jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Sledding and Cocoa


January, 2014

I love sledding. I mean, I really love sledding.

 When I was first married, my husband and I lived in a haunted mansion in Philadelphia. Seriously. It was so haunted that my sister with the Guiding Eye dog asked me, “If my dog stops for people you can’t see, do you want me to tell you?” But the house had its advantages. Besides being free (actually, I could probably stop there…) it was a bona fide mansion with marble fireplaces in almost every room, two kitchens, an even more haunted basement and a fully furnished nursery that looked like it was plucked directly out of a 1942 Good Housekeeping magazine (haunted).

 Everyone said it reminded them of The Shining, especially in the winter. Because this stark white house sat on a hill in the far reaches of Philadelphia and the hill sloped down, down, down to the woods below and the Wissahickon River beyond.

 After our first snow there I grabbed the extra heavy duty trash bags and roll of duct tape we found in a utility closet (creepy), and taped my body into a human sled. I stood in about a foot of snow at the top of the hill, ran to the edge and let go. I went flying. And my favorite part was lying down at the bottom of this huge hill in the only silent place in all of Philadelphia as I watched those big fat fluffy snowflakes land on my black-plastic-encrusted legs. Sledding was a revelation. It was like a Josh Groban music video. Or maybe Green Day. Cheap, trashy, lovely, authentic.

Snow, 1978 Jennie and Michele

Snow, 1978
Jennie and Michele

 When I was growing up we never went sledding. Not once that I remember. We owned a sled, one of those wooden Red Riders with the metal runners on the bottom (because nothing says death like metal runners on a child’s sled), but we never did more than tie a rope to the front and pull each other dog sled style around the neighborhood.

 There was a good sledding hill in our town. It was conveniently located right off the highway at the cemetery. One stop shopping there, am I right? Because the rumor was that someone had died sledding that big hill, or at least that’s what my mother said. We were never allowed to go. The last thing my mother needed was a paraplegic, something she would never have said aloud only because it went without saying. In fact, the only time I ever saw my mother outside in the snow, she was shoveling a walk or schlepping a retarded child onto a short bus. I don’t think in all her life she ever went sledding.

When Tim and I moved to Massachusetts our first winter I remember wrapping Jasper, then three, in snow pants and sliding him down the small hill in our backyard. The following winter my sister bought us a huge blow up sled and it snowed, and snowed, and snowed. We had snow plows and backhoes in our driveway almost every day to clear out the snow.

December, 2010

December, 2010

I would wrap all four kids in snowsuits, the baby in fact was positively rigid with layers of fleece, and we would take the sled we had and build slalom runs for them. Some afternoons while the twins and baby were already napping, I’d dress Jasper and head to the big hill at the far edge of our yard. I’d lay him on the three-man blow-up sled, run in a crouch and then belly flop next to him, flying down the hill.


December, 2013
Mudding (aka mud-sledding)

 Last week we hiked to the hill at the neighboring school. It has a long slow drop and then a sudden sloped ending that is so shockingly steep and fast it feels like the log flume at Storyland. I literally screamed every time we went down. We all lined up, Cabot between my legs, Mica between Jasper’s legs on a neighboring sled and then Reid on the other side on her own. We grabbed each other’s hands. We laughed and screamed and flew down the hill again and again.

 While I don’t remember my mother going out in the snow with us ever, I do remember the carefully prepared cocoa we would get after any stumbling forays into the great white beyond whether to play or shovel the walks. And so, after sledding with my children, I pour the coconut milk and organic cow’s milk into four mugs, microwave, add the Ovaltine and then the requisite marshmallow.


December, 2013
Reid and Mama

While my mother never took me sledding, she always made hot cocoa when it snowed. Some days my mother’s gifts to me seem so very small, but I believe it’s something to build on. And for that I’m thankful.

11 comments on “Sledding and Cocoa

  1. bpendergast4
    January 6, 2014

    Finally following your blog, Groebs. Miss you tons and am loving catching up with you this way…

    • jgroeber
      January 6, 2014

      Yay! Get ready for twice weekly Groeber-blather filling your inbox. It’ll feel just like old times! Miss you guys tons! Hope your lovely girl got a little something from AUntie Jennie this holiday? I missed the mark on so much this year, I’m never sure! Hugs to you and yours!

  2. talesfromthemotherland
    January 6, 2014

    Another gorgeous post… We rarely get snow here (generally once a winter, and it came while I was in the hospital, a few weeks ago! 😦 ) but when we do, the whole town closes down. We all go sledding…adults and kids alike! When we lived in MI we were sledding all the time, and making lots of cocoa! I broke my tailbone and 3 ribs, sledding when pregnant with Little Man (3rd) and my daughter had a big ass crash (here) when she was 14. Amazing neither of us were permanently scarred (well, actually my girl does have a scar)… we get less snow here, but the hills are San Francisco epic… every street is a sledding hill! I’ll say it again: I so love the way you write!

    • jgroeber
      January 12, 2014

      Love this reflection! Sledding is so… epic? Eternal? Hazardous?! I take so many photos and a bit of video in the hopes that they remember the mayhem and freedom of flying down those hills.
      I love the way you write, too. This blogging thing is such a bizarre mystery still, but connecting to new writers and old friends makes it feel worth it. It’s enlarging my world while allowing me to record the small moments and passing thoughts. Thank you for that.

      • talesfromthemotherland
        January 12, 2014

        Ditto. Thank you, for the same things… or, I know you are, but what am I. 😉

        • jgroeber
          January 12, 2014

          You’re a mirror and I’m glue? I’m a mirror and you’re glue? You’re a rock star blogger and I will no longer be my 7th grade self? Ha! One can always hope!

          • talesfromthemotherland
            January 12, 2014

            You’re rubber and I’m glue.

            HARDLY a rock star. I’m just working my ass off, and starting to make some progress. I’m barely in 9th grade… and only because I’m much older! Trust me, you don’t want to trade the followers for the wrinkles and achy knees. :-p

  3. Michele
    January 12, 2014

    I love this post…. So true that the little things mom’s do mean so much more as an adult than it ever did as a kid….. So glad you love to sleigh with your children. Looks like a lot of fun!! (especially the mud snowing…) Such a sweet mama!!!

    • jgroeber
      January 12, 2014

      And how about those two kids in the yard from 1978? My only time in the snow (or playing in the creek) that I remember is time I spent with YOU. I had to look long and hard to find the single photo from all of my childhood of playing in the snow. Ha! And my poor kids, there are so many photos. 😉 (And so much sledding!) Love that you read this!

  4. Margie S
    February 26, 2014

    Sledding brightens the winter. So freeing when you are being whisked down the hill – just along for the ride. Cocoa is a must! I am seeing glimpses of future olympic lugers!

    • jgroeber
      February 28, 2014

      Just went sledding again yesterday. It’s the best! And everything is better with cocoa.

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This entry was posted on January 5, 2014 by in Memory, Surviving Motherhood, The Children, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .

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