16. The BOEPAD Club

16. The BOEPAD Club

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.”

~Robert Byrne

There I stood, silent and alone on top of the hill, taking it all in.

The moonlight bounced off the snow, lighting up the basin before me as if it were daytime. But it wasn’t. Not even close. It was late Christmas Eve. And instead of sleeping, my family was out in the Idaho cold, risking our lives in the name of “fun.”

The snow crunched under me as I hopped from one foot to the next. I wasn’t cold. I was full of fear. The kind of fear that makes you feel like you might throw up.

Our favorite sledding run stretched for what seemed like miles down the basin. We called it The Basin of Excruciating Pain and Death, and it seemed determined to live up to its name. It had bested every member of my family except me, but I knew my time was coming. BOEPAD wouldn’t rest until all of us had fallen.

My dad, my sisters, and my husband, Mike, all stood at the base of the hill holding their sleds. Battered, beaten, and quite literally bruised, my family encouraged me.

“It’s not bad,” said Dad. He was lying. He had twisted his ankle on his first run of the night.

“Don’t be scared,” said Mike, leaning on his sled, favoring his good knee. He had injured the other one riding his favorite sled, a skinny orange one he called “Dreamsicle.”

“C’mon, Jessie, just do it!” called my sisters. Gwen, the baby, had just run into the pine tree that stood in the middle of our run. (“A mere obstacle,” my dad had said.) Bethany had hit her head so hard after going off a jump that we were convinced she had suffered a concussion.

And yet, despite their injuries, they stood there encouraging me, goading me. They all belonged to the BOEPAD Club, a club I was scared to join. I did feel a little left out, though. And this was where I could earn my stripes.

“It’s fun,” they said in a kind of unison that made my skin crawl. I knew BOEPAD had brainwashed them.

My stomach was sinking. I had been lucky on my other runs, but I knew my luck was running out, and fast. My gut told me that this run, on a little blue disk, was going to be my undoing. I was convinced I could feel the basin breathing, waiting to bring me down.

“I’m coming up!” yelled Gwen, fed up with my stalling. “We’ll go down together.”

Despite her crash into the pine tree, she showed no fear. I couldn’t understand it. It had to be the brainwashing. No normal person would want to sled again after hitting a tree.

“Just do it, Jessie,” I said out loud, trying to motivate myself.

Gwen had reached me and was now physically pushing me onto my sled. She held it while I sat down, crossing my legs like a pretzel. The disk was barely big enough for me, and I suddenly laughed out loud at the absurdity of trying to pile two people on it, especially two adults. With the skill of a crafty veteran, she jumped into my lap just as the sled started its trip down the hill.

“If I don’t make it, you can have my Christmas presents,” I told her.

“Done,” she said with a laugh. She didn’t know I was serious.

Our ride started slowly. Gwen entwined her long legs with mine and wrapped her arms around my neck. I could feel the sled start to pick up speed. Terror seized me, exacerbated by the fact that Gwen had started clutching at my head and was completely blocking my vision. She was laughing and screaming. I was just screaming. Our flimsy plastic sled was sliding down the mountain while spinning in circles. I was disoriented, blinded by my sister’s arms, and completely at the mercy of BOEPAD.

Suddenly, I felt weightless. We had hit a bump, the same bump that had orchestrated Bethany’s concussion. With my sister still clumsily wrapped around me, I felt our sled slipping away. Panicking, I desperately clutched at its handles and braced myself for the landing that I knew would come.

It came with a bang, snapping our heads back with force. We were still sliding, still screaming and still clutching each other, but something was different. Something was colder. Horrified, I realized we had completely lost our sled. And the speed of our sliding was somehow pulling my pants down!

“Gwen! My pants!” I gasped, digging one hand into the snow in an attempt to stop while trying to unwrap her arms from around my head with the other.

“What?” she yelled, unable to hear me over the sound of the wind whipping our faces.

“My PANTS! They’re DOWN!” I yelled, feeling frantic. My behind was cold and hurting more every second.

She unwrapped an arm from around my face. She could see the tears in my eyes, partly from the pain and partly from the embarrassment of realizing that I was sledding down the hill in front of everyone with my pants falling off.

Gwen tumbled off me, sending us both into an awkward sprawl. With our sled nowhere in sight and my pants askew, Gwen and I lay motionless on the snow, gasping for breath. Fearing the worst, our family ran to us. I desperately tried to pull up my pants, but my hands wouldn’t cooperate.

“Jessie, look at your butt!” Bethany cried in dismay when they finally reached us.

Alarmed, I jumped up and rapidly turned in circles like a dog chasing its tail, trying to see what she was talking about. My backside stung, and even without a good view I could see little red cuts running up and down my behind. The sleds offered protection from the encrusted snow, and my bare skin had suffered without our disk. Little trails of blood were creating a bloody road map on my backside.

At the sight of my injuries, my family broke out in hysterical laughter. Gwen rolled on the ground with laughter, holding her sides. My dad attempted to be a responsible parent and asked if I was hurt, but quickly collapsed in chuckles next to Gwen without waiting for a reply. Mike laughed so hard that he had a coughing fit. And Bethany, desperate to clean up the blood, shoved huge handfuls of snow down my pants.

I was shaken and in pain, but couldn’t help but join in the laughter. BOEPAD had bested me and managed to take my dignity—as well as most of the skin on my behind.

But I wasn’t angry. I had lived to open my Christmas presents, and received the best present of all—I was finally a part of the BOEPAD Club.

~Jessie Miyeko Santala

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