We live in a miniature valley within a larger one. From our windows, we have a good view of across the road from us and south a bit. Here we see the hill that makes up one side of our miniature valley. This hill is steep, fenced in and holds cattle. We often watch as the man who feeds these cattle unloads large, round bales of hay, letting them unroll down the hill. This view is close enough so that we can see the cows lined up along either side of this hay track, but far enough away that the cows appear to be frozen, standing still with their noses frozen to the earth. It almost looks as if these cattle are gathered around a hay table, evenly spaced, bowing their heads to say grace.
The family that owns this land on the side of the hill also owns a front end loader and graciously came and plowed our driveway of the two feet of snow that fell this past weekend (on top of the four inches we already had). This neighbor kindly plowed out other neighbors as well and provided another service to the folks in his neighborhood. He plowed a path for a sled run down the big hill where the cows dine.
Over the weekend, Jamey, my sister, my brother, Sam and Sadie walked down the middle of our icy road (there was no traffic in all that snow) carrying sleds and tubes. They were headed out to sled that big hill.
I stayed back with Miriam and my niece who were too little to be taken out in the frigid temperatures for too long. Or, at least that's one of the reasons why I stayed home. I don't sled. I don't really even like my kids sledding. As much as I dislike it, I know that sledding is a wonderful part of childhood (and adulthood for many members of my family) and I don't want to deprive my children of the experience just because I don't participate. I'm actually glad that our property doesn't have a hill conducive to sledding. The kids have to use the neighbor's hill next door, or in the case of this past weekend, the neighbor's hill down the road. Just watching them makes me a little queasy.
It was my freshman year at college and the campus was covered in snow coated with ice. Perfect sledding conditions if you want to sled fast. There was a large hill beside my dorm and a group of friends and I decided to sled it. None of us had proper sleds, of course. Instead, students were using cafeteria trays, trash can lids and those big, rubber-backed-wipe-your-feet-on mats that lay inside building entrances. My group of friends had one of those big floor mats.
We climbed to the top of the hill, looking down on the sledding trails and jumps made by other students and neighborhood kids in the days before the ice covered the snow. The mat was laid down. It was suggested I sit in the middle (I was very petite at the time) and friends piled on around me- this was a large mat. Off we went. And we went fast. Apparently, halfway down the hill others noticed we were headed for a large sled jump. I didn't see it. Everyone else baled out. I stayed on and went over the jump landing squarely and fiercely on my bum.
Pain shot up my back and I allowed myself to topple over and lay still while trying to figure out what had happened, why my back hurt so much. After the whooping of my friends ended, they noticed me lying still and came over to see if I was alright. I told them what happened and that I didn't think it was a good idea I moved. I remember there was some disagreement among them as to whether they should try to straighten out my slumped-over frame. They didn't and instead called 911 and headed into the dorm, reappearing with sleeping bags to cover me while we waited.
It took forever (or so it seemed) for the ambulance to arrive because of the icy roads. By the time they got to me, I couldn't feel my extremities because of laying on the ice all that time. I was hoping this was due to the cold and later realized, thankfully, that I was right. I had never had an ambulance ride before, not that I remember it much. I was freezing and totally loving whatever warm heating devices they had shoved under my clothes.
After x-rays and visits by some doctors, I was told I had a compression fracture of one of my vertebrae, to this day the only bone I've ever broken. It was the middle of the night by now and the doctor told me we needed to call my parents. He told me I should call first so they knew I was okay and then let him speak to them. My mother answered the phone and after telling her I was alright, I let the doctor talk to her. Then, he gave the phone back to me so I could talk to her again. My mom was acting strange, asking me about the weather and things that had nothing to do with the ordeal I was going through. Later, I found out that she had almost passed out while talking to the doctor, so she had laid on the floor. She doesn't even remember asking me about the weather.
I was in the hospital for a few days and those sledding friends of mine came to visit, bringing me my favorite pizza for dinner. One of them had to leave behind a perspective student that was staying with him that weekend, a young man named Jamey. I still give him trouble over the fact that he didn't visit me. Didn't he sense our connection yet?
I was very fortunate. Compression fractures can heal on their own. Healing took time and the back brace I had to wear for a couple months was uncomfortable. In the end I healed up just fine and (praise God) have never experienced any residual back trouble because of this sledding incident.
This is why I stay inside. Why I do my best to get a visual on my sledding kids from time to time but am not out there with them, cheering them on, sledding with them. And why I am always thankful when they come inside cold, but happy and unhurt.