Today I had to travel a road I hadn’t been on in quite a while. It took me past the former home of a relative and instantly I was transported back to one of the scariest scenes of my adult life. It was 20 years ago on a January day about like today. Cold. Snowy. Sunny. Still.
Tyler, my oldest was about 4. He and I decided to find the sledding hill we heard was near his grandparents’ house. We hiked across the back field and through a small patch of woods finding ourselves on the crest of a hill. A four foot wide path of packed white snow cut its way through the golden rods until it emptied on the lake below. I was grinning as much as he was.
I readied the blue plastic sled and helped him get situated. Tyler held the rope like the reigns of a thoroughbred and with just a nudge he was off. It was ideal. He sped straight down the path and out on the snow-covered lake. But when he got out of his little blue boat his feet went through the ice. I tried not to panic hoping he would stay calm but inside I was completely freaking out. I sprinted down the hill and reached the lake. The ice held my first few steps but then I began to break through…ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk…plowing my way toward my boy who was standing completely still and afraid.
About a third of the way to him, I realized I wasn’t falling all the way in. We were only breaking through a few inches. The closer I got the slower I moved and the more relaxed I became, trying to embody the fact that he would be ok. There was a thick layer of firm ice below the newer weaker surface. After a big hug I loaded him back onto the sled and pulled him to the solid ground at the base of the hill.
When I drove past that house, looked across that field and saw the clump of woods it all came back. I thought I was going to lose my son that day because I made some foolish assumptions. But I also remembered my terror only gave way to indescribable relief when I realized there was something solid beneath what I believed to be safe…something solid below the surface.