Whenever there was something introduced to my spongy brain that emotion deemed hazardous, I would shove my nose in a book or a movie. I would color. I would build something. I would pretend to be a dragon in the backyard. THAT was where I sussed out a lot of my pain. Luckily I had kids my own age that were just as creative as I was and we would have epic fanciful adventures.
In the winter, we would pile snow into massive mountains to climb. Our mini Caradhras would entertain us until someone else brought a new tool and it magically changed. We were then tasked to break through the Deeping Wall of Helm’s Deep. Winter was spent doing snow related things, what with being raised in a New England town. Sledding, snowball fights and shoveling were a definite part of every child’s routine.
In my head however, the sled was my spaceship. Even though it felt like I was going down, I was going up with great speed and breaking through the atmosphere to float along the universe.
We used to always go to the same sledding spot. It was a hill relatively close to home, but mom would drive the van out and sit and wait, listening to music and reading. My brother and I would meet with our friends and run up the hill and careen down at lightning speeds, trusting gravity.
Imagine our surprise one day when we found that there was a frozen pond at the base of our hill. After stepping on it and hearing it slightly crack, someone confirmed that it was frozen completely. As an adult I realize how incredibly stupid that reasoning is. There needed to be something less dense underneath it in order for the cracking to even occur. At nine? It was perfect logic. Plus it meant I could still go sledding.
Blissfully ignorant to that concept, we all rushed up the hill, snow tubes and sleds in hand. I remember having this heavy plastic inner tube for pools that my parents had us double for sledding. It was solid purple on the bottom half and the top half was white with purple accented lines. The handles were thick and not wide enough to accept both my hand and my mitten when holding on to it. So I took off the mittens.
As any child figures out after their first time sledding, I knew that if you get a running start you go faster. I ran as fast as I could before hopping unto the donut shaped propulsion device. The moments down the hill can only be described as pure exhilaration laced with joy. You have very little to do with control and you have to accept that to truly enjoy yourself.
I enjoyed the hell out of it… Until I hit the pond at the bottom. I had seen several kids just slide completely over it. Apparently, the introduction of a chubby girl on an inner tube resulted in me reaching a dead stop at the very bottom of the hill. I couldn’t get out of the donut as I was wrapped up in forty-seven snowsuits.
The sound of cracking ice is terrifying, even if you know that it’s not that deep. Your brain knows exactly what is going to happen before it does and it goes through several different scenarios to send a bunch of fear through every inch of your body. You tense and brace for impact.
I assumed that I would be flung from my inner tube. I expected to be flung from my inner tube. What my brain failed to expect was that the pond was deeper than I anticipated. My tube cracked the ice, my weight shifted to one side, and I capsized. My face hit the frozen ground and the icy, dirty water kept me from passing out. I pushed myself out of the water and inhaled a bunch of chilled air.
Everyone shouted from above, asking if I was okay. I nodded and shook them off as I was coughed and sputtered. I had every intention of going again until I realized that lifting my arms was difficult and I was starting to feel really tired. So I started the trudge back to the van and realized that my head was starting to feel crunchy.
I pulled off my hat and winced as stands of my hair were frozen to it. I removed my gloves as they were so saturated they weren’t keeping me warm at all. I imagined that I was Luke Skywalker on Hoth, struggling to make it until Han rode in on a Tauntaun. Even though I spent a lot of time in my own little fantasy world, I knew that Harrison Ford was NOWHERE near me and I definitely needed to get to the van.
When it was finally in view I started screaming for my mom, but saw that she was engrossed in a book and most likely had music playing in the background. She’s also deaf in her left ear, so instead I thought about how warm it would be when I finally got there. It was so cold I was terrified that I would be walking and accidentally step on and shatter a toe. Yes, it most likely wouldn’t have happened. My head has a tendency of playing things out in grand fashion.
I finally got to the door and tried opening the side door and my fingers just stopped cooperating with me. Mr. Press was in the car next to us and jumped out and assessed the issue. He yanked my coat over my head and pulled the door open and shouted for my mom’s jacket. My mother practically vaulted over the seat and started stripping me out of my clothing. I was so cold and so tired I didn’t care that I was getting naked in front of my friend’s father.
I was burritoed up in my mom’s jacket and thrown into the passenger side and all vents were redirected to me. My mom asked Fred to drop my brother off when they were done and then sped back home.
You know those moments in movies where they try to speed up the parts of the story that are inconsequential but they show you that time has progressed? I’m referring to the “fade to black and then fade in to a new moment” effect. That was pretty much what was happening every time I closed my eyes.
My lids would droop and then I would open them and I was being held under a warm shower. I’d blink and then I was putting on pajamas. I’d blink and then I opened my eyes and I was sleeping on the side of my parents waterbed where the heater was and my mother informed me she had turned it to the max and I should just rest. She and my dad then woke me up every few hours.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure it could have been a lot worse.