We rode hard, side by side, facing the snow capped mountains to the north.
Tilia on her wild eyed, spring loaded horse, me on my feet, slapping my own flank and whipping imaginary reins to the pounding gallop of the springs.
It was late morning and time for outdoor recess before my little granddaughter's midday nap.
Spotting 'Po Po,’ the stuffed polar bear and ‘momma,’ her mother’s sports bra/binky, Tilia's eyes glazed and her thumb drifted to her mouth.
I knew I better move it.
Working patiently, I softly pushed one arm into a sweater sleeve, waited for her to take her thumb out and shift Po Po to the other arm so I could push her second arm into its sleeve.
I unzipped her snowsuit and lay it on the mudroom floor, then pulled her to me, buried my face in her neck and inhaled before lying her on the snowsuit I would wrangle her into.
I gently pushed one leg down a hole and waited for her to remove her thumb, shift Po Po to the other arm, reinsert her thumb, then push one arm through a snowsuit sleeve, thumb out - momma shift…snuggle her hat down around her face and ears, wait for her to remove her thumb and put momma and Po Po down so I could fasten her hat under her chin, wait for her to pick momma and Po Po up and pull her hood on and wrap a scarf around it to hold it in place.
I lay her on her back on the floor and she helpfully raised both stockinged feet in the air when she saw me scrambling around the mudroom floor for her miniature winter boots.
Layered beyond moving, I hauled her up by the front of her snowsuit and saw tiny red knit mittens dangling from each sleeve by a strand of red yarn.
"Oh God," I thought, how am I going to get her to leave mittens on when she's in thumb sucking mode?
I asked her if she minded not sucking her thumb while we went outside for a snow adventure.
She stared at me...suck suck suck.
I was still in pajamas (my weekly sleepover) and knew she would over heat quickly, so I reached for the longest coat on the rack, pulled on my son in laws oversized boots, gloves and hat I had seen under the boot rack, scooped her, Po Po, momma and a thick wool blanket from the closet and headed outside.
She buried her face in my neck as soon as the icy air hit her tender face. Her thumb stayed in its warm little hole.
I put her in the sled, wrapping the blanket around her, Po Po amd momma, creating a funnel opening around her face and unmittened hand.
"If you want to keep sucking your thumb, you need to keep your hand inside the blanket," I said, doing my best to sound firm.
She nodded - I trust her.
I tugged at the rope and the sled moved easily across the snow. The air felt thin, sharp and clean as I turned to look at my sled full of treasure. I could just see one blue eye and tiny knuckles inside the blanket teepee.
I mushed on and we visited the giant round hay bales in the lower fields, saying hello as we always did and pretending to be horses munching on them, then giggling at ourselves.
But not today, today she clutched momma in her little fist, twisting and turning it under her nose, the warm breath from her nostrils keeping her hand just warm enough.
I left her in peace...obsessively checking the temperature of her hands with my own.
Spotting animal tracks, I followed them to the stream, pulling her along behind me.
A set of tiny prints disappeared around an enormous hay bale near the iced over stream and I lay on my stomach to see where they lead.
"Oh tiltil," I said, "look at that!!!" a mouse made a house in this hay bale and there is a tiny skating rink right in front of his door!"
She looked at me...suck suck suck.
I poked my gloved finger in the mouse hole to see how deep it was, waited a few seconds for a mouse to appear but it was too cold to wait around, so I jumped up and brushed the snow off the front of my pajama pants and moved on.
We walked along the stream until we heard the icy tinkle of open water and stopped to listen.
"Everything needs water tiltil" I said as I pulled the sled alongside a line of bunny tracks with poop in them. I pointed to the poop and the tracks and acted out a bunny hopping.
We walked the loop slowly, me forward and backward, chatting and keeping an eye on her, re arranging the blanket as the sled rode over bumps exposing her hand.
I pulled her around and around the house, then parked in front of the door and pulled her to her feet.
Tilia waddled in the house, snapped her thumb out of her mouth and began talking about po po, momma, boots, hat, mice eeeek!...all the words that had been stuck behind her thumb for the last half hour.
I undressed her and in the layers of bundling realized momma was missing. I laughed to think of my daughters sports bra lying frozen in the snow and knew Tilia and I would be going out for an afternoon adventure to find it.
"How about some milkies? " I said, holding up a fresh sports bra from my daughters clean laundry basket, shouting momma!
Tilia and Po Po ran straight at me and I scooped them up in a swirl of kisses and reaching for her warm milk bottle and headed to the rocking chair in the living room.
I kicked the foot stool around to face the backyard and sunk into the rocker as Tilia leaned against my heart and began drinking.
I set the rocker in motion and we watched the winter hay bales rock, back and forth....back and forth.