On snowy nights back in the Forties my father often took me for sleigh rides after dinner.
He seemed ten feet tall back then, trudging out ahead of me in the darkness, his gloved hand reaching back to grip my sled’s towrope.
More than 50 years have come and gone since our last ride, but I can still see him there. And I can still hear my sled’s runners gliding quietly over new fallen snow.
He would pull me right down the middle of Mission Avenue, past the Park’s, the Bottinelli’s, the Corbell’s and the Brainard’s, all the way to Mrs. Fattu’s house at the end of the block.
Christmas lights strung on eves and down porch railings cast red, green, yellow and blue shadows across snowy yards and ghostly tree branches laid bare by fall winds glistened with snow.
It was so quiet you could hear snow falling through the still night air. Snow banks that to a small boy seemed like mountains muffled the sounds of passing cars.
Approaching headlights became retreating taillights, then silence again, broken only by the sound of sled runners, and the steady cadence of his walk.
I suppose there were other fathers out there clutching towropes in the darkness, but I do not see them in my remembering – only Dad, me, and my American Flyer.
Now both of them are gone: first my Flexible Flyer sometime in the Fifties, and then, too soon thereafter, Dad. As gently as falling snow, he slipped from me into the Darkness on a December night in 1986. And now only memory connects us, and it is me who reaches back for him on snowy nights.