By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
The day after Christmas, we packed kids, suitcases, snacks, and movies into the minivan and drove 12 hours north to Minneapolis, Minnesota to visit Tom’s parents. In addition to relatives, we hoped to see a little Christmastime snow.
But when we got there, Minneapolis had unusually high temperatures and not a flake of the white stuff. Fortunately, Minnesotans are prepared for things like this and make their own snow for ski runs and tubing hills. So we bundled up and headed for the slopes.
That short sentence makes it sound as if “bundling up” is easy when, in fact, it’s only slightly less difficult than learning Portuguese. I have a whole new respect for parents in cold climates where extreme bundling is a daily occurrence. If I lived in Minnesota, I’d probably never leave the house between November and May.
We put on extra layers and helped the kids wiggle into bulky snow bibs, coats, gloves, hats, scarves and sunglasses. Then we smeared sunblock on noses and chapstick on lips. It took nearly an hour before the five of us were ready to go. We tromped out to the van in our snow boots looking like the puffy Michelin Man and his family.
It was only a short drive to the ski hill but, by the time we got there, we were roasting under all those warm layers, and the kids were begging to take off all the stuff we’d just spent an hour putting on them. Just in time, we reached the hill and saw glorious snow.
This snow tubing adventure was a Rockwood family first. I’d been tubing one other time years ago as a kid and remembered how much fun it was. But after we were towed up the steep hill and stood at the top with our inner tubes, it looked much more intimidating than I remembered it. I watched as people in front of us careened wildly down the hill at high rates of speed. The boys looked apprehensive, and 5-year-old Kate was flat-out scared. I told her we could walk back down the hill or she could try sliding down one time to see if she liked it.
Knowing her big brothers were going to brave the hill convinced Kate to give it a shot. I slid down first so I could wait for her at the bottom. Three seconds into the descent, my tube turned backward. With no ability to see where I was going, I slid down at what felt like 200 miles per hour, certain I would hit a bump, become airborne, crash the tube and die in front of countless Minnesotans. By some miracle, I made it to the bottom safely – and then panicked as I realized my 5-year-old was about to take the same death-defying slide.
I kept my eyes focused on her little pink coat and watched as her tube flew down the hill. As it began to slow down, I sprinted over to her, certain she’d be shrieking in terror that would take months of emotional therapy to overcome. But when I got there, she was very still and silent.
“Kate!” I yelled. “Are you okay?”
She looked up at me with wide eyes, lifted her arms and said, “That was GREAT! Let’s do it again!”
So we did do it again and again and again, and the kids loved it. I was just happy we survived snow tubing – and even happier to return to my Southern roots, where the jackets are light and the people stay home when it snows.