Isn’t it funny how a smell or a song can immediately transport you to another time, another place? That happened one night this week when our church trucked in enough snow to build a couple of small sled hills and a play area. Snow is unusual here in southeast Texas and even when it does make an appearance, there’s never enough to make a sled hill. The promise of real winter fun brought out the crowds, not only from our church but the public as well. The weather cooperated, making the fire pits set out for roasting marshmallows popular places to ward off the chill, even for those not playing in the snow.
I watched the children climbing onto the sleds and smiled at the obvious joy in their expressions as they whisked down the hill, possibly for the first time in their life. Ah, the memories of growing up in Wisconsin.
At our camp, a steep hill that descended to the lake made for perfect sledding and tobogganing. Unless you happened to suffer a close, personal encounter with one of the many trees. The solution was to build a toboggan chute. Starting at the top of the hill, the chute stretched approximately 75 yards to the bottom, with the last section frozen right into the lake. On Thursday nights, we’d spray water onto the chute so it would freeze overnight, making the chute ice-slick for the campers’ arrival Friday night.
Friday after supper, the buses rolled in and campers spilled out, heading for the toboggan slide. With maybe a light dusting of snow on top of the ice, they’d hurtle down the chute at speeds high enough to be dangerous if anyone got in their way, anywhere from 25-40 mph. On a good night, one could travel across the frozen lake almost to the other side of the bay, about a quarter mile away.
Inside the camp kitchen, huge pots of hot chocolate warmed on the stove while sweet rolls from the town bakery toasted in the ovens. After an hour or two on the toboggan slide, the campers were ready for both food and warmth. They’d file past the serving window, pulling off snow-caked mittens and hats that gave off the fresh-cold scent of snow. The warm food and drink almost sizzled in their cold-reddened hands and stiff fingers, and they’d wander off to find a spot near the roaring fire in the dining hall’s fireplace.
That fresh-cold scent of snow the other night brought me back to those wintery January nights when I’d help my dad serve refreshments. I admit that as a teenage girl, my motivation was often to check out the weekend’s crop of teenage boys. But I also treasured those one-on-one times with my dad.
As I watched the families enjoying the snow, listened to the children’s laughter as the sleds skimmed down the hill, and joined the gathering around a fire pit where people were warming up, making s’mores or drying out a pair of tiny socks, I imagined the memories being made that night. Someday, I wonder if one of those children will catch the scent of cold and snow and be transported back in time to a January night in Katy, TX.