The Extraordinary Sled Ride
“Grandpa!” Hannah shouts loudly so that her grandfather could hear her with his hearing aid and pokes him in the back. “Grandpa, when are we finally going to go sledding? You promised!”
“You don't need to yell at me; I'm not deaf,” counters Grandpa, holding his hand over the ear with the hearing aid. “Now look out of the window. Can't you see that it is snowing like crazy out there? I'm afraid that today it just won't work.”
“A promise is a promise,” complains Hannah, even though she could very well see that it was indeed snowing wildly outside. Every half hour Grandpa had to put his coats on and shovel the small path free from the garden gate to the house door.
“Maybe tomorrow,” says Grandpa and places the sled back on the shelf in the small pantry. “Tomorrow it will be beautiful, “ he added and stroked his hand over Hannah's hair. “Look Girl, I can't do anything about it snowing so hard.” Then he goes into the bathroom.
That was true. He really couldn't do anything about the weather. Hannah could see that. But she could still be sad. Very sad indeed. She had been really looking forward to doing something with her grandfather. This holiday she had not done anything nice at all with him. And she saw him so seldom, and when she did nearly always during holidays like this one. And now they could not even go sledding. All because it was snowing so much. What rotten luck.
Then she has an idea. She decides to go sledding alone. Up the mountain with the small ski lift - without Grandpa. He doesn't want to go anyway. He would rather shovel snow. Let him. She wouldn't stay here though, she would have fun sledding.
Carefully, she tiptoes down the hallway so that her grandfather won’t hear. She hears him rummaging for something in the bathroom. Let him. “Silly Grandpa,” she thinks as she slips into the pantry and takes the sled down from the shelf. She rushes to the coat rack and jumps into her rubber boots because they are the quickest. Then her coat and mittens. But she can't find her stocking hat. Doesn't matter, the coat has a hood that she can pull over her head. Now she is ready. She opens the door and quickly slips outside.
The cold wind blows against her. Hannah has to squeeze her eyes half-way closed just to see anything. But fortunately it is not far to the lift. Grandpa lives on the edge of the village in a small blue cottage with window shutters like gingerbread and a red tile roof. But right now no red could be seen, just white everywhere. The sled is not as light as she thought it was. And the wind blows right into her hood. Her cheeks are already red from the cold.
Then she is there. Standing in front of the small lift where all the children from the village go skiing. Only today there are no children around at all.
She has to huff and keep her head down, so as not to get all that snow in her eyes. Finally she is at the top. Hannah has to take a short break. She sits down on her sled. The houses below on the hill look like little shadows. She can recognize only the hotel on the other side of the lift because it is lit up, otherwise she wouldn't be able to see that either.
All right, enough rest. Time to go down the hill, flying. On the sled. But it just won’t slide. Hannah pushes and pushes with her feet. She had not imagined it to be like this at all. Racing and swishing was what she wanted, just like sledding should be. But this is just boring! Now Hannah has to squeeze her eyes closed again - just to keep herself from crying. She is so angry.
She had snuck away from Grandpa, gone out in this stupid sticky snow and now the sled won't slide. The snow blows down her coat at her throat. Her toes are completely stiff and icy cold. She feels cold all over, now that she thinks about it. She pushes down the hill, bit by bit, and the knot in her throat grows little by little. Grandpa must be sick with worry by now.
“Grandpa,” Hannah whispers, “Oh Grandpa,” and the tears roll down her cheeks from the pain in her heart. Suddenly, she is quiet. She hears something. It sounds like a voice, but one calling from far away. But from where?
Hannah looks around all over, squinting just to make out anything. She spots a form rushing towards her through the snow. First small and hunched-over, then bigger and bigger, completely white. Suddenly Grandpa stands right in front of her, his hat covered in snow. She swallows.
She runs to him and hugs him as tight as she can, pressing her face into his green Loden wool coat. “Hey, Girl, you must be crazy, you snot-nosed little brat. I should spank your behind. Running away like that!” Grandpa rails with her good. That was it for Hannah, tears stream down her little face like waterfalls. “But Grandpa,” she sighs, “we did want to go sledding.” She squeezes her face into his belly. “Well, well, well,” said Grandpa, but this time his voice seems more gentle. “Then come along, you stubborn child!”
And Grandpa sits Hannah on the sled and grabs the rope.
“I told you the snow is not for sledding,” Grandpa gasped as he slowly pulls Hannah after him. Past the lift house, surprisingly not back home. Grandpa pulls her over to the hotel. She wonders what is going on.
The hotel is made completely out of wood; it is huge. Grandpa and Hannah march through the front door. Hannah's mouth drops open. It looks so wonderful here. The floors shine and in the hall a gigantic Christmas tree stands brightly lit. Grandpa looks around and leads them directly to a second door. “To the Sledding Fun,” Hannah reads on the large wooden arrow pointing at the door.
Hannah's eyes open wide. She is speechless. “Wow, Grandpa,” Hannah whispers. “Do you see what I see?”
“I may be old, but I'm a far away from being blind,” says Grandpa and pushes Hannah into the room. Inside are enormous wooden sleds beside wooden tables. Hannah and Grandpa sit down on two sleds at a free table. “Well then,” Grandpa says with a satisfied expression on his face. “You know what? Now we are going to go sledding in a different way. And first of all that means eating some of the best baked apples in the whole world. And then we are going home. Tomorrow, if it's not snowing anymore, then we are going for a real sledding tour, both of us together. And that is a promise to keep!”
Translated from German by Shan Wardell