When I grew up, we owned the neighborhood sledding hill. Kids from far and wide would flock to our back pasture. We'd close the gate to keep the animals near the barn, drag out our sleds, and face the hills.
Our pasture offered a variety of possible paths ranging from the long gentle diagonal toddler-friendly run that no one over the age of six would even consider using to the 45 degree angled craggy slope we called Suicide Hill for the brush, rocky outcrops, and numerous drops.
We weren't supposed to sled down Suicide Hill.
We all talked about it, as if we had done it. Once every few years, the resident alpha teenager would make the attempt to go down Suicide Hill. Magically, each time, the sled would end up to the right of Suicide Hill on the steep, bumpy, smoother run.
Our best sled was the toboggan. Two, three, four, five people would pile on it, creep to the crest of the hill, and let fly. The toboggan went further than any other sled: down the hill, over the wide gulch, and up the minor hill towards the old woodpile that was home for field mice, voles, and other small rodents.
We also had a battered saucer, that still could spin you round and round as you were hurtled towards the bottom of the hill, and my mom's metal runner sled from when she was a girl. Over the years we had assorted plastic sleds, but they never held up to the hurly-burly of a pasture hill.
Many of these sleds offered ... brakes. Brakes! It's sacrilege! You don't brake when you sled! You lean. You cover your eyes. You duck your head. You bail out. You don't brake.
When I was about 10, we had one of those monster storms (several snow people on the front yard, a snow castle, with seats carved out of snow, no school for days, and lots and lots of hot cocoa) that kids dream about. We built snow forts on the hill and had a good old fashioned snowball fight.
We all had the dream of nailing someone with a snowball as they went sledding between our forts, but even when our baser instincts overcame our innate training to be good, it was awfully hard to time the impact of our snowballs in flight and their sleds in rapid descent.
Once we grew tired of dragging sleds up the hill, arguing over who was going to use what sled, or felt the cold clamminess of winter on the bare skin beneat all of our layers, we'd drag the sleds to the top of the hill, hang them on the fence, lean them against the shed, or abandon them next to the driveway, and head for the kitchen porch.
We'd stomp up the stairs to shake the snow from our boots, and jump up and down on the porch to loosen the snow from our caps, gloves, jackets or pants. My mother or father would come out with the broom and sweep us from head to foot, and we'd begin to shed layers- coats, gloves, hats, sweaters.
We'd head for the area just inside the kitchen door, where our boots and socks and leggings would come off and be scattered on radiators throughout the house or piled into the dryer. We'd get swept again, and step over to the kitchen table with towels and blankets and new, dry clothes, and drink hot chocolate, eat oranges, and play games.
I loved snow days.
My father is a climatologist, and our neighbor dispatched the salt trucks, sand trucks, and plows. Our road was always clear, and whenever it seemed there'd be a big storm, the phone'd ring for the news: Would the storm close schools? Would Jimmy be up and dispatching before dawn? Were we going to see any accumulation?
When I got older, my father taught me how to drive in snow and ice, for which I am profoundly greatful. I can remember the first time I did a donut. I was 16, and my friend Kate was stranded at Ash Lawn. I had picked her up and was heading back off Jefferson's mountain to 20, when we just... spun.
It was a perfect 360 degree spin, and no one else was around, so I just drove away.
Later, during the winter of 1996, as I drove home through a fast-falling snowstorm, I saw the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in Winter: a majestic buck, his antlers dark against a purple sky dotted with the white confetti of snow. He stared into my eyes as the does and young deer glided accross the road in front of me.
When they had safely crossed, and the small green car had shown no signs of threat, he suddenly leapt after his clan, and joined them in the woods.
I love the snow. On Sunday, even as lousy as I felt, I shrugged on my boots, wrapped my head in the red scarf, tossed on extra sweaters, and clomped off my patio to stand in my little yard. Large lacy snowflakes covered my head like a mantilla, and gathered in the crooks of trees, and piled deep on the ground.
We had eight inches on top of the two leftover from the previous storm, and I really wanted to make a snowman, but I trundled back in and took a hot bath, and crawled back into bed.