Children on bright sleds
pulled by panting parents
of this frozen kingdom
in their stiff snowsuits.
We came out of our garage this morning into the snow-filled alley, and waited for such a parent and child to pass: the father, bare-headed, all in black, trudging through the deep snow pulling his son on a turquoise sled; the child swaddled in puffy layers of colorful down and wool, staring straight ahead like a little prince. I'm so used to seeing scenes like this -- the mothers and fathers pulling different types of sleds on their way to the early-morning garderies and elementary schools -- that it seldom occurs to me that this common method of conveyance is probably rather unique to far-northern cities like ours. Sometimes the kids, especially very little ones, lie flat on the sleds, staring up at the sky and the buildings going by, but the older ones tend to sit up like little kings in carriages pulled by horses.
Their impassive expressions remind me of photos of child-lamas in Tibet, considered to be the reincarnations of great lamas, who are dressed in layers of bright quilted silks and wools, and treated like royalty from early childhood. In our neighborhood, which is mostly French, parents are very attentive to their children, and it's common to see a sled or a stroller stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, the parent bent over, patiently listening to a child who's talking, animated, waving her arms. The children behave well, or so it seems to me, but I rarely see or hear a parent yelling, and have never seen a child being hit since I moved here. Family life is still a priority; it often feels, to me, like the 1950s.