The park across the street from our new place features a perfect little kid sledding hill: the kind of wide, medium sized knoll that starts off steep but flattens gradually to ease the little ones' toboggans to a gentle stop.
Contrast this with the backyard of my childhood, which alternately entertained and injured my brother, sister and me during our formative years. That hill had (and still has, of course) a short, steep drop that could rocket your sled at speeds not unlike those routinely clocked on an ice luge, then slam it to a halt in one of three places: a swampy ditch, a stone wall or a big tree. I tended to opt for the tree, as it had more give that the rocks and there was no chance of falling through the ice into semi-frozen muck.
A couple of weeks ago, when we had a big snowfall, the Grape had a nasty cold that kept us indoors. So when we got a couple of paltry inches of the white stuff this weekend, I decided it was high time to try out his new sled. Perhaps we'd meet friends at the park. Then we'd return inside for hot chocolate, red faced and delighted from a full afternoon in the great outdoors.
The Grape would laugh with delight as R. and I took turns sliding down the snowy hill with him. He'd charge back up to go again, too eager to sit in his sled and be towed. Maybe we'd even remember the camera to chronicle this high point of his second winter.
That's how it went in my head.
Here's how it went for real:
1 p.m.: Lunch is finished. The Grape is changed, well rested and ready to play. I add a sweater and pants on top of his long underwear. He cooperates gamely until he notices his snowsuit lurking behind me.
1:02 p.m.: The Grape wriggles out of my grasp and attempts to hide in a kitchen cabinet. R. calls from the patio that he has located string for the sled, but he needs scissors. I remove the Grape from the cabinet, take the scissors to R. and launch a search for one of the Grape's socks, which somehow became lost during phase one of preparation. I remove the wayward sock from Lila the Dog's teeth. Lila, sensing something fun is about the happen, commences jumping all over my back as I try to wrangle the Grape's legs into his snowsuit.
1:o4 p.m.: Shove Lila onto patio. Make second failed attempt to apply snowsuit to child, who is now crying in protest, and claiming (falsely) that he has pooped. Place child on dog's bed, employ arms and knees to wrestle him into snowsuit. Promise him, in best happy mommy voice ever, that this outing will be really, REALLY fun. Feel sweat percolating under own sweater. Zip Grape's snowsuit shut, then pause to remove a layer of own clothing.
1:11 p.m.: Grape removes his hat and shoves it behind the couch as I manage to wrangle one of his boots into place. Call R. to hold down child for application of remaining boot. Retrieve hat from behind sofa. Launch search for mittens. Locate mittens out on patio, in Lila's teeth. Lila realizes we want what she has. R. releases the Grape and reapplies his own boots to chase dog around tiny patio. Dog relinquishes mittens. Grape stops crying when he notices we're bringing the dog along.
1:17p.m.: Two adults manage to place mittens over one crying child's hands. R. harnesses dog while I launch frantic search for own mittens. The Grape, bundled in four layers, starts to sweat.
1:21 p.m.: Everyone is finally ready. We step outdoors. Grape eyes sled suspiciously and announces he is thirsty. I remove boots, go to kitchen and retrieve his sippy cup. The Grape pushes his drink away with disdain. "Done!" he squeals before it touches his lips.
1:25 p.m.: We cross the street and enter the park. Lila, who normally heels beautifully, takes one whiff of the carnival atmosphere at the sledding hill and commences running around R. as if he has morphed into a Maypole. R. disentangles self from leash. Dog escapes, runs like a banshee on speed around the park.
1:28 p.m.: Borrow treats from innocent bystander and re-leash dog. I sit in the sled and R. places the Grape in my lap.
The Grape howls as if he's being hacked with an axe.
Undeterred, R. smiles broadly, counts down from three, gives us a push and off we go. The Grape stops crying as we reach the bottom. I cheer silently to myself; maybe he's figured out this is fun. No such luck. As soon as we extricate ourselves from the sled, his snow-booted legs fail him and he falls on his face in the snow. He bawls again and spits ice crystals from his teeth. Bystanders, in a stage whisper, consider calling social services. I scoop up my crying child and wonder aloud whether we should at least take a picture of him in his sled. R. looks at me like I'm clinically limited, fibs and says he forgot the camera.
1:29 p.m.: R. and I drag Grape to top off hill so he can see how much fun the other kids are having. A very cute little girl pushes off gleefully, then somehow careens off her sled headfirst. Splits lip. Screams, cries, blames her younger brother (who was thirty feet away at the moment of impact), demands to go home. The Grape sniffles in pretend sympathy, whips up extra-large tears for dramatic effect. R. and I tote him home, shoulders slumped in defeat. Lila looks up at us questioningly: All that for this? R. advises dog to keep her sarcasm to herself, asks if we have any beer, and whether it's too early to consume one.
1:33 p.m.: I fret that we have a cold weather wimp on our hands. How can this be? I'm half Finnish, for God's sake. Is the Grape going to be a bad Finn? As if to answer my question, he crawls into my lap with a book.
Its title: Beach Babies Wear Shades. He coos contentedly while we flip though the pages showing sandcastles and Caribbean sunsets. As the Grape babbles appreciatively at the picture of a boy and his dog splashing in the waves, R. asks whether seventeen months is too young to understand the concept of vacation porn.
The Grape turns the page and points excitedly to a picture of a kid napping on a beach blanket. I gaze out the frosty window at his sled and dream about swooping breathless down the snowy hill.
I suppose there's always next year.