“Do you remember when the snow globe broke?”
My childhood is filled with the memories that wintery grey skies bring. Ice skating on gently undulating ponds, peering down at the miniature horseshoe crabs frozen in motion. The first snow falling on my August birthday. Crying against the pain of warmth returning to near-frozen fingers and toes. Elaborate labyrinths in the drifts against the house. Blocks of ice melting on the stove. The mottled purple frostbite of my brother’s hand left uncovered for a 200-yard walk home. Twenty-four hours of darkness. Wild dogs deep within the snowy tunnels under the house. Brightly colored Christmas lights gleaming against frost caps on the inside window sills. The wind howling against the cold porch door, and my mouse-brown hair frozen to the wall when morning arrived. Husky puppies in the kitchen. Riding in the dark holding tight to the sled lashings. Elaborately embroidered parkas unveiled on Christmas Eve and Santa by DC3. Julie Andrews and my favorite things.
I loved winter and everything it brings.
Until the eternal winter that we were thrust into left me struggling to enjoy that most jolly of seasons.
The first one is a vague, foggy memory of uniformed officers hanging Christmas lights, an explosion of children’s toys under the tree, pressures to sacrifice myself for the good of family and the way it had always been done.
But it was the second Christmas that forever changed how the bells rang and the halls were decked.
By then the fog had lifted and left behind a seething and relentless anger that festered in the cold and empty house. She barely four and he just months into kindergarten, they had experienced so much that the magic of Christmas could not erase. Unhealthy and weak, the Thanksgiving weekend loomed over me like a black storm cloud overhead and I steeled myself against familial pressures and watched as the men of the houses in our cozy enclave climb up and down ladders, armed with strings of brightly colored lights and green holly.
Surrounded by boxes of ribbons and trappings and ornaments that evoked memories I loathed, I wrestled the nearly-10-foot-tree and its ribbons and trappings while carols sang in hollow merriment. But of all the sights and sounds, only one captured their attention.
The silvery, snowy globe.
More than a snowy holiday scene, to my daughter it was a magical place she wished she could enter. For my son it was a special gift from Santa. For me it was a link to Christmases past and all the ones that would never be. And suddenly it was gone, shattered and scattered in the way that our happiness had been. Everything that was trapped inside escaped me in a furious maelstrom.
As all children do, they remind me of that moment. Instead of all of the moments of sacrifice and love, it is the moments of anger and awfulness that they recall and that are forever burned in their memories. Moments I can never erase, leaving behind a mother’s guilt that I am resigned to and at times seems insurmountable.
A new snow globe arrived that Christmas to replace the one that had been lost, bringing a snowy sparkle back to the little boy’s eyes. But every holiday since, it is still the little girl that is mesmerized by the scene beyond reach in the way that I am mesmerized by what is out of reach. And each year as we deck the halls, she reminds me.
And I imagine the sparkle in her eyes when she finds her snow globe this Christmas morning.