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This Time Last Week

DSC03442“On our way. Friends coming too,” Daughter texted. A morning snow sledding party for nine children, ages 8 months to 10 years, and their parents. Daddies hoisted sleds out of the back of SUVs, and mothers carried food baskets. Husband entertained our youngest Grand, who is too young to sled down our backyard hill, and I donned my boots and coat to watch the outside fun.

Eight children, five adults, and twelve sleds, in all shapes and sizes at the top of the hill. Within minutes a line formed, much like snow skiers waiting to ride a ski lift. “I’m next!” was the mantra of the morning. Children rode doubles on a long wooden sled with their daddy or mother. Older child and younger or two youngers doubled. They raced. Girl against boy. Daddy against son. Mother against daddy. And they lugged their sleds back up the hill. “Walk up the side. Not in the middle of the hill,” the parents shouted, over and over and over again.

One daddy stood at the bottom of the hill beside a big tree, a possible hazard. The children veered away from it or did just what their parents told them. “If you’re about to hit a tree or out of control, roll off your sled.” Two mommas sat with crossed legs on matching disc sleds at the top of the hill. “We’re next,” one said. “We’re going down together. Holding hands.” And they did. All the way to the bottom. Neither let go of the other’s hand and neither rolled off her sled as they headed straight toward the tree. One momma crashed into the side of the tree. She looked up at her husband, who had caught every child who had careened within a few feet of the tree. He threw up his hands and then helped her up. She was okay. I heard one of the older kids ask another, “Why didn’t she just roll off?”

Sleds were abandoned. Children made snow angels, ate handfuls of snow, and walked along the edge of the creek. (I anticipated a snowball fight – that was the next day when only Daughter’s family came to sled.) Time to go inside where Husband had the gas logs burning and had thermoses filled with hot water. The mothers’ baskets overflowed. Hot chocolate and cider mixes, apple juice, bananas, cookies, pretzels, yogurt, string cheese.

Wet snow clothes were thrown into the dryer. Coats hung over open doors. Boots lined up in corners. “So I’ll know where they are,” one mother said. They ate and drank. They sat. They talked. They laughed. Big kids lay in the floor. The young ones cuddled beside parents.

“Who’s ready to go back out?” a mother said. The older kids quickly bundled up. A younger one balked. “I don’t want all that stuff. I just want to play!” Her choice was simple. Wear all that stuff or stay inside. She wore the stuff. Within twenty minutes, only Husband, youngest Grand, and I sat by the fire. Sledding, round two, was short and then they left. They took their sleds and their empty food baskets.

Later that night, on Facebook I looked at pictures and read a post one of the mothers wrote. “Gotta love when childhood friend’s parents still invite us over to play in the backyard. It’s like we are 16 again…but have husbands and children now.” I gotta love it, too.



Barely Enough Snow


Finally, Mother Nature cooperated.  Snow!  Deep enough for my young Grands to slide down the short sledding hill in our backyard.  Early Sunday morning, my daughter sent a text.  “We’re coming to sled.”  Hallelujah!

I watched through the window from inside my warm house.  The two older Grands rode round plastic sleds, and because the snow barely covered the grass in places, sometimes they pushed each other almost all the way down the hill.  The younger Grands, ages 1 and 3, tromped and made snow angels and threw handfuls of the white stuff in the air.  Then they squealed when the cold wet snow fell on their upturned faces.

It was time to make hot chocolate.  You have to have cookies and hot chocolate after playing in snow, and I began getting ready for this day months ago.  In early December I unpacked snowman dishes out of storage boxes, and I bought marshmallows, colored ones shaped like cars, for hot chocolate.  I made cookies – the kind you slice and bake and serve warm, straight from the oven.

            But the cookies were eaten during the Christmas holidays, and when I found the marshmallow bag in the back corner of the cabinet, it was less than half full.  I scrounged through the freezer searching for anything that could pass for cookies.  I found a few cinnamon rolls – enough to cut into small pieces, cookie size.  Thank goodness for a microwave to thaw and heat them.

I use my mother’s hot chocolate recipe.  Sugar and Hershey’s Cocoa, mixed with a little water and boiled for two minutes.  Add milk and heat slowly.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  The best hot chocolate ever – topped with marshmallows.

Five-year-old Lou was first in the house and rushed to the kitchen.  She pulled apart the stuck-together marshmallows and taste tested one of each color to be sure they were okay to eat.  We loaded trays with snowman plates and cups, a pot of hot chocolate, and cinnamon- roll cookies and carried them to our basement playroom.  Lou’s parents and siblings sat on a plastic picnic tablecloth spread on the floor.

As my four Grands gobbled bites of cinnamon rolls and drank hot chocolate, cooled with crushed ice and topped with squashed marshmallows, they talked.

             Did you see me go fast down the hill?

             Daddy sledded down the hill with me.

             Did anyone else see Elaine (20 months old) when she fell?  She couldn’t get up with all those clothes on.

            I got Daddy good with a snowball – did you see me?  

            Momma, why didn’t you ride on a sled?

            Do you think we’ll have another snow?

All winter long, I’ve wished for a big snow, four inches deep or so, but unless we have a fluke blizzard like the one in March twenty years ago, it probably won’t happen.  For my Grands, the Sunday morning snow was enough.  Enough to make happy memories – sledding and playing and drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies.