Every adult who grew up anywhere that had the slightest bit of snowfall remembers the definitive sledding hill of their youth.
Mine was at the end of my block; a curving slope that ended on the next street up.
We all took our sleds - wood with metal runners - to the top of the hill for the run down. There was a rumor that soaping your runners made for a faster run but I never remember testing that theory, as my mother wouldn’t “waste” soap for such an endeavor.
There were about thirteen boys and two girls in our gang. One of the girls had blonde Shirley Temple curls and always boasted that she had once won a baby beauty contest down the shore. Her mother claimed that we picked on her when we were sledding, so whenever she was there her mother would stand at the bottom of the hill guarding her daughter.
I don’t remember having to stop for cars, but they must have been there at least when our fathers came home from work.
We sledded until it was so dark that the streetlights went on and our mothers began to yell for us to go home. Our wool coats and leggings with zippers on the bottom would be soaked, our mittens hanging off our mitten clips, and clots of snow embedded around our wrists. The metal fasteners on the front of your galoshes would be encrusted with frozen snow. If your nose began to run you wiped it off on your rough cold wet sleeve. The style of your sledding outfit could depend on whether your older siblings were boys or girls.
When you finally got home and leaned your sled against the house, you undressed just inside the kitchen door so you didn’t melt all over the house and the smell of wet wool pervaded the kitchen. Your face and your hands were red from the cold and droplets ran off your eyelashes and your mother brought an old towel for you to wipe off your wet fringe of hair.
A few years ago, in the spring, I happen to be near the town where I grew up. I made it a point to ride through my old neighborhood and took a picture of the sledding hill.
The hill was a lot bigger when I was sledding on it – way longer and a lot steeper. Honest. Or maybe it just looks different when it is covered with snow...