It wasn’t supposed to snow where we lived. You’d think the military would’ve picked somewhere cold for us to move at least one time in my life, but no. We were always sent to the hottest and/or most humid of states. But the weatherman had said that we’d get snow overnight. And we did. Kind of.
When I woke up, something had changed in the hue of the morning’s greys and blues to my 8-year-old eyes. It certainly wasn’t a whiteout, (it was MAYBE two inches of accumulation) but all I could see out the window was the winter wonderland our front yard had become. My first snow!
I got dressed as quickly as I could and beelined it to the front door. My Mom hollered on my way past that she’d be out with us in a bit. The Bozo Big Brother was already up and outside – no surprise there, Mr. IDoEverythingFirstAndBetterThanYou.
I was delighted at my first footfall onto the white stuff and how it gave softly underneath my sneakers and made a little squeak. Bozo Big Brother and I tossed teeny snowballs at each other. I tried to make a snow angel but the snow wasn’t deep enough and it became a stupid grass angel instead. It was at that point that I got worried. I HAD TO MAKE A SNOWMAN BEFORE IT WAS GONE.
But looking around at the more-grass-than-snow yard, I knew my first snowman wasn’t going to win any prizes in the size category. I’d just have to settle for making two mini-snowmen. Determined, I set to work gathering all the remaining bits of snow from the yard and packed it into six consecutively smaller round orbs. That way, I’d have a larger snowman next to a smaller snowman.
After I was satisfied with their major body parts, I realized that they needed appendages! What in the world could I use for eyes, noses, mouth, and arms? And then… genius struck. I ran to my dad’s shed and dug through the box where I knew I’d find just the thing. Bottle rockets! I could use the red sticks under the firecracker for everything!
I became so engrossed with the task of removing the live-ammo part and breaking the sticks into appropriate sizes for expressions and limbs that my mom’s presence barely registered. I stepped back and surveyed my Momma and Poppa SnowPeople carefully. Hmmm yes, I liked how I used horizontal bits for their eyes and smiles, while sticking pieces into them for the nose and arms. I even did vertically-positioned buttons.
Finally pleased with the finished product, I turned to Mom and sought praise and admiration as only a child can. I give her credit. She did gush appropriately at my artistic genius and even snapped a picture with a disposable Kodak that she’d brought outside.
I was smiling sunshine, so happy and proud of my first SnowPeople that I wasn’t really paying attention to the fact that Mom had picked up the discarded firecracker pieces. The parts that you light.
The next thing I knew, my mom stood on the front porch, lit the fuse on the little cylinder of death and tossed it into the yard.
DIRECTLY AT MY SNOWPEOPLE.
My eyes widened in horror as I saw it happen…
It was the perfect hit – the bottle rocket butt exploded just before hitting wet snow and just at the right spot between the two structures. My SnowPeople were mortally wounded. The top orbs were completely blown off, leaving only mangled torsos of my masterpieces. Stick-arms and stick-eyeballs were scattered around in the remaining patches of white. Tears slowly welled in my eyes as I took in the damage. And then I heard the laughter.
I swiveled my head to fix my gaze upon my Mom, who was bent over, howling with the big, cackling, belly kind of laughter. When I saw that my brother laughed right along with her, my sad turned to mad.
I screamed at her, “MOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!! WHAT DID YOU DO?!?!!?”
She stood up, saw my filling eyes and quickly processed the gravity of the situation. Even though she did her best to keep a straight face, it wasn’t quite working. Her horribly failed attempt at faked remorse made her 8 year old daughter even more pissed off.
“WHY DID YOU BLOW UP MY SNOWPEOPLE?!?!!”
She sputtered, “I… I…. sweetie, I’m not really sure… I…I’m so sorry….mmmphhh”. And then she dissolved into helpless giggles again.
The mad turned back to sad. My face crumpled with absolute betrayal and heartbreak and I raged at her “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THAT! I HATE YOU!”, before I ran into the house, sobbing inconsolably.
I didn’t speak to her for about a week, which is a loooong time for someone that young.
For many years afterward, I still harbored some underlying resentment towards her for wrecking a precious childhood memory with one lit fuse. She’d try to joke with me in front of the family about it, the same way we razzed her about the time she slaved over the perfect glaze for the holiday ham…only to cut into it and find that she failed to remove all the plastic beforehand…. but I was still salty.
But something changed this year. As we were all gathered around the breakfast table sifting through assorted baby pictures the damn SnowPeople story came up again. This time, I decided to laugh with them. You see, I’ve come to understand that our family operates on humor. We laugh. It’s what gets us through the hard stuff.
And looking back on a memory like that? Well… it IS pretty damn funny. It just happened to take me twenty-six years to recover from the post-traumatic stress. And lots of therapy.
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