Just a Memory

Sledding down “toboggan lane,” to a winter’s day long ago.

One of the great pleasures of retirement in Maine are the winters. What! How could I possibly rationalize that view. Well, for me, it affords thinking time. Time to sit and ponder, stare at the ice drenched trees, and reminisce.

Today I’m sitting at my kitchen table thinking that my driveway would make an amazing toboggan shoot. I loved to toboggan as a kid. Never mattered to me that I was always either stuck in front or the very end. In front, you got the full-face inundation of crunchy ice crystals. In the rear you could easily get bounced off or dragged. Either way it never seemed to bother me that my older sister and her friends had ulterior motivations. Lugging that big, curled log back up the hill over and over and over again never seemed burdensome. My boots would get full of snow. After a couple of hours my gloves were soaked, heavy from the wetness.  There was no Gore-Tex. Two pairs of socks and Saran Wrap. That was my Mom’s version of Gore-Tex.

And “snow pants.” Thick heavy over pants that had zippers up the sides. Maybe they were bibbed. Water resistant, not waterproof. I was the live version of the Michelin Tire Man. How is it none of this discomfort distressed me in any way? Hours later, my hair wet and matted, we wearily schlepped our way home. We had to use the basement entrance. My Dad’s workshop was near the location of the oil furnace, so it was warm. You could see the flame glowing through the little furnace door. Layers and layers of heavy wet clothes were peeled off and hung on a rack. Boots on their sides, openings closest to the heat.

By the time I made it upstairs, my cheeks and ears were on fire and rosy red, and also my fingers and toes. My Mom would rub my feet, I’d put on my slipper socks, and go sit at the table. If we had to be home for lunch it meant school was closed, and it was going to be a really special lunch. Oh, the best. I know my Mom spent hours in the kitchen while we soared down the slushy hill. It was Buitoni Wagon Wheels and Spatini Spaghetti Sauce. I can still sing all the words to that commercial. You could stack at least a dozen wheels on your fork. It was a feast indeed. After we satiated our empty bellies, we took our cocoa, with tiny marshmallows, and made our way carefully to the coffee table where we plopped down on the mushy sofa. Out came the board games. Shoots and Ladders, Candy Land (I loved the Neapolitan ice cream card), Uncle Wiggly. Actually, I liked the game Cootie best. It’s how I learned the word proboscis. Pretty impressive for a seven-year-old. (I remember using that word incessantly forever!)

After about half an hour my eyes would get very heavy, a Cootie will fall out of my hand, and I would sink into the down cushions for a nap. Was there ever a better day? If I wasn’t so fortunate as to be sitting here, watching the November snow fall on the Goosepecker Ridge Road, having nothing better to do but daydream, I could never appreciate having heavy wet pants, ice crystals in my ears, the smell of Spatini, or the blue Cootie with red legs and a yellow proboscis. It’s funny how I can remember every detail of a day spent 60 years ago. How is it that I go to the cupboard about four times daily and haven’t a clue as to why I’m there and what I need. Memories are amazing and unpredictable. You never know what emotion they may invoke. This memory gave me a smile and a grateful heart, for that walk down toboggan lane. I’m also glad to now have that shot of schnapps in my cocoa while I prepare to call my sister and remind her of what a good-natured kid I was. I’m also going to make a conscious effort to use the word proboscis more often. It’s a fine word!

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Bonnie Hellwege

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