A snowy hill, a sled and an unscripted winter morning.
Illustration by Pat Kinsella
The wind was brisk as friends and I plodded through crunchy snow to the top of the hill. A heavy snowfall during the night had ended and now in the morning light it appeared as though someone had sprinkled glitter across the accumulation. We blew into cupped hands to warm them as we surveyed the glistening slope.
Snow doesn’t fall often in Richmond and if it does it’s rarely deep. Today a good snow had finally come, so we had headed to Forest Hill Park with sleds in tow. We hoped to get in some rides that morning before crowds reduced the snow to slush, but already we heard muffled voices approaching from across the park.
A group of excited kids, probably half our ages, led two men and a woman in our direction. The children dragged sleds and pulled eagerly at the adults who were stepping through the fresh snow at a painfully slow pace. They said nothing, just sipped slowly from travel mugs, oblivious of the children’s urgency.
Eventually stopping beside us, the kids immediately split off from the three adults, their shouts and shrill cackles fading as they launched themselves downhill. The adults struggled to juggle discarded gloves and stocking caps tossed aside in the excitement. As the kids squealed in delight the adults stepped back quietly. Already impatiently checking watches, they stood motionless other than the irritated shifting of feet.
“Not staying long,” one man said determinedly to the other.
“Same here,” he responded. “Anyway, it’s Richmond. Snow will be gone by noon.”
“It’s too windy!” the woman snipped as she tightened her scarf.
The rosy-cheeked kids, having already taken several frosty rides, appeared at the top of the hill for another. I moved aside as the woman in the scarf took a few hurried steps towards one little boy to get his attention.
“Just one more time!” she said sternly, tightening her scarf again.
In spite of her warning, the exuberant gang managed several more uninterrupted runs, laughing all the while. On one return trip the little boy yelled over to the woman in the scarf. “Ride with us!”
She frowned a “no.” When the boy sailed down the hill she yelled after him, “Just one more time!”
Although my friends and I had arrived early hoping for a hill temporarily to ourselves, we were soon caught up in the frivolity of the young bunch. We challenged them to races and they laughed at our mishaps. We began to time our returns to the hilltop with theirs and noticed at each return one child or another inviting the adults to join. At first they hardly noticed the invitations, so intent on being miserable, but one by one the laughter won them over.
I watched the adults begin to grin as sleds jetted down the slope—after one hilarious collision at the bottom the three actually howled. Finally, their reluctance was fading.
“They’re having fun,” one man said to the other. “We might stay a little longer.”
“Same here,” the man responded. “It’s Richmond. They should enjoy the snow while it lasts.”
The woman casually touched her scarf. “It’s not bad since the wind died down.”
Drawn by the joyful whoops, the three drifted closer for a better view of the kids who now ran and belly-flopped onto their sleds to gain more speed in the already melting snow.
Minutes later as the sleds were being aimed downhill, one of the men, to the surprise of all, tossed aside his mug and rushed the kids. Hopping on the back of a sled, he startled one boy who shrieked with complete joy as the man’s momentum catapulted them both down the slope.
We all laughed. Next time, both men joined the kids.
“Just one more time!” the woman with the scarf yelled when the entire group slid away leaving her alone. Then, in spite of herself, she laughed as they zipped downhill. On their return she needed no invitation. She hopped onto a sled, pushed off and screamed all the way to the bottom. Adults and children, together, took several rides until they agreed that the best of the snow was gone.
When the giggling children dropped to the snowy ground to rest, I watched as the adults looked at each other in agreement, grabbed sleds, and headed once more for the slope. The kids held empty travel mugs and soggy gloves as they watched them slide down the now-slushy hill. When the exhausted adults returned, panting but smiling, the tired little boy stood up slowly from the snow. Worn out and sweating despite the cold, he called out to the woman in the scarf that he was ready to leave.
The woman looked at him, tightened her scarf, and yelled over her shoulder, “Just one more time!” And with that she sailed down the hill alone, scarf trailing behind in the chilly wind.