Walking into school, I ran into another mother and we started talking. I asked her if she liked sledding. She, like me, hadn’t done it in a long time but we both agreed that it was a fun thing to do. I have fond memories of sledding with my friends when I was young. Some of us kids would go behind Greenville school to sled. It wasn’t a particularly good hill. It was just attainable. We all could walk to it from our houses. Sledding back in those days were how you let a boy know you liked him and vice versa. Mark says, “Want to sled down with me?” “No thanks.” Danny says, “Want to sled down the hill with me?” “YES!” and you climb on like it’s a train leaving the station. From that point on, that sled ride constituted you were a “couple”.
Back then I would have never thought I would have kids and would be taking them sledding. There's no doubt that it was easier back then. Let’s face it. At this age, we’re just happy that we’re able to sit on the sled, never mind thinking about hooking up with someone. Who I ride a sled with has become more about who is NOT going to steer me purposely into a tree and who is going to help me up when we reach the bottom.
My, how the criteria changes.
Even though our childhoods slip away, when you have children you get to relive it all over again with them. As parents, I think it's our job to provide our children with positive memories that they too can look back on someday and say "Remember when". I want Rachel to have those same memories (minus the boyfriend part. She's still too young for that.)
Anyway, back to this mother that I was walking into school with. This woman, let's just call her Terry. Why? Because that's her name, silly. Sheesh. Anyway, Terry had thrown an awesome Halloween party last year and had invited us. So in reciprocation, I asked her if she would be interested in going sledding Friday night. I said I would gather some other folks to go and we could all meet at the Norwich Golf Course. She and her daughter, who is Rachel's age, were in. Great, I thought. Someone for Rachel to go down the hill with after this old lady is done. One ride max.
The Norwich Golf course has two hills – one mild but long hill, the other is known as “Suicide Hill”. Now if you’re paying attention, you know the latter is not for me. The extent of my sledding is I just want to sit on a sled and hope that I don’t die. That’s all. Taking a sled in the middle of the winter and sledding over rock jumps and trying to avoid ending up in a pond with sub degree temperatures is NOT what I was after. No thank you. You go on ahead. I have my cell phone if we need to call 911. But you won’t see me or my kid doing that.
OK, so I invite folks with kids that I think would have a good time. Friday night rolls around and due to the warm temperatures and the fact that we only got a few inches of snow, I thought it might be a good idea to make sure that there was still snow at the golf course. Good thing we did, because as it turned out, come Friday, there was nothing left but yellow grass.
Friday at 4:00, I had invited these people to go sledding and there’s no snow. Now what am I going to do? It’s like being in Vancouver hosting the Olympics and having no snow for the skiers. Ok, well, maybe it’s not THAT important. But I did feel a sense of responsibility to come up with another plan. I thought maybe we should all fly south since they seem to be getting more snow this year than us. I like doing things spur of the moment like that, but I was fairly certain I couldn't get the rest of the crowd to buy in. So instead of flying to Florida, I thought of a hill in Ledyard that always has a lot of people sledding there. I have driven by that hill probably a gazillion times over the last 14 years of living in Ledyard, but have never actually been there to sled. All I knew is that it’s always crowded there after a snow storm and that I needed an alternate plan. I made phone calls to the parents to tell them of the change of location. My directions were vague because, like I said, I had never been there before.
Quite frankly, I didn’t expect anyone to show up, mostly from not being able to find the place. The plan was to meet at 7:00p.m. We got all bundled up. I dug out my thermal underwear that I have for this biennial purpose. Rachel donned her snow pants, looking a little bit like Ralphie from “The Christmas Story”. I was sporting boots that I bought and wore in high school. I kid you not. They still fit! There is nothing wrong with them and they are perfect for sledding because of the traction sole. (Truth be told, I just like the red laces.) Do you remember these from the 70's?
Anyway, having coordinated this event, I felt the need to get to the hill a little earlier than the rest of the folks to check it out. When we pulled up, there was nobody there. This was rare for this place. Usually it’s packed there, which has always been a deterrent for me going there. I can control my kid from sliding and not knocking over other people. But when it’s so crowded, it increases the chance of accidents and that’s not fun for me. But as it turned out, we had the whole place to ourselves all night. Score!
On that night it was very dark. Darker than I had anticipated. So much that you couldn’t see the hill from the parking lot. I decided to aim my car at the hill and turn my high beams on just to give us a little light. The sky began to show some stars but the moon was nowhere in sight. When I say it was dark, I mean it was dark. We had brought along some flashlights and a lantern from the RV. But that was the only light we had and it did virtually nothing. A firefly would have given off more light.
To my happiness, people started to arrive. We gathered our sleds, put on our scarves and gloves, and started the trek across the field to the hill. From the top of the hill you couldn’t see the bottom. That’s how dark it was. We knew there were bleachers, garbage cans, bails of hay (?) and the metal back drop for the baseball field was somewhere down there, but we certainly couldn’t see it. So sliding down the hill was a crap shoot on whether you would hit these things or not. Someone decided that they should stay at the bottom of the hill with the lantern just in case something happened.
