Christmas gifts with a string attached

Though I've never seen it on my birth certificate -- it must be there in invisible ink -- my middle name is procrastination. That's why I'm a journalist. Without deadlines looming over my head, I'd be a wreck.

The deadline for the Nevada Appeal's Holiday Memories submissions passed Dec. 9 and I didn't get mine in, so I'll share them with you here instead of on the front page.

When I was growing up in Gold Hill I shared a room with my two brothers in the attic of our little red and white house. One year I helped my mom pack box after box of junk from our storage room at the base of the stairs down the hill to what one time was a chicken coop. It had been emptied of its chicken roosts and other assorted fowl-related items and was fast becoming a storage shed.

On Christmas morning, as we were opening presents, I received one with a string attached. In most cases presents with strings attached are a bad thing. It's like those offers for free somethings if you buy a whatever, or those little slips where you sign up to win a thingamajig complete with its dealybopper that fast land you on a mailing list sold to the telemarketer gods.

That year, though, the string led me out the side door around the house, around the tree and back in the house to the door of the storage room I had helped my mom empty.

Unbeknownst to me, sometime between packing boxes and Christmas morning the room had been wallpapered in pink flowers, painted, carpeted and turned into a room any girl would love.

It was unusual because the back wall, which is built into the side of the hill, was built of rock, and the south wall, which faced our back yard, was mostly windows and a door. It was the best little nook, one of the best Christmas presents I could have ever had.

The toboggan the three Du Fresne kids got from Jack and Freida Good was also one of the best presents, even though it wasn't the longest lasting one. I don't think toboggan makers ever dreamed of jumping them off of sagebrush.

We would build a sled run from the fence above the house down the hill, across the driveway, down another hill into the flat by the vegetable garden. There wasn't always enough snow in lower Gold Hill, but the year we got the toboggan was a banner year for snow.

We scurried up the hill and headed down, seated 1,2,3 in a row on the sled. We hit the first little bench and continued down past the basketball hoop and across the driveway, past the plumb trees and into the flat.

I think we made about three runs before the track packed into a run any bobsledder would be proud of -- then we were off.

We had to hang onto the fence and the sled at the same time while we all piled on, then we'd let go and let gravity take over.

On the first little bench about 10 yards from the fence was a giant sagebrush that we had avoided -- until now. With the route nice and packed we picked up speed like nobody's business, left the track, hit the sagebrush and launched into the air like a trio of professional ski jumpers. We landed with a bang and a shattering of wood tumbling across the driveway -- our new toboggan in shreds. Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Not to be deterred with such a good run all fixed up, we dragged out the old saucers and launched off the giant sagebrush jump again and again. Probably only hot chocolate and cookies or dark lured us back inside.

Over the years we tried sledding on shovels and cafeteria trays, but the best sled ever invented is a big green garbage bag. They're cheap. Everyone has one and they slide the best.

Wrap up a box and put it under the tree. You'll get a few odd looks when it's opened, but there'll be 60 days of fun inside -- and you won't be needing something to gather up the wrappings with.

Kelli Du Fresne is features editor for the Nevada Appeal -- and, yes, it's a wonder she's still alive.


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