The Snow Globes
Sandy looked out the second floor window of her school room at the play of light and wind across the ice coated bare spring branches. First the branches would sway gently with the weight of the ice, then the clouds would disburse for a moment and the entire scene changed from a soft pastel to a bright dancing glittering wonderland. There was still snow on the ground, so the entire scene sparkled and came to light as only fresh morning sun and wind can do.
Her social studies teacher was droning on and on about what? “Wah wah wah wah,” like the voices of authority in a Peanuts cartoon. She should be paying attention, but then she would have to face the problem of how far behind she was in her class, and in fact all her classes. So once again, instead of trying to read her book, her eyes strayed off to the excitement and beauty happening just outside her window.
She discretely looked around at her classmates to see if any of them were watching the magic movements, but they weren’t. They were actually listening to what the teacher was saying. They were writing notes down and were dialoguing with him. Sandy tried again to focus on what he was saying. Nothing had changed; it was the same blah, blah, blah. Her mind was once again on the site outside.
Since snow had fallen after the ice storm, great fluffy clumps came loose and were strewn through the air, creating a snow globe effect. Sandy could imagine herself in the snow globe. She could feel the fresh air and the snow clumps smacking her face and making her laugh. What would happen if she just left the room and went out there to dance and play? Well she knew she would get suspended from school, her dad would use his fists and her mom would use the belt. That wouldn’t be the worst of it, they would start talking again about sending her to a catholic school away from family, with her auntie who herself was a nun. Their hope would be that she would love her new life so much that she would become a nun.
Sandy was smack dab in the middle of a very large family. Money was very tight, and for her parent’s generation, they would “farm” out some of the children to relatives who could afford to care for them. The other option was to prod them toward being a priest or nun. The problem with the spacey middle child and the cost of feeding her would be solved if she went to a catholic school, one that would give her free room and board because she had her auntie there.
They had taken her to her aunt once before, to tour and see if she liked it. It must have been something in her face that had given her away. They just brought her home without saying anything or asking any questions.
Sandy remembered her feelings of claustrophobic (or cloisterphobic, in this case), panic, rejection and loneliness that weighed down upon her as they wandered the lawns and gardens of the place. Sandy smiled at her own humor about the “cloisterphobia” and took a peek at the teacher to see if he had noticed her mind wandering. He wasn’t but he was asking this boy a question. The boy was one of the poorest in the school, and he just kept his head down so he wouldn’t see the laughter on the faces of the other students. Sandy heard the laughter and what the question was that had been directed at David.
“David,” the teacher asked. “Who was buried in Grant’s tomb?”
Silence and snickering followed. Sandy kept my head down too. She didn’t know the answer and was terrified that the teacher would also ask her. She stared at the wart on her thumb instead. The humiliation passed and the episode was behind her. Sandy escaped out the window again, imagining that now there were deer frolicking in the snow globe. Finally the classroom hour was over.
The end of the school year came with a class field trip to the capitol city. On the trip, Sandy stayed staring out the bus window, not knowing how to engage in laughter and conversation with the other kids. They went to a ball game, the capitol, a famous park and finally a souvenir shop before they were to board the busses for home. She wandered around looking at all the little pencils and rocks and little stuffed toys, all in the price range for a child on a field trip. She didn’t want any of them.
Then she spied the snow globes. Most of them were of the capitol in winter, but there was one that caught her attention so completely that she did not hear how much time they had left before having to re-board the busses. This snow globe was her snow globe, with the snow and the icy branches, the deer and a person dancing in the snow.
She knew this was her souvenir, and as she looked up to find a clerk, she saw more globes. Each one was different with a different scene. She wandered down the shelves. They were all so different, each with a different person inside. As she continued, she noticed that some of them were becoming dull and gray. Others were dark and dead looking. One of them had a young child pounding on the inside of the glass as though he was begging to be let out.
She looked back at her own snow globe. It was beautiful with no hint of menace or fear. She turned again with the intent of finding a clerk, when a man stepped into her path. He looked shining and bright, but in him she could only sense darkness.
“So you found your own snow globe,” he said sweetly.
“How much does it cost?” Sandy held the globe tightly to her chest as if to protect it from this man. He didn’t look like a bad man but she was nonetheless afraid of him.
“How much do your hopes and dreams cost?” He replied.
“I don’t know.” She said, concerned that it would cost so much that she wouldn’t be able to buy it.
“I know you don’t have enough money right now, and I do know your hopes and dreams in that snow globe are priceless, but this is what I will do for you. Now don’t tell anyone else because I don’t make this deal with everyone.” He explained. “When you find out what your life and passion is and you start using it, there are two things I would want you to do.”