(Pictures didn't come out very good because, I'm not sure if I mentioned this but, it was very, very dark!)
Before long, the darkness became less of an issue. We all got our “night eyes on”, as Terry called it, and everything was fine. We still couldn’t see, but we could at least aim for areas that we knew held less risk, like aiming for the person holding the lantern at the bottom of the hill. Hey, they wanted to stand there.
It had been 4 years at least since the last time I took Rachel to a real hill to go sledding. She has slid on the hill in my yard but that is more of an excercise in using your feet to move yourself forward than actually sliding. This didn’t occur to me until I saw Rachel put her sled down and take off into the darkness without directions of how to stop. Yikes! What kind of mother am I? Sending her off on a sled, going 65 mph, and not telling her how to brake? Of course, on her first run she headed right into the trees, giving me heart failure and I hadn’t even been there 2 minutes. When she came back up, I told her how to lean to the left to go right and lean to the right to go left. I told her if she was heading for danger, to just fall off her sled. When all the other kids were managing to go straight down the hill, avoiding veering off into the woods, Rachel kept heading for the forest of trees. I decided to get on the slide with her to teach her how to do it. Her in front, me in back, off we went. Me yelling, “Rachel, lean to the left”. But sure enough, we took the same path she had been taking every time. “See, THAT’S how you do it” I said, not wanting to admit failure, and hoping she hadn't noticed we took the same path. Not all was lost. She learned from the other kids by watching them, and before long, she was off with her friend Cassibella, successfully tackling the hill with sleds, tubes, and the toboggan, without incident.
It was a beautiful night for sledding. The temperature was mild. There was no wind, unless you count the wind hitting your face while going 100 mph down the hill on a sled, then I guess there was a wind. But standing still, there was no breeze. The stars were out and twinkling in the night sky. On one hike back up the hill, I pointed out the Little and Big Dippers, which prompted an astrology lesson from Terry. I don’t know what she actually said because I was too busy panting and trying not to have a heart attack walking back up the hill. But I’m sure she was right with whatever she was saying. She, after all, was the one that taught us the “drop and roll” method of getting off the toboggan. She’s my hero.
Speaking of toboggan riding, just an observation I made. The combination of men and women, and/or women and women, have no problem saying they’ll ride together on a toboggan. But you never hear men, in their deep manly voices, saying “Hey Harry, wanna’ go down the hill together?” I guess it’s similar to men not riding on the back of other men’s motorcycles. Just not cool I guess. Unless they're drunk out of their minds or there's a competition of some type. "Hey Harry, want to see if we can spin the toboggan around while it's going down the hill, then do a tumblesault on it?" "You're on!". Then it's okay, you see. But with women, we don’t need to be drunk or come up with dares or daredevil tricks. We don't care. We'll just do it.
One time, four of us women got on the toboggan together. Wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself. It didn’t happen just like that at all. First came the seating assignment. Someone early on in the evening decided that the person with the least weight goes in the front and the heaviest in the back of the toboggan. Now, here's the tricky part. Take four women and try to decide without a scale who will sit where, all the while trying not to insult each other. Checking each other out for body weight, Terry looks at Dianne and I and says, “Ok, I’ll sit up front”. (Ouch!) Dianne claims she doesn’t want to sit in the rear, but I remind her that I weigh less than her (probably not, but she doesn’t know that), so I sit second in line behind Terry. Then Sherri, the ex-gymnast who doesn’t eat meat, decides she wants to go on this run. Technically, she should either be first or behind Terry. But I’ll be damned if I’m getting up. I was already on the ground and in place and it was a lot of work to get there. So Sherri concedes, and climbs on behind me. Dianne reluctantly takes her place in back of Sherri. Terry’s trade off for sitting in the first position and being comfortable by sitting criss-cross apple sauce was being the first to see what we were going to hit. The rest of us wouldn't be able to see what was coming but had to contort our bodies to 1) spreading our legs around the person in front of us. Poor Sherri for having to do that around my girth. But hey, she was a gymnast. Aren’t they supposed to be bendy? Isn’t she used to spreading her legs to jump over the horse. Same difference, right? I had to wrap my legs around Terry (and yes, I’m sore for doing so today! My legs aren’t used to being wide open like that. TMI?) 2) Then we needed to lift our feet and place them on the person in front of us. Steps 1 and 2 are a spread and lift maneuver, similar to sitting at the bottom of a tree and wrapping your legs around the trunk. What? You don’t do that every day? 3) Then you must hold on to the person behind you by their legs to keep their feet up from hitting the ground. ALL of this is just not a natural position to be in. But then add to this the downward motion, going warp speed, hitting bumps, with wind velocity and inertia playing their parts against us, all the while maintaining this position. This is all very unlikely and, in and of itself, painful. Let's just say I was thankful that I did my kegel exercises that day. Or better yet, TERRY was glad!
