“Pauline? Where are you? Paul-iiinne!?!? Jack Frost is nippin’ at my nose and I need something to nip back at him!”
“Oh for goodness sakes Deanne - it’s 7am. We’re not nipping anything this early. Come have some tea and a muffin.”
Deanne Francis and her neighbor Pauline Thompson had been best friends since they met in the second grade at St. Alphonsus Catholic Grade School. The moment Deanne slugged that obnoxious Eddie Jones in the back of the head with a book bag for insulting their beloved St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, Pauline knew she had found her soulmate.
Through high school, marriage, children, retirement and the death of their husbands the ladies remained (as Pauline liked to say) ‘thick as thieves’. When Deanne’s husband passed away, she used the proceeds from his life insurance policy to purchase the house right next door to Pauline. Their kids thought it made a lot of sense for the widows to spend their golden years living close to one another.
Little did their kids know golden years meant adventure for these two.
“Look at that snow - it’s really coming down.” Pauline looked out her kitchen window as she prepared Deanne’s cup of tea. “I don’t think I’m gonna get my run in today.” Pauline was an accomplished runner who regularly brought home first place medals in the 80+ age group at local 5K races.
“Yeah, I looked online and they’ve already cancelled yoga over at the YMCA and it’s not looking good for my salsa class tonight either. I’m gonna go stir crazy sitting around today with no exercise and not much to do.” Deanne broke off a chunk of muffin and dunked it in her tea. Suddenly, her face lift up. “HEY! I’ve got an idea….”
Pauline knew this could spell trouble. Deanne’s shoot from the hip, born from boredom ’ideas’ usually led to hijinks not quite appropriate for two 80 year old great grandmothers living on a quiet tree lined street in St. Louis, Missouri.
“What pray tell is your idea?” Pauline knew she was expected to play the part of the sensible skeptic, but deep down she loved Deanne’s crazy ideas - they made her feel young and alive. More than once they were forced to endure family meetings with worried kids gathered around the dining room table explaining why their Moms were not showing good judgement or appropriate behavior.
Their trip to the Biloxi Casino a few months back was the perfect example. How were the ladies to know that within an hour of arriving, they would both hit the jackpot on the Wheel of Fortune slots? And it’s not like they could have planned for Deanne to search the internet from her iPad in the Biloxi hotel that evening and find that fabulous deal on a 4 day cruise from New Orleans to Cozumel leaving the next day. They had tried to call before they embarked - how were the ladies to know that none of their kids would answer their cellphones that morning? And was it really their fault that cell reception was so bad on the cruise ship? Once, Deanne hadn’t heard from her son Skip for 3 weeks when he was backpacking across China, so why should he freak out if she didn’t call him for a couple days?
“I was cleaning out the garage the other day and I found THIS.” Deanne pulled out her iPhone and opened the photo app. “I say we head down to Art Hill just like when we were kids.”
The photo showed a mint condition two person toboggan. Art Hill was THE place for sledding in Forest Park and had been since the early 1900’s. Practically every child who grew up in St Louis had been down that hill at least once in their life.
Pauline smiled. “You remember all that snow back in 1978? I bet we dragged our kids down to Forest Park every weekend from December until March that year.”
“I remember it well - that’s where Skip met Angie for the first time.” Angie was now Skip’s wife. “I also remember that day back in 8th grade when we had that late March snow. We told Sister Mary Elizabeth we had to go home because we ate bad chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, but we really went down to go sledding instead.”
“And we almost didn’t graduate when she saw our picture in the paper the next day. ‘School kids on Art Hill’ was the headline.” Pauline smacked the table laughing. “Alright - go get that toboggan and let’s do it!”
The Uber XL driver was very kind and helped them bungee the toboggan onto the luggage rack atop his SUV. Despite their kids thinking they both had bad judgement, neither of the ladies were crazy enough to drive in the winter mess.
It was a short trip from their neighborhood to Forest Park and their driver got a big kick out of their plan to go sledding. He said he wished he could join them, but fares were surging and he was having a big day driving though the slop.
