From the window of the cabin, the boy sees a lone headlight carve a gentle arc along the shoreline of the frozen lake. Enough trees stand on the hillside between the cabin and the lake below to intermittently obscure the snowmobile’s beam, allowing it to telegraph a sort of visual Morse code to the boy in the window.
The sun disappeared over the lake long ago, but the night’s complete blackness has not quite settled in. The boy presses his face against the cold window, straining his eyes to see the color of the snowmobile. Is it blue or yellow? Maybe red, or perhaps black?
He wonders too where this rider and machine are headed? A simple lap around the lake or some destination many miles away?
The chill of the window’s pane sends a shiver through the boy. He’s glad to be inside a warm cabin, yet he longs to be the one riding a snowmobile on this cold, calm evening.
He watches the machine stop a short distance from the shoreline, its headlight pointed at the well-packed trail leading off the lake and up a steep hillside.
The boy knows this narrow, challenging stretch of trail quite well. It will thrill him many times the next day as part of a loop he will ride on his uncle’s snowmobile, connecting the cabin with the spread of holes where the adults will spend the day catching fish.
He’s ridden snowmobiles by himself only a few times before, so the boy cannot fathom the courage and skill required to ride UP this hill… at night!
After the brief pause, the machine lurches toward the hillside trail, gaining the speed necessary to reach the top. The headlight’s beam bounces hard up and down, reflecting off of the trees that it slaloms past on its way to cresting the hill.
Whew, the rider made it!
Instead of continuing onward, the rider pauses briefly at the top.
Maybe he stopped to catch his breath after the brave ascent? Maybe he’s surveying the difficult route behind, or contemplating some other unseen danger ahead?
Or perhaps he’s gazing through the trees, at the warm glow of light radiating through the window of the cabin in the distance?
He’s too far away to see the boy staring intently back at him, but maybe the rider can senses something? Some… connection.
A moment passes. The machine moves forward and the headlight disappears into the night.
The boy stares out the window just a little longer, imagining the amazing adventures awaiting the unknown rider.
He doesn’t know it at the time, but the boy will replay this simple moment countless times in the years that follow.
Sometimes even now, when he sees a snowmobile headlight bouncing along in the distance, he wonders to himself about the unknown rider on the unknown machine from all those years ago.
Merry Christmas to him. And to you.