Last winter, while my husband was away, my two girls and I went sledding. I didn’t really want to go, but I had promised. It was the baby’s fussy time, and he wailed in his seat while I outfitted Julia and Elise in their snowsuits, scarves, hats, mittens, and boots. By the time I got the baby settled with my mother, I was completely stressed out, as usual.
We trudged to the backyard through the crunchy snow, carrying the sleds to the top of our small hill. The girls jumped on their discs and plowed out the first path. They tumbled off their sleds at the bottom and rolled around gleefully. I felt better out in the cold air, but my thoughts wandered from the girls to all the chores that awaited me indoors.
Elise asked me to ride with her, so we arranged ourselves on the sled with her on my lap. I pushed off and away we went, spinning down and careening into a barrier of logs that my husband had constructed to block the river below. Julia followed behind and crashed into us. We lay back in the snow and looked up: A crescent moon pierced the indigo sky, which slowly faded to a lavender horizon.
“Look at the moon,” Elise cheered.
“It’s a purple sky,” Julia added. Then they were quiet. I inhaled the frigid air. I couldn’t remember the last time things felt so still and peaceful.
For the next 20 minutes, we zipped up and down the hill, and then we made snow angels. I closed my eyes. I had forgotten how to be this way: spontaneous and free and childlike. Elise kept hugging me, and Julia begged for more time outside.
We ducked inside and grabbed some flashlights, then walked the perimeter of our yard, looking for animal tracks. A trail of small prints led from a tree to the bird feeder. We guessed it was a squirrel. Out front, we found smaller tracks leading into our green storage tent. This time we suspected a chipmunk.
Finally it was dark. My jeans were cold and wet, and Elise’s mittens had fallen off. We had only been out for 45 minutes, but it felt as though time had stopped just for us. Out there in the snow, I remembered the carefree girl I used to be.
I need to remember her more often. Most of all, I need to remember the light in my daughters’ eyes as we tumbled and twirled and laughed in the purple dusk of one early evening.