When we were in elementary school, my parents introduced my brother, sister and me to what would become one of my forever favorite movies—Princess Bride. I love it, and why wouldn’t you? It has everything a good story has to offer. From the book, “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True Love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest Ladies. Snakes. Spiders… Pain. Death. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.” I memorized every line. I named my dog Buttercup.

I remember in our fevered love of the book and movie, we would stand in the little hallway at the top of our stairs and act out the 3 encounters the man in black has with the Spaniard, the giant, and brains. We would take turns being the man in black, and the other two would rotate through the other parts. We had giant silver batons to clink together for the sword fighting scene, with a choreographed cling-cling-swish and duck to start it out. We *might* have used my brother’s pull up bar in his doorway for the epic vine jump and release that happens near the end of the fight. We’d jump on each other’s backs and fake-choke to take down the giant. One of us would shout out the essential lines, like, “I am not left handed,” and “My way’s not very sportsmanlike,” and of course, “Rest well, and dream of large women.” We’d end with, “Never mess with a Sicilian when death is on the line,” and then maniacal laughter that abruptly ends in a tipping-sideways death. Then we’d switch roles and do it all again.

We did this often. For months. Taking turns and being the actors and perfecting the roles until we could practically film the darn thing ourselves.

Or did we?

Memory is a pretty fascinating thing. Memories are stories you tell yourself about actual experiences you have in your life. Memories give you the power to shape your own narrative, which in turn can shape an essential part of who you are. I learned at some point along the way that those things you remember doing “all the time” as a kid, you may have only done once or twice. Then your memory took over, replayed it, and as you distanced yourself from the actual moment and told yourself the story over and over through the years, it started to feel like something that had actually happened multiple times, even though really, it had only happened one glorious and memorable time.

I thought of this the other day when we took our kids sledding. It was one of the first big snows of this cold pandemic winter. Aside from brief masked-and-outdoor gift exchanges with only our grandparents and siblings for Christmas, we haven’t seen anyone in our extended-but-close family world in ages. I love the 3 humans I live with, but I also get tired of seeing their stupid faces all the time. They would say the same about me.

This winter especially, I go through ups and downs that are out of proportion with the actual things that are happening right in front of me. I rode on a cloud of bliss the other day when my kids talked to me, and then spontaneously did a weird choreographed ballet exit through the 3 rooms I could see from where I was sitting. I was bursting with love and felt lucky that they took those minutes to pirouette, curtsy, and perform for an audience of only little ole’ me.

The next morning, we were all in a rage, them because neither of them wanted the dusty end of the cereal box and both wanted to start the new box, and me because HOW CAN YOU BE ALL OUT BRAWLING ABOUT CEREAL DUST BEFORE I FINISHED 3 SIPS OF COFFEE! Like I said, I love them to bursting and hate their stupid faces.

So any opportunity to interact with more than just the four of us is a huge adventure right now. My Aunt and Uncle are retired teachers, and made the generous offer of letting the kids browse and take any books from their collection. Since I wanted more time with these humans who weren’t my 3 humans, and since they have an amazing front yard sledding hill, I suggested we connect the book browsing with an afternoon of sledding. The next major snow, and we’d head up for a few runs down the hill and a free personal book fair. My brother and sister were on board with the plan, so we sat and we waited.

Mid January’s first snow came around at the perfect time—a Friday to Saturday snow, leaving Sunday for the optimal sledding day. We headed up, and our generous hosts made the day truly winter-outdoor-gathering epic and repeat-worthy. They put out a fire pit for warming up, set out boxes of books in their garage, prepared hot chocolates and S’mores with all the fixings, and my uncle even pre-tested the hill to be sure it was perfectly packed and ready.

The kids sledded for 5 straight hours. They flew down the hill so fast that an adult had to stand in the street to stop them from Christmas-vacationing and disappearing into no where. They built a jump that was actually extremely effective—my mom had an epic wipeout over the jump, which someone managed to catch on slow-mo video to live on forever. As we stood at the bottom of the hill to do blockade duties, my sister mentioned that when we were kids, we came here to do this sledding “all the time.”

When the sun faded, we grabbed up our soggy, rosy-cheeked, sad-to-be-leaving kids and tossed them in the back of the car. I peeled off my wet socks and warmed up my frozen toes on the way home and thought about what a great winter day we’d all just had.

The conditions were ripe for a day like this—the generous offer of books and a hill, the enthusiasm and setup for a good time, the weekend snow, the not-too-cold day, the availability of my parents and siblings and their kids, the dry spell of company in the year leading up to the day, and the pandemic insideness of winter. Although we could visit and sled again, it would never be this same day—this same break from all the time we spend looking at each other’s stupid faces. This was the one to remember.

Oh, and although my mom is brave, we would probably never get her to do this again.

The next morning the kids were still on a 10-million-sleds-down-a-hill high. They talked on and on about as many of the rides down as they could remember. They said things like, “I went and curved at the bottom and just barely missed going into that pipe. The sled did but I didn’t!” and “I put my hands down to stop and both my sleeves filled all the way up with snow!” They relived it, and as they did, the hill got icier and steeper and longer and the jump got bigger and everything about it was breakneck and beautiful.

And I imagined how one day in the distant future it would be snowing, and they would think back about how they used to go to their great aunt and uncle’s house, and they’d sled and have S’mores and hot chocolates, and they’d build jumps and fly into the street, and how winters were epic and glorious, and their sleeves and pants and hats and eyeballs—everything would fill up with snow.

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