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New Year's eve

My brother’s friend Gordon invited my brother and I to go skiing. Gordon’s parents owned a condo in upstate New York, not too far from some beautiful slopes. We drove down from Montreal the evening before, in our father’s old station wagon, following directions my brother had written on scrap paper. The cold was bracing.

I’ve forgotten many of the details, but I do remember Gordon’s mother taking me under her wing. I was the only girl among three boys. After a long day of skiing and a filling dinner, Gordon suggested that we go ice skating on a pond nearby. I hadn’t brought my skates. “You can borrow mine,” Gordon’s mother said. My feet were several sizes too small, so we stuffed socks at the toes.

Winter ponds don’t always freeze flat, and skating on them can be a challenge. This one, though, was completely smooth, with surprisingly clear, thick ice. We saw the bubbles trapped beneath it—I found it disconcerting. But the night was clear, the moon full and high, and we joined another half dozen people on the pond.

I was never a very good skater. And wearing skates several sizes too big made me even more ungainly. But we had so much fun. We marveled at how well we could see with the moonlight shining off the snow, making everything bright. We circled and laughed. Gordon's brother created figure eights and more complicated patterns that we tried to imitate. We debated how thick the ice really was, and whether it would be safe to skate near the pond's outlet. (None of us did.)  I’m not sure how long we were out there, but no one was in any hurry to return to the condo. When we did, Gordon’s mother had hot chocolate ready for us. We warmed up and told her about the pond and view.

“Happy New Year,” she said.

The funny thing was that I had forgotten it was New Year’s eve. Between the skiing, and the dinner, and the nighttime skate, I had been too busy to remember. Thirty four years later, it is still the one New Year’s eve I never forget.

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