Ok, so everyone is in position and ready. Before even moving, Dianne starts to scream. Why? Who knows. Fear of her untimely demise? Maybe. Her hand is caught under the toboggan? Could be, but I’m not getting up and doing this all over so she’ll just have to suffer. Or is it that she just likes to scream on thrill rides? This is the most likely choice. But I don’t care that she’s screaming because I have Sherri behind me to muffle the sound between us. Poor Sherri. (I know the name of a good audiologist if you need it.) Someone gives us a push and we’re off. Terry, up front, sitting comfortably, enjoying the ride and the scenery that goes whooshing by her, totally unaware of what is happening behind her. Dianne starts off screaming at the top of her lungs, then halfway through, her screams subside and fade into the distance in my head. 100 mph…65 mph…35 mph…10mph…and then we come to a complete stop somewhere out in the darkness. Like women, we all start to giggle. “Hey Dianne, wasn’t that fun?...Dianne?” Poor Dianne had fallen off halfway down the hill! The screaming in my head hadn’t subsided but rather it was from leaving her in the dark a quarter of a mile back on the hill. If you want to know what it sounded like, click here.
The hill itself was perfect for the crowd. It was steep enough to be a thrill and not too long that you felt like it was too long of a walk back. It was fun for the kids who held onto each other’s tubes, four in a row, and twirled all the way down the hill (with the assistance of the Twirlmaster, Chris.)
Now, I know that some people need to go to Suicide Hill at the golf course for the “drama”. Not me. We had all the drama we could handle when the kids were at the bottom of the hill and all the parents were at the top and one kid yelled from the darkness, “Jaden is hurt!” Panic ensued. All the parents ran down the hill to see what happened. Karen and I stayed at the top of the hill, guarding the things (the flashlight, my soda, the brownies) from coyotes. What? It’s not that we didn’t care what happened to Jaden. I just think both of us couldn’t run down the icy hill without causing more “drama”, and by that I mean, falling on our asses. We did contemplate riding the toboggan down the hill to come to the rescue. But both of us pictured losing control and knocking some parents out on the way down as they ran to Jaden’s aid. Like a bowling ball knocking over pins. No. It was best that we stayed at the top and showed our support by yelling, “Is she alright?”
When it was determined that she would live, the kids headed back up the hill to go down again. At this point, we had been there probably an hour and a half. It was around 8:30. Karen and I stood there in the pitch blackness as it had been the whole time we were there. As her kid was making it up the hill, Karen yelled to her child, “Come on. Hurry up. It’s getting dark.” This cracked me up. (Again, I can't say enough about those kegels!)
The kids took a few more runs and then we decided to call it quits. We all walked back to our cars. Some of us had not had dinner so we started tossing around ideas of where we could grab a bite to eat and get a drink. The air was getting crisp and it was cold. Since the activities of walking up hills caused some of us to work up a sweat, we hadn't felt the cold while sledding. But standing in the parking lot, being all wet from the snow that had melted into our clothes, it was evident the obvious choice of where to go to eat was Chili’s. Get it? Chilly…Chili’s? Never mind.
So everyone got in their cars. I got in mine and tried to start it up. Remember the head lights on the hill idea? Yeah. Battery dead. Ugh! Mike and my other friend Diane (For ease of keeping a distinction between Dianne and Diane, I’ll just refer to Diane with one "n" as Super Delegate.) (Don’t ask.) So Super Delegate pulls her car up along side mine. Mike, the only man left since Chris and Mark bailed and went home, hooks up the jumper cables. After several tries, the van finally started.
We all met up at Chili’s. Being all tired, hungry, thirsty, cold and wet, Chili’s took on a lodge-like ambience, as if we had spent the day skiing and we were now in a lodge. The only thing missing was a fireplace. Who needs to go to Vancouver? we have Montville!
The conversation was easy flowing and interesting. The girls did a review of the best spas in the area, all secretly wishing they were getting massages instead of sitting in Chili’s. Mike told us of fluctuAsians, (spelling intentional). Also, the downsides to owning an ambulance company, about how some people continually try to commit suicide and don’t succeed and how frustrating it is. I didn’t say it at the time, but maybe he should start referring them to go sledding at Suicide hill?
To wrap up what was a perfect evening in my opinion (we had fun, laughed, we ate and drank, most importantly, nobody got hurt! Does it get any better than that?), in Mike’s generous fashion, he picked up the tab for all of us, which was unnecessary but extremely nice of him. This act of kindness will ensure Mike and Terry’s spot at the next wild and crazy idea I come up with. The rest of the folks are still debatable. (Just kidding)
It was a great night and I hope everyone had fun. I know we did.
My Kaneclusion: Some things are better unplanned. It’s nice sometimes to come up with ideas spur of the moment and just go with it. It’s even better when someone else comes up with a fun idea and then invites us! Reciprocation is always appreciated! The kids are only young once. Let’s keep the memories coming!
I'll always remember this night. - Jaden McNally