There are things I learned in elementary school that I will never forget. Extra-curricular things like "stop, drop and roll" or how to rescue someone who's fallen through the ice.
I stop drop and roll whenever so much as a spark flies out of the fireplace. Also when I set the toaster on fire. The broken ice thing, though, I've had less experience with. Which is good.
Today our friend Randy came by and asked to borrow our shovel so he could clear a little spot on the pond across the street. He had his skates with him and a bucket to sit on while he put on his skates. He was obviously a boy scout in a former life and has thought of everything. He asked if the kids would like to come with him, for a little boot skating.
We bundled up, comically. Studley could barely lower his arms. This was to guard the kids against the cold, as well as the ravages of the prickley branches that circle the pond. "Be careful," said Studley. "Some of the flowers are pointy."
As we approached the pond, the ground started to give way under us and we broke through little pieces of ice into a couple of inches of pooled water. This made me nervous. After all, if these shallow pools were not thoroughly frozen, why should the pond be trusted?
We caught up to Randy, who had by then shoveled the near end of the pond. He came to the edge, and the ice crumbled underneath him - again into about an inch of water. I turned to Lucy. "If you hear any cracking sounds, lie down on the ice and pretend you are floating like a star." She decided not to go.
Studley, after evaluating the solar gain of shallow water pooled on dark earth and then doing a quick bit of calculus to determine pond depth and water temperature, scurried after Randy. He had a ball while Lucy and I watched, listening for the zip of ice giving way. I mentally scoured our house for the closest ladder, which is ridiculous because it would take me 10 minutes to get to the house, find the ladder, and return. I should have brought one with me. And some rope. And maybe some water wings. Then I recalled the suggestion to make a human chain and crawl out onto the broken ice. Which is great except this human chain is made up of me and a six year old.
"I want him to come back in now," said Lucy.
"It's okay," I assured her. "If the ice broke, Studley would be up to his waist in cold water."
It is completely irrelevant that Randy, a very grown-up man, is zooming around out there and Not Falling Through. It is irrelevant that the ice is obviously Very Solid. It is irrelevant because now it is my children we are talking about and there was that one time in the third grade when we watched the safety film on frozen ponds and Studley, why are you not cold yet?
Seeing that nothing was happening to either of the men-folk, Lucy went out onto the pond - at which point I've gone from ladders to human chains to simply throwing myself into the hole created by my children.
Finally, Studley was cold. I tried to say something like "oh darn, already?" but instead tucked a child under each arm and headed for dry land.
Now that it's over, I wish I had taken a camera. Little people sliding around on a pond in the middle of winter, with snow all around and making ice angels. Dressed in puffy coats and handknit scarves, with rosey cheeks. I'm really glad we did it.
I'm really glad it's over.