Hello, new year. I see you coming up over the horizon, sneaking in with the light of the sun, preaching hope and possibilities in an attempt to make us optimistic as we sit here under Christmas trees, eating leftover dip and pies, surrounded by gift boxes and stray wrapping paper, trying not to step on Barbies and Legos on our way back to the kitchen for something sweet.
I like the space after Christmas and before the new year, where nothing to me seems so urgent, maybe anything is possible and the most important task is to do something fun and non-productive.
At least that’s always been my goal in this space. And now that I can literally see my kids growing before my eyes, that whole fun thing seems more urgent than ever.
So it’s a good thing they’re easy to please. Get out the sleds and push them down a snowy hill, and you become the favorite parent. Get in that sled with them, and you’re the best mom in the world.
I get it. I remember being in that sled as a kid, Turtle Fur neck warmer pulled up over my nose, my beanie pulled down past my eyebrows and my Carhartt coveralls growing more high-water by the minute, plopped down in front of my similarly bundled dad, leaning back against his puffy barn jacket, looking down off the steep edge of our favorite sledding hill and wondering how far we’d go this time.
We were putting ourselves in the position to scream and laugh and blow snot out our noses and send tears down our frozen rosy cheeks, anticipating the epic and hilarious wreck that might ensue. Somehow seeing an adult holler and giggle and crash-land down that hill seemed to calm my fear about growing up, if only for those moments, living proof that you may outgrow your Carhartts, but you don’t have to outgrow everything.
Do you remember a time in your youth when you were caught in a moment you knew you would remember forever? Where you were suddenly aware that each passing hour was pulling you closer to the time in your life where you might dare say no to cannonballing into the deep, cold water of the lake on a late June day and opt to sit in a lawn chair instead? The horror.
For me it was during this in-between holiday, on a mild late December day when all the presents were unwrapped and we were trying out our new winter gear, maybe even a new sled. And then our neighbor showed up with his horse and toboggan and pulled all of us kids up and down the snowy road. And it all felt like magic then. I feel it now just remembering the snowy, dreamy scene and what it was like to think I was the luckiest kid in the world, wanting desperately to be trapped in this storybook version of childhood forever.
I suppose it was memories like this one, just a few hours out of the millions that make up a childhood, that built me into an adult who wanted to come back to this place and have the chance to be the adult on the other side of the magic equation.
And I’m not sure what these children of mine will remember when all their grown-up teeth come in and they take off down the road without me. I can’t micromanage that, just as I can’t will them to want to come back to this ranch that sent generation after generation off to ice skate on frozen stock dams and fling their bundled bodies down snowy hills. And I don’t know exactly what lessons will stick with them as they grow, but as the new year welcomes us, I vow to get into that sled with them and do what I can to help stop time…