Growing up as one of eight children in Orchard Park, NY, in the snowbelt of Buffalo, the morning Santa left a long wooden toboggan under the tree – or, more accurately, on the floor of the living room and the floor of the hallway as well – was a great day. We lived a couple of miles from Chestnut Ridge Park, a gorgeous sprawling tract of land, that, besides its attraction of The Hundred Steps, slate footprints that wound down and down into a gorge where we fought over who got to sit on the sturdy tree trunk that had grown over a stream, (it only fit three at a time) Chestnut Ridge also provided a sizable hill, topped with several monstrous green wooden toboggan shutes.
My father, who paced his interaction with his offspring, was self-employed and the sole breadwinner of the family, seemed to have the task of getting as many of us as possible out of the house at one time to keep my mother from going crazy. And any trip to Chestnut Ridge, whether in the summer or winter, seemed to be as relaxing for him as it was electrifying for us.
So after the cartoon chaos of finding matching mittens and boots, not to mention hats, for each of us (my mother in her robe, because, of course, as soon as the last slam of the door, she was going right back to bed), Dad, the sleek toboggan tied to the top of our station wagon, and the rest of us, headed out.
I’m not sure how many runs down the hill it took before I realized that I did not like to be in the front of that toboggan. The fact that the first person served as a windbreak for everyone else on the sled and that you had the terrifying view of just how far up you were, did not agree with me. Also, my father instructed that the person in the front steered the toboggan, so if the front person leaned to the right, everyone should lean right, etc. The awesome responsibility of it ! Tuck me in the middle, I decided, snug and secure any day.
Fast forward – our poor father died when he was 66 and twenty-six years later, our mother passed away. In the three years before my mother died, my husband’s parents both died. My uncle died. My last aunt died. And suddenly, I realized, there I was – in the front of the toboggan, careening to the end of my life, serving as the buffer and the navigator for our children, our nieces and nephews, and their children and their children.
So, whether I like it or not, here I am in the front of the toboggan. But this time, I plan to enjoy the ride, revel in the thrills and try to use every moment to lead the charge to those behind me.
This blog is about the life of a woman in her late fifties who has had the privilege of a great marriage, beautiful children, and a rewarding career – but she’s not dead yet!! I hope you’ll sit tight behind me as I ruminate about what the rest of life offers. I have no idea where this blog will take us – except to the bottom of the hill – so hang on!