Every few years, my family packs the car and we head to my grandmother’s house for the holidays. My grandmother lives in a small farm community just west of Chicago, called Somonauk, Illinois. Most years we gather with other aunts, uncles and cousins that also make the trip from their homes in Ohio and southern Illinois. The cousins all range in age from four to seventeen so each gathering brings a different experience, as we all grow older.
On our most recent December trip as we entered the small town of Somonauk, we caught the start of the Christmas snow flurries. Over the next two days, as more of my cousins began to arrive, the snow was continuous with increasingly gusty winds. After three days we had over a foot of new snow on the ground with drifts that made the roads difficult to drive. By this time being cooped up in a three-bedroom house with nine children and nine adults all day wasn’t much fun for anyone – parents included.
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My mom and aunts had the task of dreaming up fun things for all to participate. After a trip to the local Wal-Mart, my mom and aunt Jennifer came home with a surprise – sleds for everyone! After gathering snow gear from friends and family we were ready to trek out to the hill at the Sandwich Forest Preserve. A few of my cousins, having lived in the north, knew what to expect with this sledding idea, but my sister and I had no clue since Texas doesn’t really have snow.
When we first arrived at the forest preserve we just stood there watching all the kids sledding down and walking up the hill and I thought this isn’t going to work too well with our group. After a few slow, tumbling attempts at sliding down the hill, we all started to relax. Four hours later, we had nine yelling, laughing, jumping on each other, kids barreling down the hill having a great time. We helped the little ones walk up the hill and we did it all over and over again! When we just couldn’t come up with the energy to trudge back up that hill one more time, we called it quits and returned to the house. After we changed out of wet clothes and had our fill of hot chocolate, you got the sense that everyone, young and old, had a wonderful time as they competed to highlight the favorite part of the afternoon. It was almost as much fun to hear everyone relive the afternoon as it was being there!
Over the remainder of our trip it snowed pretty much every day, and every day our parents found something for us to do. We played in the snow, competed in bowling tournaments, played poker, and took in a movie at the local theater. Some things weren’t as fun as others and there were times when the younger ones couldn’t join in but we had the best time together.
That last morning as each family packed into their car to head home, I felt a different kind of sadness that I hadn’t felt before. I thought about the next time I would see all my cousins again and wondered if the time would be the same or how much different it would be as we all get older. As we drove out of grandma’s driveway, it was still snowing and I wondered if maybe there just wasn’t a little bit of magic in the snow that year?
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