In January of 2010, I bruised or broke my tailbone while sledding and spent that entire winter in pain. I couldn't go sledding or ice skating or skiing. I couldn't do anything but sit gingerly on the couch and look out the window at the cold, grey sky and pray for Spring. I still feel like I'm 20 on the inside but the fact that I still cannot sit comfortably on a hard chair for any length of time is a constant reminder that I am getting older and my body is not as resilient as it used to be.
This week, my kids asked me to take them sledding and I complained about the cold but eventually agreed to take them and we dressed in our warmest clothes, grabbed the sleds and headed to the park.
I hadn't been sledding since that fateful day two years ago and, honestly, I was scared.
Most kids in our neighborhood had returned to school. The park was quiet and snow was gently falling and I was looking down at my boots and thinking about steep, icy hills and gritting my teeth. Then, my daughter grabbed my hand and said, "Look mama! Look at the way the snow is sticking to the evergreens. It's so beautiful." I stopped and looked up and she was right. The trees were dusted in white and the park was a picture perfect postcard of winter.
I smiled, "You're right. It is beautiful." She pulled on my hand and led me on towards the hill but she had succeeded in distracting me from my thoughts.
Not surprisingly, Miguel chose the steepest hill and threw the sleds down. I looked down, traced the slope, noticed a big dip in the middle, saw an ice ridge at the bottom and pictured all the possible places where things could go wrong and we could get hurt.
"I don't know, honey. Look at that ridge at the bottom and -"
"It'll be fine! Come on!"
He jumped onto his sled and took off. I could tell from his speed that the hill was icy and I watched as he flew down, jumping over the ice ridge and coming to a stop right before the lake.
"YOUR TURN!" he yelled to Zeca and I at the top.
I climbed onto the back of the sled and Zeca nestled herself between my legs. We put our legs up, grabbed the handles and pushed off. We took off and suddenly the sled turned and we were going down the hill, at high speed, backwards. I panicked. I tried to dig my hands into the snow to turn us but the snow just sprayed our faces. I just kept thinking, "Where is the lamp post? Where is that ice ridge?" I couldn't see anything and then we hit the ice ridge and tumbled off the sled onto our backs.
We were both fine.
I looked at Zeca and said, "I don't like going backwards." She said, "Neither do I." She decided to take the sled and start in the middle of the hill. Miguel asked me to return to the top and go down with him.
We trudged to the top, got into position and started down. Again, we turned backwards and I dug my hands and feet into the snow and it sprayed our faces and we spun our way to the bottom of the hill.
"Why did you dig in?! You sprayed us with snow!"
"I'm done. I'll watch."
They went up and down the hill for awhile and then decided that they were ready to go home and, as I stood up to go, Miguel said, "Mom, I think you should go down one time by yourself. From the top."
I shook my head no and headed up to go home.
He looked at me and said, "What happened? You used to be the best at this stuff."
"I got hurt and I got scared."
He walked over to me and handed me the sled, "Sometimes, you have to face your fears. If you don't, you might never try again."
I stood there for a minute, staring at him and then I took the sled and headed to the top. When I reached it, I knelt on the sled and looked down at the bottom where my two colorful dots waited and I pushed off. I started to turn but touched the toe of my boot gently behind me (a tip from Miguel) and I was headed straight down once again. I flew past the lamp post, I glided over the dip and I went over the icy ridge before coming to a stop near the lake. I jumped up and threw my hands in the air and screamed triumphantly. The kids ran over and I said, "That was a good run, right?" They hugged me tight and said, "Yeah mom. That was a good one."
With that, we took our sleds and climbed the hill and headed home. The afternoon had given me snow-covered trees, the excited chatter of the kids, a small hand in mine, and the knowledge that I'd do anything for my kids and that, in doing so, I do so much for myself.