When Tara was 4 1/2 years old, Santa Claus delivered her first sled for Christmas. It was the coolest little red sled. It looked sleek and racy, with 2 white handles on each side for her to steer and brake with. She eagerly waited for lots of snow so that she could finally go sledding for the first time. And a couple of weeks after Christmas, she got her wish.
I bundled her up with long underwear, warm clothes, socks, boots and a head-to-toe snowsuit. She looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy! I put Tara, her little red sled, and a big thermos of hot cocoa and cups in the car and took her to the sledding spot me and my brothers had always used.
There is a long sloping hill off Flushing Road at the top of the golf course that is in the little valley by the Flint River just before you enter the city of Flushing. When my brothers and I were small, there were no houses but now there were several along the road with stone retaining walls between their backyards and the top of that long hill.
There was already a group of about 6 or 7 teenage boys sledding down that slope when Tara and I arrived. They had built a good sized ramp at the bottom of the slope to one side and we watched them for a few minutes sledding down and then flying off their ramp.
As I helped Tara get into her sled, showed her how to use the steering handles and how to pull back on them to brake and slow down, I anxiously eyed that ramp. It looked much bigger at the bottom of the slope now that we were right in front of it.
So I had Tara get out of her sled while I moved it over to the side away from the ramp. After she had climbed back in and said she was ready, I gave her a push, and zoom! her little red sled took off down the slope like a rocket.
The boys were shouting, “Look at that little kid go!” but to my horror, I watched as Tara somehow steered her sled right at that ramp. I yelled at her to pull back on the left handle so that she could steer away from it, but she kept speeding down that steep slope.
She zipped up that ramp and then she flew like a bird for what seemed like the longest time. Then she hit the ground, the sled skating one way, Tara sliding the other way, and then she lay still, not moving at all.
I started crying, slipping and sliding my way down the slope to get to her as fast as I could, convinced that I had just killed my little girl on her first sledding adventure. I kept yelling, “Tara, are you okay, are you okay?” And then just before I got to the bottom of the slope, without her moving even one finger, I heard her little voice say, “That was fun! Can I do that again?”
I started laughing hysterically from relief and when I got to her, I helped her up and hugged her and hugged her. Then I sternly asked her if she had deliberately steered her sled at that ramp. She said no, her sled had done it all by itself, but I swear there was a little Irish twinkle in her blue eyes. And then I thought, “So now I know why parents get gray hair!”
The boys were all laughing and smiling at her, telling her that they were proud of her for being such a brave little kid and they shouted with happy astonishment when she asked me again if she could sled up the ramp the next time. Tara was beaming from ear to ear with the biggest smile from all of their praise.
Tara had such a grand time on her first sledding adventure. The boys took her several times down the slope on their toboggans and she generously let them borrow her little red sled too. They all told her what a neat, zippy sled she had and that made her even more happy. We shared our hot cocoa with them too as we all enjoyed this great afternoon of sledding.
So Tara went zooming down the slope again and again, flying off the ramp like a little bird, while I waited at the top of the slope with my heart in my throat each time she flew. But I was smiling too because I was also remembering the many happy times that I had when I was little, sledding and tunneling and making angels in the snow. I was glad that Tara was having such a memorable winter time as well. We both fondly remember her little red sled, and especially the day when Tara turned my hair gray.