Growing up, my family lived in a cul-de-sac that resided in the middle of a rather large hill. The entrance to our neighborhood was at the top of the hill and our cul-de-sac was about halfway down, off to the right. We were at a terrible spot for playing basketball, riding a bike, or playing tag. You had to know how to chase downhill after a runaway ball, apply the brakes skillfully on your bike, or run at a sideways incline to try and catch your friend.
It was terrible for driving uphill during the winter after it had snowed and the roads froze over. For many years, my parents would park their cars at the top of the hill, where you entered our neighborhood, along with the majority of the neighbors, when a big snow hit. Otherwise, good luck climbing up the hill to get out of our neighborhood. Our entertainment for many snowy days was to look out our big front room window and watch the cars attempt to make it up the hill. After several attempts, sometimes the cars would make it. Other times, they would abandon ship and their car would be left there mid-way up the hill on the side of the road until the temperature rose.
It snowed big the day before our wedding and then froze over. On that December morning of our wedding day, the roads, trees, basically everything, was covered in icy white snow. The bridal party met that morning at my parent’s house to get ready.
Later that afternoon, we were assembled and ready to make our way to the wedding venue. However, one of my bridesmaids couldn’t get her car back up the hill to get out of our neighborhood. My mind flashed back to the snow days of my youth where I’d stare out our window watching the cars attempt the trek up. Would hers be one that would make it to the top or would it be abandoned on the side of the hill like so many others had been in the past? My dad had spent years, I mean years, learning the best way to get a car up our snowy, frozen hill. He’d avoid it altogether if he could, but sometimes he couldn’t. I would cheer for him from our front room window hoping he’d make it up. However, I always secretly wished that he couldn’t make it and he’d have to stay home with us on our snow days. Nonetheless, he was a good negotiator with the snow and ice.
This time, as I sat in our Highlander, which my dad had pulled over to the side of the road mid-hill, with my hair up, make-up applied, wrapped up in my white wedding dress, I was glad he was good with snow and ice. We held our breath watching my dad thrash it out with the icy road. After several attempts, he was able to get the car up the hill. Huddled in the Highlander, where we had watched with suspense, my mom, maid of honor, and myself collectively let out a breath of relief.
It seemed if you were able to make it to the last set of mailboxes towards the top of the summit, you were golden. You could make your way to the top of the hill and out of the neighborhood from there. This was the case, if you climbed up on foot as well. Which, my brother and I had to do to catch the school bus, everyday for many years. I don’t remember many, “let me drive you to the bus stop,” offers from our parents. Typically, rain or shine, snow or ice, we hiked up our hill to our stop.
There is one walk to the bus stop in particular that I will always remember. It had been cold and snowy the past few days, then the temperature started to rise. The snow and ice had begun to melt and elementary school was back in session. This meant that my brother and I had to make our daily ascent to the bus stop. However, the melting ice and snow made for the slushiest, slipperiest climb I can ever recall. My older brother, my mountain guide, went a couple strides ahead of me. “ Walk in my footsteps,” he said. I was bundled up from head to toe and I was starting to sweat. My glasses started to steam up as I slipped and slid with each step. It was like one of those terrible dreams, where you are walking or running but aren’t gaining any distance, you’re stuck. One step forward, two slides back. “Wait, I can’t do it!” I screamed. Tears stung my eyes. I was ready to throw in the towel and head back home to the warmth of our couch by the front window and watch the other kids try to make it up. There was no way we’d make it up to the top of the hill in time to catch the bus.
“Yes, you can do it.” my brother encouraged. “See that last set of mailboxes at the top?” He pointed with his entire right mitten. He let out a deep breath, vapors rose into the air like a fog. “All we have to do is make it there and the bus will see us and wait for us to walk up the rest of the way.”
I squinted up at the last set of mailboxes. “Okay.” I whimpered.
“Here, take my hand,” he offered. I grabbed his mitten, or maybe he grabbed my wrist, but either way, we slowly embarked towards the top, together. I huffed and puffed with all my might. This was the Mount Everest of my childhood. Together we clambered and scrambled up to the bus stop. I think my brother even let out a chuckle at the absurdity of it all. Finally, we made it to the last set of mailboxes. We were safe. The bus wouldn’t fly past the stop unable to see us, as we flailed our arms and shouted. I let out a sigh of relief that we’d be seen.
It was fitting that as I ascended up our snowy, white neighborhood hill eighteen years later to marry the love of my life, while myself wrapped in white, that I let out a similar sigh of relief. The Mount Everest of My Childhood had been conquered, again, and for the last time. I was moving out of my parents house, moving out of that neighborhood. Never again would I wake up and look out the bedroom window of my adolescence to see that hill covered in a blissful white blanket of snow.
As the weather begins to turn and the last of the autumn leaves fall, my mind always drifts back to that neighborhood hill of my childhood. Back then, how I hated that climb. Now, thinking about it fills me up with so much nostalgia and joy, I almost want to drive back to the bottom of my old neighborhood hill and hike back up just to relive it again.
I dedicate this post to my brother, who will forever be my mountain guide and childhood climbing companion. He’s always been there with an encouraging word, attainable goal, or chuckle, when things get tricky. Justin, may we continually reminisce over the fond childhood memories of our family and the snowy days on our Mount Everest.