He dropped them at the top of Art Hill and helped them unload their toboggan. “Have fun ladies!”
Scores of children and teens stopped to stare when Deanne and Pauline made their way to the top of the hill for their first run.
“Uh, are you ladies sure you want to do this?” asked a smirking floppy haired teen. “The hill’s pretty crowded. Me and my buddies don’t wanna run you over.” The other boys laughed and slapped each other’s backs as rap music blared from the iPhones strapped to their arms.
“Tell ya what kid,” Pauline said as she cranked up the Beatles from her own iPhone “if we beat you down the hill, you carry our sled back up for us. Deal?”
“Oooohhhhh!” The other boys gathered around and slapped the floppy haired kid on the shoulder. “Challenge! Go for it dude!”
“Whatever lady - let’s do this!”
Pauline and Deanne winked at one another as they boarded their toboggan. They wriggled, twisted and tucked until their bodies resembled a small cone shaped rocket.
This wasn’t their first rodeo.
“It’s on you young man - tell us when you’re ready.”
The boy pointed to his buddy who held up a hand. “3-2-1…. GO!”
The floppy haired boy grinned at his buddies and gave his sled a nonchalant push off while the ladies rocked their bodies in unison and dug their four hands into the snow like a well oiled machine. Within three synchronized pushes, they were already 10 feet ahead of the boy.
Frantically, the boy realized his mistake and clawed furiously at the snow, but it was too late. The ladies beat the lad by a good 30 yards on that first run…. and the next 3 runs as well!
The sound drubbings earned major respect from the boy and his friends. Finally, on the 5th run down the hill, one of the other boys eked out victory by a nose.
The ladies carried the winning boy’s sled up the hill and decided to retire to the bonfire for a warm-up break. The boys joined them for awhile and took great delight in their stories of sledding down this exact same hill with their own friends back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
When the boys headed back to the hill, Pauline looked to her left and then to her right. When she was confident they had some privacy, she elbowed Deanne in the ribs and opened her coat to reveal a small silver flask.
“Jack frost still nipping’ at ya?” she asked with a sly grin.
Deanne smiled the smile of a sledding champion and reached for the flask.
Fatigue and a now empty flask of rum made their last few runs down the hill quite adventurous. They capped off the morning by accepting a dare from their new young friends to jump the small mogul near the bottom. The ladies ended their final run face down in the snow and laughing hysterically.
“Let’s call it a day before one of us breaks a hip.” laughed Deanne. “Besides - I’m starving!”
As luck would have it, their Uber request yielded the same driver who had dropped them off at the top of the hill a few hours earlier. This time he loaded their toboggan completely on his own while the ladies soaked up the warmth in his backseat. He delighted in their tales from the day before dropping them at the City Diner downtown.
Pauline took a long sip from her steaming mug. She savored the warmth… and nearly spit her coffee across the table at what she saw on the TV high above Deanne’s head in the corner of the diner.
“What’s the matter? Is the coffee that bad?”
Without speaking, Pauline motioned to the screen behind Deanne.
“…and not only do the school kids get a snow day,” blathered the perky blonde meteorologist in the overstuffed parka “but it looks like the young a heart also took a day off for some sledding.”
Apparently the ladies hadn’t noticed the news van at the bottom of the hill nor the camera that was positioned perfectly to capture their spill and tumble on that final ride over the mogul.
“Oooooh - be careful out there” giggled the weather girl “we don’t want anyone to break a hip!” The camera zoomed in on Pauline who was covered in snow and laughing hysterically.
“Shut it blondie…” Deanne growled at the TV “…or I’ll come break YOUR hip!”
At that moment, their phones on the table both began to ring at the same time.
“You think it’s Sister Mary Elizabeth?” The ladies burst into laughter for the umpteenth time that morning. They silenced the ringing phones, shoved them into their respective purses and turned their attention back to chicken salad sandwiches and hot vegetable soup. They were both VERY hungry.
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