Your warm breath puffs into a small white cloud, before floating up into the grey sky. Around you, tiny snowflakes swirl and spin in their silent dance, landing gently on the growing white carpet blanketing the lawn. Tugging both flaps of the wool hat over your ears, you walk down the front steps of your house. You move slowly, quietly, trying not to disturb the perfect winter wonderland that your neighborhood has transformed into. The magic had happened overnight, as you snuggled under warm covers, dreaming of steaming hot chocolate and sweet, sticky candy canes.
The cold wind stings your cheeks, and your jacket is too thin. But you loop the straps of your mask behind your ears and keep going, leaving a fresh trail of footprints on the sidewalk. The flurries of snow continue drifting to the ground. You know that the imprints you’ve left will soon be covered by a pristine white layer.
Wandering past Payson Park, you are greeted by the distant yelling of children. You watch as the little figures dash across the snow, chasing each other. You spot the hill that you and your father had trudged up a million times before, dragging a small plastic sled. It’s early in the morning, but kids have already claimed the snowy mound. You see them clambering onto the sled and then zooming down the hill, shrieking at the top of their lungs as the snow sprays.
In your mind’s eye, you are the one sitting in the sled. You remember the rush of excitement as you climb to the top, pulling the sled up behind you. Although it’s only a hill, it feels like a mountain in your young vision. You’re at the top of the world; the houses below have shrunk to small, faraway specks! As the sled tips slowly, anticipation surges through you. The ride down is a blur. Flashes stand out, though. The icy wind, tasting of snow and freedom. The exhilarated whoop that you let out as you slide, faster and faster. Holding your arms out to the sides and dragging your gloves through the snow, trying to steer the sled. The biting cold at your ankles and wrists, where snow crept past the gloves and boots. And, of course, the excitement while running back up the hill to do it all again.
You shake your head. Your sledding days have come and gone. You probably can’t even fit into that sled anymore. It’s stashed in your basement somewhere, a useless piece of plastic. Your year has been filled with studying, working, fear, and masks. There is no time to tumble in the snow, no time for momentary happiness. You have a routine, and it is time to go home.
The walk home is long and icy, but you hold on to the memory, that small bit of joy. You savor it. This little piece of your childhood is a spark that wards off the numbing cold and keeps you warm.