I don’t remember how we got to the hill. Did we walk, did we drive? I don’t remember if she wore snow pants or a toque. Did grown ups do that in the eighties? I don’t remember if her black hair was permed or straight, in fact I can not recall what her face looked like at all. I know she was really young, still in her twenties, but only because I have done the math.
I do remember the wooden toboggan that curled at the top and the rope she put around her waist to pull us. I do remember how only she could get our mittens tucked in just right, so the snow wouldn’t creep up our arms. I do remember her tan and red Cougar boots.
The perfect sliding hill in Turtle Creek was found at the end of the Cole road. From the top I could see my grandfather’s back yard and the hill tops on the other side of the Petitcodiac River. There were trees on that side that silhouetted the shape of a horse against the horizon.
The horizontal slats on the toboggan were spaced apart precisely to fit two small bundled bums and a grown up one. Whoever sat in the front tucked their feet under the curve and was responsible for holding the rope. You couldn’t let the rope slip underneath or it would slow you down.
She always sat at the back. I do remember her boots wrapped around our legs, the red felt tongue sticking out at me, promising to keep me from flying over the top. She pushed us down by digging her hands into the snow, getting us to the tipping point where gravity took over and we rushed to the bottom, trying to avoid the ditch. I don’t remember anyone else on the hill to push us down.
When the snow was fresh; you know that light falling snow that looks like a Creator finely grated diamonds for us to play in; it would blast into our faces. At the bottom she took off her mitten and her warm fingers wiped away the cold sting. I do remember how her hand felt on my cheek.
I don’t remember when I stopped needing those boots to keep me safe. Or when I was big enough to pull my sled on my own, meeting up with cousins and friends for exciting adventures. I do remember feeling brave without her.
And I do remember the day I walked through Winners and saw those boots again. I bought them hoping that my girls too might find comfort in having them wrapped around their legs; hoping they will remember the red felt tongue sticking out at them, my warm fingers on their cheeks and that I taught them to keep the rope tucked up.
I bought them because I do remember that I still need her.
I bought them because, sometimes, I don’t remember I am brave.