When you’ve lived in one place a long time, the touchstones of memory can be found anywhere, taking you by surprise, taking you back into the past between one bite and the next.
When We Were Flyers
While eating my burger, I notice a Flexible Flyer sled
hanging on the diner wall like a trophy head. A collection
of novelty teapots, a baby blue ceramic cross and a copy
of da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” flesh out the décor.
Winter is hanging on, if barely; the snow’s a little wet
for sledding, at least until it freezes back up after dark.
But the Flyer, identical to one I purchased in the 1960s
with spoils from my paper route, brings it all back .
Your sister might sit upright on it, steering with feet
but well, she’s a girl. The proper method is to run
as fast as you can, throwing down the sled and yourself
headfirst upon the sled in one smooth motion.
With your face just inches off the snow, you could
almost bust through the sound barrier. When icy
you could fly all the way from Holcroft House on
down to the corner of Clarkson Ave. and Maple St.
The doorway of a dormitory made a warming hut
and the Dilly Wagon across Route 11 served cocoa.
I have no memory of trudging uphill over and over,
only the long flights down through face-biting cold
and walking home long after dark, the mercury down
below zero, across the bridges where icy river fog
rimed the elms, maples and willows, and bright stars
hung like chips of ice around a high-flown moon.
It was too good to last. Clarkson put up snow fence
to cordon off the hill. Either the lawyers got to them or
the dining hall made a fusss about all the lunch trays
destroyed by improvising student toboggganers.
Or it could be because every time they spread fresh sand
on the sidewalk, we shoveled fresh snow on top of it,
restoring it to its rightful purpose as a sleighway. How
I long to take that Flyer down and give it one more go.