Kate staggered up the sledding hill, last in line, as usual. Her older brother, James turned 12 today, and he was having a sledding party, as usual. Four or five of his friends, and Kate, the little sister, tagging along...as usual. One of the friends, A.T., turned around and gave Kate a friendly brotherish smile.
"Hey Kate!" he said, "I bet if you stand on my shoulders, you could touch the power line!"
Kate looked at him as if he were deranged, and then she looked up at the power line. His suggestion sounded okay, but there was something seriously wrong with it. She looked at A.T. and shuddered at the thought of touching him enough to climb on his shoulders.
Kate and Mister climbed up the sledding hill, and Kate told story after story of different years and memories going up the hill both in the winter and the summer. The Big Hill, in fact, was part of a two-foot wide trail (more or less) leading up the mountain behind Kate's childhood home, but only the last quarter-mile or so was actually sledable. They hiked up to the top of the hill and tossed their sleds on the ground and sat on them for a rest. It was 2PM and the sky was alive with color. During this time of year, it seemed that the sun was always either rising or setting. It would keep setting for another hour, but even then, the snow would amplify the light enough to see for a while longer.
On their various trips to see their parents, both Kate and Mister had enjoyed reliving various childhood memories, some with more success than others. Mister had introduced her to a couple of his favorite computer games that he and his siblings enjoyed playing together. And he had taken her on walks and rambles around their property and neighborhood, pointing out favorite spots for forts, frisbee, sledding and hiking. Kate had introduced Mister to their favorite family movies, various hikes, games, and now, finally, The Big Hill.
As they sledded and hiked, Mister carried Teddy on his front, snuggly wrapped around him and zipped up underneath his coat. He was fast asleep almost as soon as they stepped out the door. They took turns, but Kate was slower and they talked whenever Mister would catch up behind her as they hiked back up the hill.
"So, what do you think?" Kate asked, grinning at Mister's snow covered beard.
"It's amazing!" he said enthusiastically. "We should come back again tomorrow!"
Kate laughed. "I'm so glad you like it. I was hoping you would...it's one of those childhood memories that you want to share and experience again, and you always hope that it will be just as good as it was 'way back when'." She stopped and turned around, looking at the hill, and the valley below, and the inlet beyond. She turned back to Mister and gave him a kiss. "Sharing it with you though, it's even better!"
"I know what you mean. Some things are better... but some things just aren't special anymore. It was fun to play Civilization in Colorado, but it wasn't as meaningful or special as it seemed when I was younger."
Kate nodded. "I think, as the kids grow up, it would be great to try to help them have childhood memories that they'll want to relive, and that will be meaningful and wonderful as they grow older. Obviously not everything can be like that, but it certainly seems worth thinking about."
They were at the top again. The trail was getting packed down and faster. Kate set her sled in the track they had made and shoved off. Down the hill, around the curves, she picked up speed and managed to avoid the sneaky angles leading into the trees. She gave a whoop and put one hand hard on the ground to steer around another fast corner. About halfway down the hill, she grabbed the sides of her sled and twisted hard to the side for a sledding "hockey stop". She looked behind her up the hill, she could hear Mister coming down the same fast section. But instead of seeing him, she heard a cry and the crunching of frozen branches. All she saw was his empty sled shoot straight into the trees by the upper part of the turn.
Her eyes went wide. "Dear?!" she cried. "Are you okay?" She waited for a moment and tried again. "Dear?! Hello?"
Teddy slept the whole time!
A brief wave of fear washed over her. Had he broken something? Had he hit his head? Had he landed on top of Teddy? She felt the frustration growing. Now WHO is injured and HOW much?! she wondered as she jumped up and started back up the trail to find her boys.
But Mister called out and forstalled any real panic. Everything was okay. He had merely glanced into a tree, but he and Teddy were both fine. They kept sledding for another half hour or so, relishing the warm weather (20 degrees is quite warm when you're all bundled up and continuously hiking up a mountain!), the crystillized snow, the colors of the sunset, and the fresh winter scent of the air.
Back at the house, they brushed off their snowy things and left them to dry in the entrway. As they began to change into dry clothes, Mister pulled off his sweatshirt and felt a strange obstruction near his elbow. He examined it, and called Kate over with and astonished, "Look at this!"
"Wow!" Kate said, impressed. "Is that where you hit the tree?"
the elbow (about a week later)
"I guess it must be!"
Mister had what appeared to be an extra elbow just down his forearm from the real one. A giant goose-egg, already turning colors. Kate breathed in sharply as she looked at it again, and closed her eyes in a brief moment of pure thankfulness that it hadn't been Teddy's head.
"That'll be a nasty bruise," she said, "but I'm so glad it's not broken and that you're both okay!"
"Yes, me too." Mister agreed heartily, and then hesitantly, "...do you want to go again tomorrow?"