A loud scream woke up Mother and Father that morning. They leapt out of bed, stumbling over the quilt that dragged on the floor after them. They pushed open one of the children’s bedroom doors and it slammed against the wall. The children were pressed up against the window, laughing in glee but their parents were not yet satisfied that they were okay.
“What’s happened?” Father croaked, still groggy from sleep and rude awakenings. The two boys pushed between them, rubbing their faces.
“Snow, Dad!” Lucy shouted from the window. Amelia pressed her face further against the window as she gasped. Arthur and Charlie rushed to the window then, followed by their parents.
“Your first snow day, Amelia.” Mother smiled, craning her neck to see. “You’d better all get dressed then. We’ll make our way to the woods where you’ve all had your first snow days.”
The children rushed to get ready, piling on two layers of clothes. In their excitement, they fumbled over buttons and zips, bumping into furniture. Father started to warm the car and pack sleds and blankets and some food.
Mother helped them zip into their winter coats which was not without arguments. But finally they were all piled in the car, buzzing with excitement. The drive felt long to the children who were aching to sled down a hill and have snowball fights. Secretly, Amelia began to feel nervous; she had never even seen snow before unless it was in pictures. She was a bit worried about it being too cold. But when they stopped at the wood, the worry started to melt away. The snow that hung on the trees was mesmerising even to Amelia. The light reflected against the snow making everything seem brighter.
Mother began to unpack the car, handing the smaller bags to Charlie and Lucy. She entrusted Arthur with the picnic while Father took some of the sleds from her.
They made their way to the clearing. The cold was beginning to cling to them now but the further they walked, the warmer they became. Finally, Father spotted the hill and they set up camp next to it. He took Amelia’s hand and picked up a blue sled.
“You get a turn first. I can come down with you for your first go if you like.”
Amelia nodded, smiling up at him gratefully. They climbed up the side of the hill, in between the trees. Father held her hand firmly and pulled her up when she fell into the deep powdery snow.
At the top, Father placed the blue sled securely into the snow and helped Amelia get in. Once she was seated, he pushed off and sat behind her. Amelia felt a strange feeling in her stomach as they went down at great speed. The rest of her family came into view quickly, then the sled rocked and tipped sideways at the bottom. The cold snow went down her coat and she squealed, then giggled as she looked back at the snowy hill. Charlie, Lucy and Arthur were already racing up it with their own sleds. Arthur fell a few times so only the other two fought to go down first. Lucy eventually won but was closely followed by Charlie, who crashed into her at the bottom. Lucy began to grumble but was interrupted by Arthur yelling at them.
“Get out of the way!”
The two of them scrambled out of the way laughing and shouting. Arthur sat there as he stopped with a bump. Then freezing cold snow hit him in the side of the head. He gasped, deciding whether to be angry or laugh. Charlie appeared from behind a wide tree, holding another snowball and aiming at Lucy this time. Although Lucy saw this coming and pelted his chest with a snowball. Mother was getting up to join in, running to hide behind a tree trunk. Amelia wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do. This wasn’t quite hide and seek. But Father told her to hide behind the bush nearest them, crouching down beside her. He began to shovel the snow, pressing it hard around the edges to make a ball.
“This is what you’ve got to do. Make lots of snowballs and we can both throw them at the others, okay?”
Amelia nodded; a bit panicked at the pace they needed to be going at.
“A bush won’t protect you!” Charlie shouted, throwing a snowball in their direction. Mother threw one at her son, hitting the tree trunk he ducked behind. Arthur threw one and Lucy shrieked, throwing one back at his head. Father threw three snowballs at Mother, hitting her with two of them. He laughed heartily as she flashed him a dark glare. Amelia tried to throw her misshaped snowballs but couldn’t hit anyone. She began to get frustrated until she hit Charlie who was looking at something in the distance. She pointed and laughed as he went red in the face.
“Mum, I’m too hot now. Can we have something to eat?” Lucy sighed, slumping her shoulders. The rest of the children whined in unison. Mother began to smile.
“Yes, take off your gloves and have a sandwich.”
The children began to eat ravenously, and even Mother and Father hungrily ate their sandwiches.
That evening, they sat in front of the fire, hot chocolate in hand. At the dinner table, all they could talk about was their snowball fight, dramatising the sound of the impact. When their parents put them to bed that night, the children fell asleep almost immediately. Warm and tired from their exciting snow day. A first snow day Amelia would never forget.
Years and years later, Amelia would bring her children to this spot for their first snow days as her siblings did with their own children. Their parents had been happy knowing that their grandchildren would be shown the special family place and they knew it would be passed down through the family for generations to come. So even after their parents had died, the four siblings came together on snow days in the same clearing to give their children the experience that they once had: wonderful, and memorable, first snow days.