Snow at Twilight

Snow at Twilight

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Snow at Twilight

Your day goes the way the corners of your mouth turn.

Anonymous

The sky had been gray all day, and now it was getting darker. Four feet of fresh snow lay over our town, a small city in a southern state that usually doesn’t see a foot of snow all at one time, all winter long.

This was an unusual snow, a big snow, to which we had awakened that morning, and which had taken all day to accumulate. Anticipating it, the city had closed schools, and CJ and I had watched through the morning as showers of small grainy flakes were interrupted by windy swirls of large ones. By late afternoon, our mailbox was nearly drifted under and neither foot nor tire tracks disturbed the plane of snow we could see out the front window.

We decided to go sledding. Twilight was falling, but the snowfall had stopped, and the air was perfectly still. Bundled and booted, CJ and I skidded his new red plastic snow saucer behind us down the unplowed streets toward the sledding hill at the neighborhood park.

Slow work it was. Each boot fall cut a fresh break in the snow. We were the only ones out there.

But our snow hill is worth it. A nearly vertical drop that terminates in an open soccer field, it’s about fifteen feet from the top of the hill to the wide flat below. The next day would surely see it crawling with kids, while moms in minivans drank coffee from carry-mugs and visited along the residential street at its crest.

“We’re gonna have fun,” I encouraged my six-year-old as he did his best to power himself through snow that reached, at times, to his thighs. We had to move with as much determination as the snow would allow, or dusk would overcome us before we got there.

But we never got to the snow hill. At least, not both of us.

Children’s voices came to us as we approached a side street where a friend of CJ’s lives. “Hey Mom, it’s Kyle,” CJ said. “I want to play with him.”

Naturally, a friend one’s own age is far more fun than the mom with whom you’ve been cooped up all day. And Kyle’s driveway slopes; that was hill enough for a couple of little boys and Kyle’s plastic toboggan. Kyle’s mom said she was happy to have CJ come play for an hour before dinner.

So there I was, halfway to the sledding hill, but without my companion. I could have turned around and gone home to a house made quiet for the first time all day. But I didn’t want to stop. And that’s when I realized that taking CJ to the big hill was my excuse for going there myself.

So I continued.

Four teenage boys were the only ones at the park when I arrived. No other moms, no other kids. Mostly the boys were hanging around and jiving each other. But every so often, three boys watched as a fourth took a snowboard run down the side of the hill.

I might as well have been from another time zone, as little in common as I had with these boys in their neon fleece vests, tasseled knit caps and nylon ski suits. My old sweats and ancient peacoat were no match for fashion, and CJ’s unadorned red saucer was a paltry counterpart to the logo-adorned snowboards they carried.

Together, the boys had dragged a tractor tire halfway up the hill, from the playground below where it usually functions as a climbing toy for children. Together, they had packed snow over and around it, to create a mogul for their snowboard runs. And individually, they tried to outdo each other as their snowboards hit the jump and went airborne.

Slyly, they eyed me. What could a mother possibly be doing at the snow hill without a child? I began to wonder about this myself as I folded my forty-one-year-old frame into a first-grader’s snow saucer to push off. I hadn’t bent my body into these angles in a dozen years or more.

If I end up spraining something, it serves me right, I thought.

But the saucer hadn’t yet cut a gully into the snow, so my unhurried first run really required pushing my way down the hill. I hadn’t injured any body parts when I reached bottom, but I hadn’t really gone very fast. It was going to take another run or two before the saucer would gain any speed.

I picked up the saucer, trudged back to the top of the hill and learned afresh that no step routine at the gym matches the effect of taking oneself up a deeply snow-banked slope. But the second saucer run was more like it.

On the third run, my saucer sped down the hill and went a distance across the soccer field before stopping.

Snow spray against my face refreshed it better than any fancy water spritzer at the cosmetics counter. My lungs filled with air that felt absolutely clean.

On the fourth run, the saucer’s lip caught some snow on the way down and flipped me upside down into the soft powder. This is it, I thought, the moment I will have to explain to everyone from my neck brace. But instead, I found myself laughing out loud, sprawled on my back in the snow. My own victory whoops accompanied runs five and six.

The teenagers may have thought I had lost my mind. But no, instead I had found something else I had misplaced through my years of career advancement, motherhood and the advent of my forties: the freedom of going really fast through thin air.

It was nearly dark when I left the hill and made it back to Kyle’s house for CJ. My son looked me over: my snow encrusted pants, wet gloves and flushed face. “What were you doing, Mom?” he asked.

“Me?” I answered. “I took myself sledding.”

Maggie Wolff Peterson

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