Being able to live a happy childhood is so rare and beautiful.
When you are growing up it’s hard to understand that the moments you live will grow into days and those days grow into months and someday, after all of that time, you become a person. You become a person that is made up of all of those moments in your life, and how you remember those moments shapes who you become. Those moments can be as simple as the first time you catch a snowflake on your tongue. It’s hard to feel snowflakes falling on a warm tongue, but for some reason, it’s not hard at all to feel the light tickling of snowflakes on eyelashes. It’s learning that snow under snow boots can sound like squeaking, crunching, slushing, or like nothing at all. It’s knowing that snowy nights are sleepy, purple, and covered in a blanket of silence.
It’s the taste of snowball, metal and wool. As a kid growing up in Colorado, I learned all of this. I also learned something even more important one snowy Colorado day. My moment is the shape of my childhood and is the memory of a sled ride that lasted two blocks when I was five years old.I stood at the window of my kindergarten classroom watching the snow coat the cars outside, while the classes favorite episode of The Magic School Bus tumbled in the background of my ear.
I was fixated on drawing an assortment of shapes in the fog on the glass that my breath and the heater made. I kept drawing shapes on the window even after my little finger had become numb with the cold. Our principal, Ms. Ellis, had announced over the intercom that there would be a snow day before we even got through our writing lesson. I was busy trying to contain myself even though I felt I might be sick from excitement. My classmates on the other hand, were becoming unhinged with enthusiasm having found that sleeping with a wooden spoon and wearing their pajamas backwards had worked; even if it’s magic had come a little late in the day. The teacher resorted to setting up stations of arts and crafts which made the room fill with the smell of finger paints and crayons which always give me a headache if not circulated well. I opted not to participate and dressed myself in my oversized pink coat, purple wool mittens and white boots that dragged tracks of black slush everywhere I went.
This was fairly premature as I felt like I was being suffocated by the heat, which made me even more antsy. When I looked out the window again I saw what I had been waiting for.When I stepped outside, I was entangled in the snow that was still blowing sideways. The cold and wind worked together to hit me hard. I squinted my eyes as the tiny crystals of ice scratched my face and made it burn. Through the gray haze of the snow I could see my grandparents and mother, finally.
Smiling, they held the yellow rope of my sled. My little wooden sled with the tall curved back had been covered with battery operated christmas lights and it blinked against the white wonderland. I was immediately embraced by their warm hugs. The second I was released from their kisses and squeezes, I immediately began getting to freeze as the wind penetrated my coat. I was lovingly snatched off of my feet and heaped into my little wooden sled. I sank and giggled into bundles of blankets in layers and the pillow from my bed set to keep my tiny back padded for that two block long journey. My mom quickly tied a green scarf snugly around my neck and chin so that the only parts of me that were allowed to momentary feel the cold were my little eyes and nose.
My grandmother had brought me a thermos of hot chocolate and I knew it had marshmallows on the top without having to ask. The almost too large thermos fought my hold with my mittens slipping against the metal. As we set off toward my house, the sled scratched against the salt that had been generously distributed on the sidewalks outside of school. The ride soon became smooth and I listened to my family laugh and talk. I was warm. The hot chocolate on the inside made up for my cold nose on the outside. My nose and my eyelashes were the only that parts of me that caught falling snowflakes. I leaned back against the sled and watched above as the tree branches that reached over the sidewalk became heavier with the dense packed snow, and limbs began to sag and creak with the weight.
For some reason, I turned around in my sled. I struggled to turn against the blankets to look behind us. I could see the tracks from my family’s footsteps getting smoothed by the rails of the sled. At the time it seemed so insignificant. Just a two block sled ride home on a snow day, but now I know that the sounds of flattened snow and laughter taught me the meaning of family and love.
This snow ride showed me what it is like being truly happy and what it’s like to feel the love of a devoted family. The endless love I have received has shaped the life of love I try to live thirteen years later. That day lives in my heart, in a place somewhere that is safe and whole. It is one of the few memories I have of a whole family and I am so happy that I am able to have that moment. Soon after this day, my grandmother died and it didn’t feel like my family was whole anymore. As I have gotten older, I have learned that my family is still whole and is still happy and warm.
I hope that I can find happiness in the little things in life so that I can be as happy as the five year old girl being pulled in her sled drinking hot chocolate, with marshmallows. I didn’t realize that it would be my last snow day like this, but it’s okay that I didn’t know. I lived in those moments; they didn’t feel weighted like they would have if I would have know. I got to have this day like one rare, beautiful snowflake.