Monogamy Rocks Park, on Jason Street, in Arlington, Massachusetts, is where I learned to ride a sled. Arlington is a nice little suburb of Boston; the kind of place lots of people think of when they talk about the "Good Old Days". And that park, it was (is) one of those places where great memories are made.
The place had all the usual things: an open field, a pond, woods to play in, a playground, picnic tables, and a ball field. In winter, the pond froze over and kids ice skated. I was never very good at that, so I stuck to sledding. My first time was with my dad and older brother on the family toboggan; I must have been about four because my brother was not driving yet.
Right at the picnic area was the main run; a nice straight shot down the tall hill. I don't remember much of that first time; there was the long hike up the hill, and then that total adrenaline rush as we raced down. The cold wind was like a slap in the face, but I didn't mind; the excitement kept me warm. I wasn't sure what was the best part - the racing down the hill, or sipping hot chocolate by the fire when we got home.
That was it, I was hooked. A couple years later, I got my very own Royal Racer sled for Christmas. The first day that there was enough snow for sledding, I and my friends were out in the park. We went down that main run a lot that day, but long about mid afternoon it got rather dull. Oh yes, we were now experts; we were far too sophisticated for anything so simple.
That's when my friend Harvey told us about another trail, one that was a real challenge. We followed him back behind the playground. Here the course was something worthy of our efforts; it was what he called a dogleg. It was a couple years before I figured out what that meant. At the time, all I knew was that it meant I had to make a turn on my sled, something I'd never done! But, I certainly was not going to let the guys know that; I'd be the laughingstock of Parmenter Elementary School.
Luck was with me that day; Harvey wanted to go first, as it was his idea to come here. So, I stood at the top of the hill and watched him in action. I had only ever ridden a sled sitting on it. In this instance, Harvey was lying down on his; quite the radical departure, as far as I was concerned. Still, I was bound and determined to do it. So, lying on my sled, I took hold of the "controls," and pushed off. Granted, that first time, I didn't push nearly as hard as I could have. Coming to that turn, I wrenched the sled to the left, careened over much too far, and then swung back to the right. From my point of view, I'd come within inches of hitting a tree, and I was going about eighty miles an hour.
After that, we spent hours going up the hill and back down, over and over, and over again! If I recall correctly, we only left because it got so dark that we couldn't quite see the top of the hill any more. Walking home that day, I felt about eight feet tall, and on top of the world. Yeah, I had conquered the dogleg and my fear, and I was "King of the World" (and long before Leo!).
In hindsight, I know that I barely changed direction, I was about ten feet from the nearest tree, and I think my dad could have caught up to me by trotting along at a steady jog. Still, it was quite the exciting event in my young life, and that park remains a fixture in my memories.
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