The first day of 2008 brought us the first snow of the season. I'm not a fan of snow and view it as a hassle but one of my favorite memories comes to mind whenever I see it snow.
I was in the ninth grade and we lived in Virginia where it would actually snow worth a damn, unlike the snow one gets in Mississippi which should not be called snow but instead labeled "white panic maker falling from the sky". It had snowed something fierce and school was out for an entire week.
My friends and I would get together each afternoon and often go sledding. Behind the house of one of the guys was a hill that we'd sledded on so much it eventually became nothing but icy grass. The hill went straight down into some wood and once you got to the bottom of the hill you had to be pretty careful. Steer too sharp to the left and you'd hit a big rock. Steer too sharply to the right and you'd hit a tree. Steer straight ahead and you'd hit a huge brier bush. The trick was to go straight down and after you passed a big tree but before you hit the briers you'd have to steer gently to the right. Pretty clear, right?
We'd been doing it for days and no one suffered a mishap. Sure, there would be a couple wipe outs but nothing too bad and we were having a great time. It was a pretty evenly divided group between boys and girls and we were all good friends. We'd sled and talk about movies or music and maybe talk about what we'd do together the next day - go sledding again or maybe hang out at someone's house and play records and dance.
There was one fella in the group, Doug, who was new. It was February and his family had moved to Virginia just after Christmas. One of the girls, Susan, knew Doug from her French class and since he was cute and no one else had gotten their claws into him, Susan invited him to hang out with our group of friends. All us girls were crazy about Doug. He was so handsome and very smart and terribly friendly. Exactly the sort of guy our mothers wanted us to date. His only drawback was he couldn't sled worth a damn. He'd been living in Hawaii for the past five years and hadn't seen snow since he was about twelve years old. He'd try but mostly he would either sled by himself and stick out his feet and stop himself when he started going too fast or he'd have to ride behind one of the girls who knew what she was doing. We girls didn't mind having him snuggled up behind us but it had to be a little embarrassing to him. No one picked on Doug about it but you could tell he wanted to steer the sleds like the rest of us but he had no real clue how to do it.
Finally someone suggested that he lay down on the sled on his stomach and steer with his hands. He was a little hesitant about sledding head first but his pride kept him from chickening out. And either as a way to look cooler or as a way to seem a bit more in control, Doug asked me to ride along with him, me laying on his back. Hmmm...ride down the hill while on the back of a really cute boy. Okay!
Doug lay down on the sled and I laid face down on his back. "Now look, Doug. Just steer straight until you pass the tree on the right then turn the sled towards the right. Just steer along the path we've made. It'll be easy!".
One of the other guys gave us a good boot down the hill and off we went flying. I was the envy of the other girls and Doug was finally learning how to steer a sled properly. I looked up and saw he was steering too much too the right and we were heading towards the tree. I screeched "Doug! Pull to the left!" and Doug pulled alright. We began to lurch to the left and skidded right into the big rock on the left of the path. I went flying off of Doug's back, somehow did a flip in mid-air and landed on my back in the brier bush. I didn't have time to register where I was before Doug landed right on top of me and the sled went flinging by, missing us completely.
That was the greatest sled ride I've ever had.