I'm leaning forward against perfect white snowflakes that are falling slowly, easily, to the ground. Behind me trails a large black sled containing the youngest of my three cousins, Brodie, a blue eyed, blond, stocky for the age of six, who is constantly shouting out words of encouragement combined with laughter. There is no wind; the peace and serenity of the silence, broken only by the sound of our boy-powered vehicles sliding against the ground. Robby, two years older than his younger brother, is walking along beside me, trailing two sleds of his own, while Bailey, age ten, is leading the expedition, close enough to pitch in on our conversations. We are all dressed appropriately for the adventure, in long johns, snowpants, boots, gloves, hats and heavy jackets, to protect us from what has yet to come.
As we traverse the long, ice-covered road, where trees create the effect of a tunnel, we see the opening that will take us to our final destination: "the sandpit," a sacred place of our youth, the perfect area for sledding. It has multiple downward slopes of increasing difficulty and flat ground at the top to prepare ourselves. As we approach the slope of the bowl, the full view of the area comes into our vision. Where the sandpit ends, a mountainous landscape begins. Along the top of the bowl, trees surround us, concealing us from the rest of the world; and in our youth, it feels as though we are, indeed, the only people on the planet, protected by my parents’ two hundred acres of fairytale dreamland and the innocence of our young friendships. We set our sleds down in a disorganized fashion by a lone tree, which stands off from the rest of the forest.
Brodie announces that he will be the first to descend, and choosing a small green sled from the line up, throws himself at the slope. The sled, however, is not as inclined to move as he is, and stops dead, sinking into the wet snow, as its rider emits noises of frustration and impatience. The trails have not yet been ridden, since the last snowfall, and the snow is deep and heavy. After some speculation, we all begin to pile into the large black sled, which has enough space to fit all of us, Brodie, in the front, then Robby, Bailey, and finally myself, putting us in the order of youngest to oldest. I brace myself, mittens on the back of the sled, and dig my boots into the snow, and with all of the force I can muster, I begin to push us forward. The snow begins to break as my cousins cease to cheer and take on a solemn silence of expectation and focus. We pass the point of no return, I can feel the sled beginning to pull itself away from me. I hoist myself up, falling awkwardly into the sled behind Bailey, as our speed begins to increase. Snow is flying up over the front of the sled. We begin to voice our excitement and childhood fear, as the downhill motion takes effect in our stomachs.
In ten seconds it's over. In terms of overall distance the sled has not traveled far, it is no record, but an excellent first run. I'm the first to pull myself out of the sled as I begin to recognize sound of crying up front. I hurry around to the front, and notice that, as I had half expected, Brodie's face is completely covered with snow. I remove my gloves and begin to wipe it away, revealing his beet-red skin. Tears continue to fill his eyes, squinted nearly shut. His siblings join me and we coo to him, comforting him, as his tears slowly begin to subside.
In no time at all, he returns to his exceptionally cheerful manner, ready to go for round two. I run back to the house to get the fleece facemask. My mother asks me how everything is going, and I reassure her, knowing that she would intervene if she had known of our latest tragedy, nothing out of the ordinary. Upon my return, my two oldest cousins are in motion. Flying down one side of the hill, then climbing up another whilst they yelled back and forth, and starting all over again. Brodie greets me and tells me what I have missed, that Bailey and Robby had an argument shortly after my departure and are settling their differences with competition. He tells me this as I dress him in his new mask; he always loves to keep me up to date.
And then we were all off together, thoroughly enjoying the day as long as we could before we were all, so equally, utterly exhausted, and freezing from snow that had accumulated under our clothing from the falls we each had sustained, that we had no choice but to call it a day. A great day. One of many to come in our near future, but special because it was the day before the day of all days. It was Christmas Eve, and we were ready for an early slumber and an earlier morning. We all held in our hearts an extreme anticipation of Saint Nicholas, in whom, at this point of our lives, we all thoroughly believed. And believing in something you never see, but experience only once every year, real as can be, is an unrivaled kind of imaginative bliss, with which only the young are blessed.
Thomas Roberti ‘14