The last weekend in January I realized that I hadn't been sledding this year. Sledding at light speed down a steep hill at least once a year is one of the things I have to accomplish or the year feels incomplete. I quickly dropped everything and gathered enthusiastic boys and gear and roared off to the nearest snowy hill.
One downhill run and its accompanying rush satiates me in my old age and I soon trudge uphill breathless, flushed and content. Besides, my true purpose during sledding is to staunch the flow of blood that inevitably pours fourth from one boy or another.
Things always begin well. My sons wore varying degrees of sensible winter attire ranging from a fore thinking teen in multiple layers to a child (who shall remain nameless) who never wears anything other than nylon shorts and t-shirts (lest he happen upon a winter basketball game unprepared). The three lined up for a traditional and reasonably safe “on-your-butt, facing forward sled slide down a hill.” After only one conventional run,however, things rapidly morphed into stunts resembling Evil Knievel on ice.
As I watched, a huge mountain of snow was rapidly built and my sons joined forces and labored with never before seen physical displays of energy and enthusiasm. The boys gathered vast quantities of snow and pounded the mounds into dangerous slopes worthy of extreme downhill skiing.
Within minutes the mound was deemed absolutely injurious and potentially lethal enough and I positioned myself to view the landings and to gage whether the inevitable injuries were emergency room quality. After 16 years of three sons, my blood pressure rarely jumps a degree in casualty situations unless true carnage is evident. I've witnessed hundreds of stitches, staples, contusions and abrasions- many brother on brother inflicted. I do show more concern for injuries than my husband, however. This same man, who when witnessing our first sons' newborn shots, grew teary, turned pale and had to leave the room has now grown disturbingly blasé regarding our sons' bodily safety. When one of our children roars in screaming with blood spurting, he will without fail, glance at the wound and then utter his stock injury advice: “Rub some dirt on it.” Sam: “Dad, come quick! I think I can see some of James' bones sticking out!” Dad: “Rub some dirt on it.” Thus, I feel more comfortable personally attending events where fractures and contusions are likely.
I stood in my perpetually tense condition while one boy after the other tried out the slope. For several heart stopping seconds, huge air was achieved. Inevitably, the landing was hard and spectacular wipe outs followed. My attention was briefly diverted to some girls playing quiet snow games like making snow angels and building snow houses ( mystifyingly tame pursuits inconceivable to my boys), and when I turned back Ben, my 6'4, 14 year old flew past while standing upright and shot down the hill doing about 100 mph. All was well until half way down. His unsecured feet abruptly lifted from the sled and he made a short lived but valiant running attempt to stay upright. Legs pistoling wildly, he couldn't continue the warp speed and with a last wild flail of the arms, began a painful looking downhill tumble. He came to a sudden halt, and lay face-up and unmoving at the bottom of the hill.
The rest of us assumed our customary stance of watching for signs of life and when there were none, his brother Sam chivalrously decided to slide down hill to check his brothers' vitals. As Sam sped past, Ben sat up at the same moment Sam's shot out his arm to stop himself. Face connected with nose and the eruption of blood was remarkable and refused to dry up.. As we trailed back to the car; a walk of a good quarter mile, we paused occasionally to remark on the vast trail of gore Ben had left in his wake. One face bloodied and bleeding, others bruised and contused, we grinned all the way home.