snow into the arms of their loving mother, and then I’d give the thumbs-up while being plucked from the frigid grip of death. Some would say “hero,” while the majority would have other more colorful words to describe my obvious ineptness at sledding.
Suddenly, the inner-tube slipped from underneath us and our behinds found the ice, propelling us across the park backwards. I could see my wife with her hands over her mouth far up the hill, and I was sure she was laughing at our expense, not shrieking out of fear.
Two soccer fields later we finally came to a stop, mere steps before the street. I took a deep breath and then looked at the kids. To my relief, they were both smiling and laughing; Boots was screaming, “again daddy, again!” After a brief moment to take it all in, it dawned on me—this was fun. Not just kinda fun, it was really fun—I loved it. Don’t tell my wife, but she was right about this sledding business.
I got up and waddled across the ice-covered fields with both kids in the inner-tube. It had taken us 15 minutes to maneuver up the hill but just 30 seconds to go down it. When we reached the top, it was my wife’s turn.
She got into the inner-tube, and then Boots eagerly plopped onto her lap. Undoubtedly, he knew that the real ride was about to happen. I shoved them with all my might, sending them barreling down the hill. They spun in circles all the way, with Boot’s laughter filling the frosty air. I admit that I was smiling not only on the outside but on the inside, too. Once they came to a stop, my wife stood up, but then easily fell flat on her face from the continuous, whirling motion.
We sledded over and over again that day, ignoring our bodies’ pleas for us to quit. Regardless, it was worth it just to hear the squeals of joy and laughter from our kids. The fun was followed by dinner at McDonald’s—the only place in town to eat at—then long, hot showers at home. In the end, we were all asleep before our heads hit the pillows that night.
Yup, it was a good time had by all.
* Here is a video (10”) of what we could capture 🙂