Sledding Memories

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Several weeks ago, as frigid temperatures sunk their icy claws into our area, we still had several inches of snow on the ground. School was out for winter break, but the snow was too frozen and dry to form snow forts or snowmen. Add children to this mix of icy precipitation and bone-chilling weather and you have the perfect recipe for a great sledding day.

Hubby and I headed out with our coffees for a drive through the general area. As we headed down Brookville Road and admired the snow that still clung to the pines along the lane, we passed LuHi. That’s when we saw the large group of parents and their children who were enjoying family time as they slid down the hills and onto the open field below. I opened the window for a moment to hear the chatter and screeching of children who were enjoying a good, old-fashioned snow day.

When I was growing up in Levittown, most of my friends went sledding in the “sumps.” My parents would not hear of this “dangerous play,” so Dad had to be creative on the weekends. He often took us to the now defunct Muttontown Farm, where we skated on a small pond that was hidden from the dirt road. Levittown was mainly flat, so when we went “sledding,” it was only after we had created small “hills” in the front yard. This was an epic failure, as the Flexible Flyer often smashed the hill before we even got to slide down. My sister and I often resigned ourselves to the simple task of dragging each other around on the sled throughout the neighborhood until we got bored.

Dad, who enjoyed building furniture as a hobby, once built a toboggan. Fashioned out of pine with a plexiglass shield and wooden “handlebars” for steering, it weighed more than 100 pounds. It was crafted during our “snowmobile” days, when we visited my aunt; during our visit, my cousin took us for rides through the woods. The first time Dad took the toboggan out for a “ride” in the neighborhood, it sunk into the driveway. When it hit cement, we knew it could never be used as anything but something “cool” to climb upon.
When my husband and I were dating, he often took me to Bethpage State Park to sled on the hills by the golf course. During my trial run down the hill on his large Flexible Flyer, I was a ball of nerves as the wind hit my face and stung my eyes until tears rolled down my frozen cheeks. When we got to the bottom of the hill, I stood up in exhilaration. We often sledded for hours at the park, along with countless others who enjoyed the winter activity immensely. The energy was high, everyone was happy and we all sledded until we could see deep tracks that showed the grass beneath.

When our daughter was younger, we had heard stories about those who had been injured at Bethpage Park’s hills in Old Bethpage. My husband suggested sledding at his old stomping grounds at Mattlin Middle School. We had that old Flexible Flyer for ourselves, a plastic disc with handles for speed sledding and a rather heavy wooden sled with a leather “seat” known as a “Kindersleigh” from his well-meaning aunt. While the Flexible Flyer sledded perfectly down the hills, the plastic disc always reminded us of that Chevy Chase scene from “Christmas Vacation”. It had the same effect down the hill. The Kindersleigh sunk into the snow, much like Dad’s old toboggan and was scrapped for times when we pulled her through the snow in our yard.

Our daughter was excited to sled down the hill like the other children present, so my husband sat in the back of the sled, my daughter wedged between his knees and I shoved for all I was worth. I suppose years of pushing stretchers enabled me to have enough strength to shove them both down the hill because they went flying down in a blur of blue and wood. I met them at the bottom of the hill, where our daughter, flushed with excitement, screeched, “Again! Again!” We sledded until our fingers were frozen and retreated to the car for hot beverages for Mom and Dad and a cup of warmed chocolate milk for our girl. Sledding at Mattlin became our yearly tradition, one our daughter adored in her youth.

As we drove past LuHi, I smiled at the memory of winters past. As I discussed sledding with my husband, I quipped, “It might be time to take out the old sleds.” He laughed as he remarked, “Are you sure there’s just COFFEE in that cup?” I smiled to myself as I glanced back on all the fun that Mother Nature had provided and continues to provide, mostly every winter on Long Island.

Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.

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