Memories are Made of This

Icy wind was rushing past frozen cheeks as the sled sped down the slope. Ice crystals coated eyelashes as the sled carved its way down the hill. The passenger instinctively leant into the curve as it turned a corner. The sled was picking up speed as it hurtled down unencumbered. With a final whoosh, the sled landed in a mighty snowdrift and the exhilarating ride was over. Marilla got to her feet in an ungainly fashion and grinned at Jem who had arrived seconds earlier.


"Oh yes!" She said breathlessly

"Want to go again?"

"Yes, but now we have to climb the hill again."

"Thought of that", said Gil, thinking of his mother-in-law's creaky knees, "we have provided assistance", he led the horse out. "He'll carry you back up the slope."

Marilla and John had arrived a day earlier. It was their first Christmas as a married couple and they had been invited to join the family for the holiday. They had arrived in the dead of night so as to hide their many presents from enquiring eyes. They crept quietly into the house and had a quick cup of warming tea before making their way to bed and sleep.

Next morning the children were delighted to find their grandparents at the breakfast table. Susan had been warned, so there were plenty of eggs and bacon, waffles, pancakes and porridge. It was a breakfast fit for a king.

Susan reckoned the children would be making the most of the recent snowfall by sledding all day and would need a decent breakfast to fortify themselves. Everyone sat around the breakfast table laughing and planning the day.

"The snow is deep and powdery'", said Jem, "excellent for sledding on the hill above Rainbow Valley."

"Let's go and watch, Mar." Said John.

"Oh, it'll be too cold," warned Susan.

"Yes, let's all go on a family outing" declared Anne.

Susan quickly packed a picnic and they loaded the horse with panniers full of food. They wrapped up with coats, hats, gloves and scarves and made a merry sight as they trudged through the snow. The older children dragged sleds behind them. "We could do with snow shoes," said Gil, "wait here and I'll fetch them". It delayed them slightly, but they made better headway.

The party arrived at the top of the slope. There was a lovely mostly straight track, which gently led down to a mighty snowdrift in the distance below; a perfect sledding hill. Jem said he would go first. He sat on his sled and pushed off and was away with a whoosh. The family watched in envy as he gracefully carved out a track in the virgin snow. "That's one of my favourite memories of childhood", said John wistfully. "Breaking fresh snow with your sled." Walter, Shirley, Di and Nan set off on their own sleds, slightly apprehensively in the case of Shirley and Nan, but they bravely hid their fears. John put Rilla between his legs and they pushed off too. Rilla screamed the whole way down, once they got to the bottom she immediately demanded another go. Gil gave her a piggyback up to the top, giving the younger ones a push when necessary.

"What about you, Mum? Do you want a go?" asked Jem.

"Well why not? I haven't sledded in years."

Marilla and John watched them all having fun, sliding down and trudging back up. Nan was exhausted after her latest trip up the hill and had a little rest on a blanket they had bought with them. Marilla sat with her, covering her with a rug they had bought along for just this purpose. "Was it fun darling?"

"Oh yes Aunt Marilla, it was amazing. Have you ever been sledding?"

"Not for years and years, we used to do it in Avonlea though, when I was very young."

"You should try it again."

"Well what about it Mar? asked John with a grin.

Marilla looked at him. He looked at her.

"I can't."

"Why ever not?"

"I'm too old."

John laughed at that. "Since when has that ever stopped you?"

So Marilla soon found herself whooshing exhilaratingly down the hill, her hair escaped its pins and streamed out behind her, her eyes watering in the cold wind. It was over all too soon. She was grateful to find Gil had brought the horse down to the bottom of the hill so that she didn't have to trudge back up the top. One of the benefits of being old, she supposed. On the way back up she was pleased to see John and Shirley sharing a sled ride down. They were great friends those two. After a few hours of sledding, it was determined that everyone was cold and hungry, so it was time to go back home.

It had been a wonderful day, the sort memories are made of.

There were little squeals of joy through the house the next morning as the youngest members of the household found their stockings hanging up on the mantelpiece. When Jem was very young, Anne and Gil had initiated a tradition whereby the minor gifts were placed in Christmas stockings. These could be opened by any child getting up early; with the express instruction that adults were not to be woken before daylight. Their reasoning was that it was unreasonable to make the children stay in bed on this most exciting morning, but that they themselves did not wish to get up at 6am.

The children happily spent an hour or so comparing presents and playing with their new toys. They received oranges and nuts, the boys got tinned soldiers and the girls little paper dolls.

Once the sun rose all bets were off and the children bundled into their parents bedroom, laughing and telling them what Santa had brought. "If we're lucky Santa might still be around" said Gilbert. The children were mystified. Wouldn't he be off delivering presents to other boys and girls? But Dad was right, for in their very own living room there was a bearded man dressed in red with a big sack over his shoulder.

"Santa!" Cried Nan "It's really Santa."

"Ho ho ho" said Santa. "Have you been a good little girl this year?"

"Oh I have tried to be good, Santa."

"Then I have a little gift for you."

All the children had been well behaved all year and so they all received gifts.

"And what about you young miss" Santa said to Marilla, "have you been good or naughty?" Marilla grinned and replied quietly that she had been a bit of both. Santa gave her a kiss; then turned to a smiling Anne and Gilbert "And you two lovebirds, how has your behaviour been?" They laughed and admitted that they had been disgustingly well behaved. "Oh well here's always next year" teased Santa.

"Come children, it's time to get dressed, we'll be late for church." Anne called before the children noticed that John was not around.

The little church was busy. Everyone was dressed warmly in their Sunday best. The family greeted the locals and Anne made the usual introductions to neighbours who didn't often see Marilla and John. They were asked how they were enjoying married life and their first Christmas together. John told Mrs Bryant that Marilla had been sledding the day before which thoroughly shocked that lady.

The family sat down to a massive Christmas dinner, roast turkey with all the trimmings, roasted vegetables and cranberry sauce. Susan had outdone herself. It was a delicious feast. To follow there was Christmas pudding with brandy butte, ice-cream and whipped cream. They sat around afterwards mostly replete, but still filling the odd gap with nuts and chocolate caramels. Susan ushered the exhausted children up to bed and the adults promised to come up shortly to wish them good night.

John and Marilla crept into the girls' bedroom to kiss them good night. It had been a most wonderful Christmas. "Did you ever wish that you'd had children of your own, Aunt Marilla? Di enquired. John gasped.

With a catch in her throat, Marilla stated that she was so lucky to have Anne and her grandchildren around that she never thought of it.

"But did you, Mar?" John enquired afterwards.

"Well there was a time, I admit." Marilla replied. "When Rachel was having all her babies and I was just looking on from afar. That was hard." John hugged her feeling guilty. "Oh don't be silly, John. If we had stayed together back then, we wouldn't all be here now. These beautiful children and their father wouldn't exist."

A/N One of my favourite photos is of my dad in his mid 60s sprawled backwards on a sled with his legs in the air with a grandchild around somewhere. He was an excellent grandfather, I just wish he'd met my kids.