As a child growing up in New England, one of my favorite hobbies during the winter was sledding. Over the first 10 years of my life, my family, friends and I had come to scope out the best sledding hills in our town, along with learn which sleds worked best for different purposes: saucers, for example were best for a spin while tubes were the best for speed and Snow Boogies got the best air. Sledding became more of a sport than an activity: it was all about pushing the envelope and being the best you could be; which is why, in the winter of 2001, I went for that extra run that ultimately lead to my downfall.
We were at the Hopkinton State park with our best friends the Girardi’s and some of their friends. Maddie Girardi and I, the youngest at the hill at the time, had come to master the first half of the hill and were satisfied with our runs for the day. That is until the older kids began to continue to climb up the hill and go off the second part of the hill, gaining twice the distance and speed. Now I didn’t think I was ready for this intensity but after Maddie decided she wanted to try, I realized I couldn’t be the only one to not try the big hill; I had to swallow my fear and do this. My mom told me she would prefer I not go down this hill. But because she didn’t want to make a scene, she let me make the final decision.
“Just don’t go too fast,” she said.
I grabbed an inner tube (the sled I felt most comfortable in) and braced myself for the climb to the top of the hill. After this run we were leaving so I had to make it a good one; it was the only chance I had. When I got to the top, I was already out of breath but I couldn’t show my weakness to everybody else. So I took a deep breath, looked down the steep hill one final time (noticing it looked a lot steeper from up top) and put my tube on the ground behind me. I plopped down into the tube and with a small push off the snow with my feet, I was off.
Now, what I neglected to mention is that at the bottom of the State Park hill was a ditch. They have since covered up the ditch for glaringly obvious reasons but at the time, it was very present and filled with rocks.
The first half of the ride wasn’t too fast. I felt pretty comfortable, thinking I could handle the rest of the ride. Once I jumped off the first hill onto the second, however, I realized how mistaken I was. My speed must have doubled and I found myself going faster than I ever had in the past. Upon getting to the bottom of the hill, I started to worry because I wasn’t slowing down like I usually did. I heard everybody yelling something at me but the wind rushing past my ears was too loud so I chose to neglect whatever they were saying.
Before I knew it, my sled flew out from under me and I found myself tumbling into the treacherous ditch. I don’t remember what was going through my head; all I remember is that it hurt. A LOT.
I managed to get myself up on my feet and looked up at everybody at the top of the hill, tears streaming down my face. My mom ran down the hill to help me get out as my dad yelled at my sister for laughing at the whole situation. Looking back, I don’t blame her.
The verdict was in: I had cracked my head open. While a few stitches, scratches and bruises were all I left with, my mom didn’t want me going down a hill that steep again. And I didn’t blame her.
Next time somebody tells me not to go too fast, I’ll be sure to listen.