The Little Red Sled

The little red sled, it has been with me most of my life. My Grandma and Grandpa Buss gave my sister and I these matching sleds when we were young. The year was 1984. We were living with my Grandparents that winter because my dad was in Hong Kong with the Navy. My mom would pick me up at my preschool with the little red sled. We made the journey back to my grandparent’s house together: my mom pulling me on the little red sled.

In the years that followed, my family lived north of Chicago. My grandparents still lived just further north in Wisconsin outside of Milwaukee. The little red sled is in pictures of my sister and I sledding down the hill that led to my Grandma and Grandpa Werden’s house. The hill was lined with birch trees. I remember peeling away the bark (and getting in trouble). I remember believing that the smurfs lived in those birch tree woods. I remember sitting on the sled, flying down the hill as laughter spilled out of me. It was a mixture of pure happiness and nerves. The adrenaline rush was addictive, but I was also timid. Butterflies filled my stomach as I slid down that hill. I still remember the feeling.

The little red sled was packed into a moving truck in 1988. It moved from Illinois to Virginia. My family traded in the midwest living for beach living. Snow was no longer common in our winters. I’m sure the sled came out of the attic on the rare snowstorms in Virginia Beach history. I just don’t remember. After the memories of sledding down the hills at my Grandma’s house, my next memory of the little red sled was in 1996.

The blizzard of 1996 dumped snow on oceanfront. At nearly 16 years of age, I wanted to be with my friends during the snowstorm. I spent the night with my friend. The night the snow started falling her mom took us and the little red sled to a historic hotel at the oceanfront, the Cavalier Hotel. Up and down the hill we went that night until it was time to head home. The following day more snow had fallen. We returned to the Cavalier Hotel. Up and down the hill we went until the little red sled hit a bump and made an unexpected right turn. The little red sled crashed into a hand railing beside the steps that led to the top of the hill. The little red sled survived the crash. My legs did not. I broke my left tibia and my right femur in the crash. I don’t know how the little red sled got off the hill that day, but I left in an ambulance.

The sled was then retired to my parents’ attic. I healed. I moved on. I graduated from high school and college. I moved to Alabama and then to Tennessee before returning back to Virginia. A few years ago, the little red sled reemerged from retirement. It made its way to my garage. As the snow fell last night, my husband brought the little red sled inside the house. This morning as we headed out to play in the snow, the sled came with us.

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“Baby’s sled. Baby’s. Baby’s sled. Ride.”

Chet has claimed the sled to be his own. Cole has slide up and down our front stairs. He’s carried it to the neighbor’s house. The little red sled has won its way back into the heart of our family. Watching the laughter spill out of my children as they sat on the red sled has reminded me of why I loved this sled when is was four years old. It has reminded me of how much I loved those walks home with my mom. It has reminded me of the laughter and the nerves I felt around the birch trees. It has reminded me of the freedom I felt as I rode that sled down the hill on the day I broke my legs. This little red sled is filled with so many memories, some that I remember and some that I don’t. It holds memories for my grandparents who gifted it to us. It holds memories for my parents who watch us grow up always returning to the sled no matter our age when snow started to fall. It has memories for my sister and maybe even my brother.

The little red sled now holds memories for me as a mother and for my own children. I think Chet has named it best: Baby’s sled. There is something about snow and sledding that makes you feel like a child all over again. The little red sled will always belong to us babies.

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