One winter when I was about six my father took my brother, my foster brother Chucky, and myself sled riding. Actually my father being the hands-off parent that he was, drove us to the hill and then wandered across the street to talk to a friend who owned a gas station there. He left my brother in charge of us. We were sledding on the property of a grand old brick mansion surrounded by a high wrought iron fence that had been turned into some kind of public building. Of the three other corners at that intersection two of them were occupied by churches. In fact next to the Catholic Church going up the hill was a Baptist Church and next to the Episcopalian church along the road at the bottom of the hill was a Presbyterian church. I have always wondered if there wasn’t a portal to Hell somewhere in the near region that required a great deal of praying to keep it closed.
But back to the sledding. My brother, who was probably 12 or 13 at the time, was left in charge of me and my developmentally challenged foster brother. He took us to the top of the hill and they took turns riding down and drag misled back up. I stood at the top of the hill with my mittens jammed against my mouth, terrified. I wanted to sled, but the hill was so steep! My brother in his wisdom found a great track for me to try. Look how much grass is showing through, he told me. The sled will go slower. My main attraction was the fact that this lane ended at a gap in the fence that used to be the driveway, and the gas station where my father was hanging out with his friend was directly across the street. I should also mention here that this friend of my father’s kept a pet squirrel at his station. No doubt this figured heavily in my reasoning. If I could just slide down the hill, I could dart across to the station and hang out with my dad, his friend, and the partly domesticated squirrel.
So I hopped on the sled and my brother gave me a nudge to send me on my way. He didn’t take two things into account. One, the reason you could see so much grass in that lane was because it was all ice. And two, I leaned just a little bit to the right. The sled instead of going straight downhill curved into the wrought Iron fence. I slammed my head between two posts and let out a bloodcurdling scream. My brother and my father reached me at about the same time. Both of them only a few seconds behind my foster brother, who tripped and fell partway down the hill and ended up rolling most of the distance. My father, an accountant who worked at a hospital, used his vast medical knowledge to make sure I wasn’t bleeding from anywhere and then scooped me up and carried me across to the warm gas station where he dried my tears with his cloth hanky that he always carried.
No doubt the large number of churches in the area meant that someone was watching out for stupid little girls on sleds aimed directly at the street.