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Veeder: Sledding party harkens to fond memories

It's warm enough to melt the snow off the tops of the hills, leaving them exposed and bald. Kids around here, after morning cartoons and chores, itch to take that new Christmas sled out to the top of the world, and send their bundled up bodies sc...

It’s warm enough to melt the snow off the tops of the hills, leaving them exposed and bald. Kids around here, after morning cartoons and chores, itch to take that new Christmas sled out to the top of the world, and send their bundled up bodies screaming down to land in a pile of laughs and limbs at the bottom. Because when it’s Saturday and you’re young, the whole day stretches out before you like an endless idea. And if you’re lucky, and the weather’s nice enough, you might convince your mom and dad to come along to find a good spot in the trees where the snows stays until May, to call the neighbors, to light a bonfire and bring the hot chocolate in a thermos, and call it a sledding party.
That’s what we always hoped for anyway, out here on the winter weekends when I was growing up. I would call up my best friend who lived up the hill along the highway, and we would report on the status of the household: Little sisters were getting antsy, breakfast was done and being put away, cows fed and our dads, who are also best friends, seemed like they were convinced - no more work today. Time to play. And when our dads were involved, it felt epic. Because that meant we wouldn’t just sled. We. Would. Sled. Like, they would make ramps at just the right point of the hill they spent the afternoon grooming and maintaining after each run, making sure that we caught a good amount of air once we made it to the bottom. And they would bring out the calf sled. And the tractor tire inner tube. And an assortment of shovels, and that one plastic snowboard-looking thing that no one could master. Anything that might get us down that steep path in a hurry. A few times we even got pulled back up the hill on a toboggan pulled by a horse. Really. And there were times we stayed out until the sun sunk below the horizon, and we had to play by the light of the moon and that campfire at the top where our moms huddled over coffee and conversation to keep warm and worried out loud about the safety of that ramp and the speed at which we were tackling it. But we didn’t worry. We crashed and raced back up that hill again, because that’s what you do in the winter. And so those were the memories we were running on when my best friend who, once again, lives up the hill on the highway called me last Saturday and asked “So, uh, do you wanna go sledding?” “Uh, yeah!” I said looking at my nephew who came over to spend the day with me. So I called my dad, and she called her dad and another set of neighbors, and we met at the old hill along the road, the one that cuts a nice wide path between the trees and down to the coulee below. I wondered as I held my nephew’s hand if my memories of epic sledding parties would translate now that I’m older, more fragile and nervous as we get when we grow up. I wondered, watching my friends’ children scream and screech as they flew down the trail being groomed by their grandpas and dads, if they would remember this the way we remembered being wound up and best friends, concerned with nothing but going faster and farther, crashing harder and laughing it off. Funny for as long as the days seemed back then, how quickly they ticked away to reveal this life, the one my best friend and I could see coming when we talked about it, sitting on top of hay bales and watching the empty highway. “We’re going to grow up and come back and be neighbors and raise our kids and never forget what it was like to be kids ourselves …” I remember saying it. And after the 47th trip down that hill with her children and my nephew, I think we’re making good on that promise out here in the chilly, slushy air of midlife in mid-winter. Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.It’s warm enough to melt the snow off the tops of the hills, leaving them exposed and bald. Kids around here, after morning cartoons and chores, itch to take that new Christmas sled out to the top of the world, and send their bundled up bodies screaming down to land in a pile of laughs and limbs at the bottom.Because when it’s Saturday and you’re young, the whole day stretches out before you like an endless idea. And if you’re lucky, and the weather’s nice enough, you might convince your mom and dad to come along to find a good spot in the trees where the snows stays until May, to call the neighbors, to light a bonfire and bring the hot chocolate in a thermos, and call it a sledding party.
That’s what we always hoped for anyway, out here on the winter weekends when I was growing up. I would call up my best friend who lived up the hill along the highway, and we would report on the status of the household: Little sisters were getting antsy, breakfast was done and being put away, cows fed and our dads, who are also best friends, seemed like they were convinced - no more work today. Time to play.And when our dads were involved, it felt epic. Because that meant we wouldn’t just sled. We. Would. Sled. Like, they would make ramps at just the right point of the hill they spent the afternoon grooming and maintaining after each run, making sure that we caught a good amount of air once we made it to the bottom.And they would bring out the calf sled. And the tractor tire inner tube. And an assortment of shovels, and that one plastic snowboard-looking thing that no one could master. Anything that might get us down that steep path in a hurry.A few times we even got pulled back up the hill on a toboggan pulled by a horse.Really.And there were times we stayed out until the sun sunk below the horizon, and we had to play by the light of the moon and that campfire at the top where our moms huddled over coffee and conversation to keep warm and worried out loud about the safety of that ramp and the speed at which we were tackling it.But we didn’t worry. We crashed and raced back up that hill again, because that’s what you do in the winter.And so those were the memories we were running on when my best friend who, once again, lives up the hill on the highway called me last Saturday and asked “So, uh, do you wanna go sledding?”“Uh, yeah!” I said looking at my nephew who came over to spend the day with me.So I called my dad, and she called her dad and another set of neighbors, and we met at the old hill along the road, the one that cuts a nice wide path between the trees and down to the coulee below.I wondered as I held my nephew’s hand if my memories of epic sledding parties would translate now that I’m older, more fragile and nervous as we get when we grow up. I wondered, watching my friends’ children scream and screech as they flew down the trail being groomed by their grandpas and dads, if they would remember this the way we remembered being wound up and best friends, concerned with nothing but going faster and farther, crashing harder and laughing it off.Funny for as long as the days seemed back then, how quickly they ticked away to reveal this life, the one my best friend and I could see coming when we talked about it, sitting on top of hay bales and watching the empty highway.“We’re going to grow up and come back and be neighbors and raise our kids and never forget what it was like to be kids ourselves …”I remember saying it. And after the 47th trip down that hill with her children and my nephew, I think we’re making good on that promise out here in the chilly, slushy air of midlife in mid-winter.Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

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