Being a winter cyclist means you’re always ready to pounce on a 30 degree day that’s gift-wrapped in six inches of still falling snow. This morning, Karen, Lisa, our toddlers and I didn’t have to waste time digging out gear or working up stamina for a sledding adventure in Humboldt Park.
Karen rolled up to our house around 10am, and helped me and Miguel hitch up his bike trailer while Hazel started dozing off in hers. There was something soporific in the air—Miguel was rubbing his eyes too--but we persevered knowing that an investment in Time Spent Getting Ruddy Cheeked Outside would make the rest of our day more pleasant.
The side streets were impassable so we kept to the snow calmed mains, 2 blocks east on Armitage, six blocks south on Kedzie. We skirted the edge of the park until we found what looked to be more an undulation than a hill, a white bulge barely noticeable against the park’s expanse and gray sky. “It’s smaller than I remember,” Karen observed. But other sledders were there, so we knew we were in the right-enough spot.
Before the kids came, a snowy night would sometimes end with crazy bike rides down, up and around the “Humboldt Park Mountain.” Perhaps it was the whiskey or the moonlight that exaggerated the contours. I am tempted to sigh and think, “Those were the days. . .,” but these are fine times too, just with different rhythms and more daylight. We’ve got no lack of capers ahead of us, so for a little while I don’t mind settling into the drift.
We trudged toward some poles to secure our bikes and left our bags in the trailers, figuring that anyone out in this weather would either be sledding too or hurrying home, not thieving. We joked about having brought diapers along. There was no way we were going to unbundle our kids in the middle of a snowstorm. Easier to just pedal home in an emergency.
While Karen closed up the trailer, Hazel stood still and wide eyed. Two feet tall in a rose snowsuit, she made the hill behind her look like a mountain again. Miguel, not used to his new boots, or walking in half a foot of snow, stumbled twice before I opted for efficiency, scooped him up and charged.
Once we all reached the top, Karen unfurled two thin, slick sheets of plastic, one neon green, the other neon orange. Miguel scrambled onto her lap and they made it about halfway down, a cacophony of arms and legs. One of the snow encrusted older kids, perhaps not trusting our maternal instincts (maybe because he had seen us pull up on bikes?), warned us about the fast sections, which I promptly explored with Hazel. We proceeded to have a good 10-15 minutes of sliding, spinning, snow eating chaos, which was amplified by the arrival of Lisa and Violet. They also helped the bikes almost outnumber the parked cars.
Miguel, being researched minded, quickly scouted the other sleds. “You don’t really need this right now. . . ” his quick hands would say as I scampered behind him, first needlessly apologizing (everyone there either had a two year old or a big kid who had once been a two year old), then marveling as he charmed one dad into a free ride back up the hill in his exersaucer-tuned-sled and another dad into lending us his fancy orange contraption, which ended up being a bust.
Our experiments suggest that the simple sheets of plastic Karen brought were the most fun (and easiest to carry by bike) and that toddlers only have about 20 minutes of sledding time in them. Once the cries of “again! again!” turned into just cries, we rolled up the sleds and rolled out, though by then poor Violet had changed her tears to a rebuke of leaving.
Once home, Miguel helped me shovel the sidewalk, which had accumulated 4 inches since Michael’s early morning scrapings.
And the Time Spent Getting Ruddy Cheeked Outside worked as planned: Miguel took to his nap quickly, happily and deeply, which allowed me this indulgent writing time.