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Learning From Experience

I always loved snow days as a child. The quietness of snow falling, the crisp coldness that chilled your nostrils, sitting inside by my overly warm wood burner, drinking hot chocolate, it was just enough to please my soul. I didn’t even care whether I was in school or not, looking out the window and seeing a white soft filter over everything that used to be brown and dead was something I had been waiting for since the end of summer.

Most snow days started with my brother’s typical celebration of no school. This one was no different. We immediately went to the closet so that we could get dressed for the frozen, icy tundra outside our door. I reached in and grabbed my snow suit, which was noticeably shorter than my brother’s, making it easier to spot. They were dark blue overalls stuffed with polyester and covered in nylon that would make a “shweep” noise every time my legs passed one another. It had multiple rips in it from where I got caught on various sticks and barbed wire, and the stuffing was slowly spilling out. It was slightly big because it was a hand-me-down from my oldest brother, down to my second brother, and finally to me. The polyester had broken down, and it wasn’t nearly as fluffy as it once was. I was always jealous of my brothers because they had upgraded to Carhartt snowsuits, and I was stuck with Walmart brand.

Once we were all completely ready, we went out and stomped through the backyard with our heavy-duty sleds dragging behind us, destroying the perfect scene that the snow had created. We trekked deep in to the woods filled with ice, grey trees, and animals we couldn’t see but only hear. There was a big, famous hill we were going to, and we knew the way almost too well.

Walking in that snow suit is one of the things I remember best about snow days. My mom would make me put on two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks, two shirts, gloves, a hat, and a scarf. I looked like a scene straight out of A Christmas Story. And if you can’t imagine the physical exertion it took to walk deep into the woods in two feet of snow, I envy you. I weighed about 15 pounds more than I usually did, and I would continually make my brothers stop and wait for me to catch my breath. For some reason, my mom didn’t care how many clothes they had under their snow suits.

Once we arrived at the hill, we would take a minute to stop and observe our surroundings. Nothing but nature was in sight. Right after the hill was an open plain that was usually filled with waist-high weeds, but now only a few plants poked out of the snow. If we looked closely past the plain, we saw a creek that was slowly freezing. On this particular day, it was slow-moving slush. We’d been sledding at this hill for years, and seeing it brought me comfort. Anytime I saw the hill in the summer, it just wasn’t the same. There is something about snow that makes me appreciate everything so much more.

After our brief pause, it was go time. My brothers were older than I so I got the sled that was the worst quality. I plopped my well-cushioned body down on the sled and scooted down the hill until a slick path was formed. Then we would spend hours out there, going up and down, up and down, with barely a pause in between. But, as you can imagine, climbing up that hill would tire out the most energetic child after a while. I finally took a break, and I just sat in the snow at the top of the hill and watched my brothers goof-off and wrestle at the bottom. But then, I noticed to my left, a metal rod sticking out of the ground. I tried to pull on it as hard as I could to see what the other end looked like, and I couldn’t get it out of the ground no matter how hard I tried. Then I remembered everything I had learned about cold metal in the winter. Well, the little scientist that I was, I wanted to test the age-old hypothesis. Once again, it was like a scene out of A Christmas Story.

As I sat there, contemplating my stupidity, tongue stuck flat on to this giant metal pole, I thought of my mom. She had always told me that, if I were to ever do it, I should think about rolling the saliva down my tongue to heat up the metal, and it would soon be released. That may have worked had I not stuck as much of my tongue on the metal as I possibly could. I heard my brothers coming up the hill, their voices getting louder and louder. I had to think fast. I knew that if they found out, I would never live this moment down. I closed my eyes tight, thought about roses and ponies, and quickly ripped my tongue off the metal pole like a Band-Aid. My mouth immediately filled with metallic-tasting liquid that seeped down my chin. I said nothing to my brothers and walked home as fast as I could. Once I made it to my backyard, I saw my dad in his scrubs leaving for work. I was even too embarrassed to tell him, so I made sure to spit all the blood out of my mouth before telling him I loved him. I stained the perfectly white snow with a trail of bright red all the way back from that hill. My mom was the only one I could tell, and she helped me as best she could. I never told my brothers the truth about that day, I just said that I cut my leg on a branch, which was believable enough considering all the rips in my snow suit. I couldn’t eat painlessly for a week.

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