I’ve never known what it was like to enjoy the snow or cold; when everyone talked about all the good times they had; hot chocolate with little puffy marshmallows, hot soup that warmed you from the inside out after an afternoon of fun and sledding down snow covered hills; making snowmen with carrots for noses, buttons for eyes and cranberries for lips; walking down the street on Christmas Eve, while everyone’s voices harmonized beautifully to traditional Christmas carols; kind of made me feel envious. Had I really missed all that much?
I love my parents, I really do, but they had never permitted me to take a step outside during the snow and cold. Frail and sickly as a child my parents had always coddled me and been overly protective; a sneeze had usually meant a nosebleed that had them rushing me to the hospital; spending time outside in the hot sun had me running temperatures so high I’d start convulsing.
The seasons had passed me by and all I’d known of them was what I could see either from the living room window or on the way to the doctor’s office.
The way momma dressed me always had everyone laughing at me; the neighbor kids and my siblings. My body was covered from head to foot with just enough of my eyes uncovered so I could see where I was going. I don’t think any of the neighborhood kids even knew what I looked like until I tried to sneak outside to sit on the porch when I was 10 years old.
The worst time of the year had always been winter. The first time I watched the Christmas Story with Peter Billingsly I doubled up laughing like a hyena. That was the exact same way momma had dressed me just to get me to the car while poor daddy struggled to fit me in the back seat, what with me not being able to put my arms down and all.
Why do people say they feel like they’re on the outside looking in? For me it was the opposite. I was on the inside looking out wondering what it would be like to run through the powdery snow or to never be sick again or even to catch a snowflake on my tongue and feel it melting as it ran down my throat.
My childhood memories of winter were of me pressing my face against the window as I watched the kids screaming with laughter, their noses runny from the cold and their cheeks cherry red as little puffs of air passed their lips while working hard on misshapen snowmen as their parents helped.
As an adult, even though I rarely got sick now, I continued to confine myself to the house, unless I had to go to work; even then I would wrap myself up tightly and make sure my face was covered before walking out the door.
Yesterday my sister Shelly caught me with my face pressed against the window watching the kids frolic in the snow. She’d whispered something in her husband Darryl’s ear and off they’d gone, on a mission from God, according to her.
This morning after breakfast she’d hurried me into my bedroom and told me to dress warmly and then presented me with an early Christmas gift; a purple, down winter coat, with matching gloves, scarf, cap and boots. Panicking a bit, I reminded her that I’d never gone out into the snow unless I was completely protected.
“Silly sister, snow is for enjoying and for letting your inner kid out and I think it’s way past time for you,” she’d smiled.
After much hemming and hawing from me, we finally walked out onto the back porch together while my nieces and nephews cheered.
My brother Patrick cleared his throat and presented me with another gift, an adult sized sled. That was a bit too much for my first time out and I almost lost my nerve. It took a bit of coaxing from Pat and Shelly, but I finally put myself in their hands and followed them to the top of the hill in the back yard. Looking down the hill (it was a long way down after all) I looked from one to the other and huffed, “If I die you’re both gonna get it,” and crawled in between both of them. I held on for dear life and screamed as Darryl pushed us off. I don’t remember when the scream turned to laughter, but it did.
All I saw on our way down was a blanket of white powder with snowmen dotting the landscape and I could hear the whistling of the wind as it rushed passed my ears. We finally reached the bottom, but someone’s snowman had lost its life in our journey down that hill.
We landed with a thump, our faces covered in snow and for the first time I knew what the kids had been feeling all those years ago. Tumbling off the sled unto my back, my eyes sparkling, my nose runny and my cheeks as red as cherries, I shouted, “Let’s go again!!” and ran back up the hill as fast as my legs could carry me.
This was written for Short Story Slam Week 24: Life Behind the Corners of Your Smiles.
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