As the nights get darker and Thanksgiving approaches, my thoughts have been turning more and more toward my family and my childhood. As an only child, I spent a fair bit of time with my grandparents in Scappoose, Oregon during school holidays, giving my parents a much needed break, and giving my grandparents time (perhaps too much time) with their only grandchild.
During spring break, a week with my grandparents usually meant lots of card games with Grandma and building hay forts in the barn. In the summer, it meant daily trips to Sauvie Island so I could swim in the Columbia River. In the winter, I would play with my new Christmas presents, but mostly, I would hope for snow.
Snow wasn’t all that common in Scappoose around the holidays, but sometimes a few flakes would fall. Even more rarely, enough snow would fall and stick to make it truly fun (for me, not my grandfather, who didn’t appreciate having to plow the quarter-mile long driveway‚ or the road, since the rural snowplows didn’t come to the top of the hill). For me, snow meant one thing: sledding.
The part of Eugene where my parents and I lived was completely flat, so sailing down a hill wasn’t an option, and neither of my folks were inclined to drag me along behind them as they walked (which to be fair, wasn’t much fun anyway). But my grandparents lived on 5 acres at the top of a hill, providing plenty of slopes to take the small Wooden Flyer down. Though Grandpa might have hated the inconvenience the snow caused him, he knew the joy it brought me, and so he would dutifully retrieve the sled from the loft of the barn and wax the runners for me the second it appeared the snow was going to stick around.
Turning me loose with the ancient sled, I’d fly down the porch steps‚ ignoring the admonition of “be careful, the steps are icy!” and straight to the top of the hill. I’d throw myself face down onto the sled and glide down the hill. Over and over I’d run back up (it wasn’t a big hill, to be honest) and go again, until I’d worn so many ruts in the snow it because impossible to get a good run. Both Grandma and Grandpa would check on me from time to time from the porch, and if there were cattle in the fields they too would benevolently watch over me.
The only time I was ever called in was when I’d built up a little too much speed and had to bail before I went face-first through a barbed-wire fence and into the water trough (steering was for wusses, and people who knew how). That incident scared my grandparents‚ and poor Stanley the cow‚ far more than it did me, but to their credit, they let me back out again right after lunch.
My grandparents sold that house‚ and probably the sled‚ about a decade ago, but I will always remember what it looked like covered in snow, and I’ll never forget the feeling of flying down a hill on the Wooden Flyer.
Girl Museum Inc.