The wind was brisk as friends and I plodded through crunchy snow to the top of the hill. Heavy snowfall during the night ended and now in the morning light it appeared as though someone sprinkled glitter across the accumulation. We blew into cupped hands to warm them as we surveyed the glistening slope.
Snow doesn’t fall often in Richmond and if it does it’s rarely deep. Today a good snow had finally come, so we had headed to Forest Hill Park with sleds in tow. We hoped to get in several early rides before crowds reduced the snow to slush, but already we heard muffled voices approaching from across the park.
A group of excited kids, probably half our ages, led two men and a woman in our direction. The children dragged sleds and pulled eagerly at the adults who were stepping through the fresh snow at a painfully slow pace. They said nothing to the kids, just sipped slowly from travel mugs, oblivious of their children’s urgency.
Eventually stopping beside us, the kids immediately split off from the three adults, their youthful shouts and shrill cackles fading as they launched themselves downhill. The adults struggled to juggle discarded gloves and stocking caps tossed aside in the excitement. As the kids squealed in delight the adults stood by solemnly. Already impatiently checking watches, they were motionless except for the irritated shifting of feet. It was clear they were not thrilled to be there.
“Not staying long,” the first man said determinedly.
“Same here,” the second responded. “Anyway, it’s Richmond. Snow will be gone by noon.”
“It’s too windy!” the woman snipped as she pursed her lips and tightened her scarf.
The rosy-cheeked kids, having already taken several frosty rides, appeared back at the top of the hill for another. I moved aside as the woman in the scarf took a few hurried steps towards one little boy to get his attention.
“Just one more time!” she said sternly, tightening her scarf again.
In spite of the warning, the exuberant gang managed several more uninterrupted runs, laughing all the while. On one return trip the little boy yelled to the woman in the scarf. “Ride with us!”
She frowned a “no.” When the boy sailed down the hill she yelled after him, “Just one more time!”
Although my friends and I had arrived early hoping for a hill temporarily to ourselves, we were soon enjoying the frivolity of the young bunch. We challenged them to races and began to time our returns to the hilltop with theirs. At each return one child or another invited the adults to join. At first the grown-ups hardly noticed the invitations, so intent on being miserable, but one by one the kids’ laughter won them over.
I watched the adults finally begin to grin as sleds jetted down the slope—after one hilarious collision at the bottom the three actually howled. Finally, their reluctance was fading.
“They’re having fun,” the first man said. “We might stay a little longer.”
“Same here,” the second man responded. “It’s Richmond. They should enjoy the snow while it lasts.”
The woman casually touched her scarf. “It’s not so bad since the wind died down.”
Drawn in by the children’s joyful whoops, the three adults edged closer for a better view of the kids who now ran and belly-flopped onto their sleds to gain more speed in the already melting snow.
Minutes later as the sleds were being aimed downhill, one of the men, to the surprise of all, tossed aside his mug and rushed the kids. Hopping on the back of a sled, he startled one boy who shrieked with complete joy as the man’s momentum catapulted them both down the slope.
We all laughed. Next time, both men joined the kids.
“Just one more time!” the woman with the scarf yelled when the entire group slid away leaving her alone. In spite of herself, she laughed as they zipped downhill. On their return she needed no invitation. She hopped onto a sled, pushed off and screamed all the way to the bottom. Adults and children, together, took several rides until they agreed that the best of the snow was gone.
When the exhausted children dropped to the snowy ground to rest, I watched as the adults looked at each other in agreement, grabbed sleds, and headed once more for the slope. The kids held on to discarded travel mugs and car keys as they watched the older folks slide down the now-slushy hill. When the exhausted adults returned, panting but smiling, one tired little boy stood up slowly from the snow. Worn out and sweating despite the cold, he called out to the woman in the scarf that he was ready to leave.
The woman looked at him, tightened her scarf, and yelled over her shoulder, “Just one more time!” And with that she sailed down the hill alone, scarf trailing behind in the chilly wind.
Stuart M. Perkins