Listen to this while you read.
I wish I’d had a camera. The season’s first snow fell on Kansas City yesterday, and a small militia of children (including my daughter, nearly seven, and son, just shy of four) and I gathered on the gentle slope of a neighbor’s backyard, a vast, lightly wooded expanse that serves as the hub of an oblong wheel of a dozen or more homes. Just past dusk the winter sky turned a milky purple-white, and the glow of Christmas trees in nearly every window settled upon us. The night was still as a reflecting pool, the mercury barely below freezing. Few things are perfect, but this night was.
As the kids, sleds in hand, lined up for takeoff at the top of the hill, I stood at the bottom, the Catcher of the Small Fry, positioned to prevent them from hurtling through the pin oaks and into the shallow ravine. They came, one after another. Solo flights. Tandem missions. Sleds linked together into long trains of pleasure riders. There were no cries, no complaints, and no casualties. Just the very essence of childhood joy, the kind that instantly transports you back three decades.
It’s the sort of thing I didn’t understand before I had kids, something with which I would never bore childless friends. But this is the good stuff, better than any experience you could buy, and the kind of thing you’d miss if you didn’t occasionally force yourself to stop and smell the frozen noses.
As they floated down on their sliding saucers, some were intense thrill-seekers. Some were bundles of giggles and smiles, crash-landing, brushing themselves off, and flying back up the hill almost as fast as they’d come down. Each kid was a snowflake, shimmering and perfect, no two alike.