Sandy nodded hopefully.
“First,” He began. “When you become famous, and you will some day, you will tell people who helped you get started. Is that understood?”
Sandy nodded again. That wouldn’t be too difficult, and it was true, he did give her the globe.
“Second,” The man continued. “I will want one piece of whatever it is you do.”
Sandy was confused.
“Say you become a famous painter, I would simply want you to paint one picture of my choice, and give it to me free. If you become a famous mathematician, I would want you to do one job for me.” He paused for a moment, watching her face. “Does this make sense to you?”
Sandy nodded happily, as this didn’t seem to be too difficult.
“Now I want to be honest with you, those globes that are darker belong to people who didn’t follow through on their bargain with me and they are not very happy anymore.”
Sandy pointed to the darker globes.
“Yes, those.” He said. “They didn’t do what they promised, so I made it difficult for them to take care of their snow globes. You do know how magic these snow globes are?”
Sandy looked back at hers, which once again filled her with joy and wonder. She nodded at him. Yes she knew.
“…and if their globe starts turning dark, they come back to me, since they were mine in the first place.”
“What do you do with them?” she asked.
“I keep them.” He said a bit more darkly. “And I do whatever I want with them.”
“Here let me show you,” he said as he picked up one of the darker gray ones. “Look at that boy in there. He thought he was so wonderful. Did he thank me for it? Oh no. So you know what I do when he is just putting his globe right?”
Sandy shook her head.
“I shake it up again. You see him in there? He is tired and about to give up.”
Sandy looked at him in shock.
“He never gave me credit for giving him his dream or gave me the one thing that I asked of him, so I am punishing him.”
“He looks like he is dying.” She said with concern. The sweet face of the man turned ugly and Sandy began looking for the exit. “What do you do with them when they are dead?”
“Well, that’s even more fun.” He said as he began backing her further from the exit. “But you would never let that happen to you would you? You would pay me for the gift of the globe wouldn’t you?”
She shook her head, then she nodded, she didn’t know what was happening, but she felt she was falling into a dark place and felt she was going to faint from being near this man.. She did not know why she thought the man was nice before. He was ugly and she was truly afraid.
Just at the point of blackness, a hand came and grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the man’s reach. The man seemed surprised and backed off.
The hand was the hand of an elderly woman who had come on the bus as a chaperone. She pulled Sandy behind her.
“So you thought you could trick another soft soul, didn’t you.” She said sternly. Her voice and stance were so strong that Sandy leaned her face into the woman’s back and clung tightly to her jacket. “What does she owe you for her snow globe?”
“Just leave here, she doesn’t owe me anything.” The bad man backed off, but with a sly look at Sandy, who again hid her face in the woman’s jacket. “She’ll never be any good to me anyway, she is stupid and useless.”
“Oh no, you made an agreement with her didn’t you? You said she owed you for the globe and to give you credit, but you didn’t tell her how much she owed and what credit she had to give you, right?”
The man stared ugly at her, then again looking at Sandy as a hungry animal would look at a cornered rabbit. He didn’t answer.
The woman turned to Sandy, “Is that what he said?” Sandy nodded. “It’s your soul he wants now and when you are dead.”
The precious globe became hot in Sandy’s hands and she went to throw it away from her, but the woman grabbed it before it would drop and shatter. “The gift is a good gift, but the man who tries to own it and you is not good. We will speak more of this later. Protect it.”
“What does she owe you for this?” the woman demanded.
Whatever it was that Sandy owed, it was uncomprehending and very expensive. The woman paid with everything she had in her bag and Sandy could see that she had paid dearly. Tears began as Sandy was lead protectively out of the Souvenir shop. She sat next to the woman as the entourage of busses moved away.
Sandy could tell that the other kids were making comments and that the other teachers and bus drivers were angry. She had no idea how long they had waited for her. She kept her eyes focused on the globe that was hidden in the little souvenir shop bag.
The buses moved on and Sandy fell asleep on the woman who put her arms around her protectively.
Sandy dreamed that she was in her magic globe. It was summer and beautiful, when the older woman entered. She was dressed in stars and pale moon and mist. She sat next to Sandy.
“Hello, my child.” She began. “Now we will talk about your magic globe.”
Sandy nodded, not knowing what else to say or do.
“You have a gift, my loved one. That is what the globe is showing you. It is who you are and what your gift is. Part of your gift is to laugh, love, give hope and laughter. How that looks like as the years go by, even I do not know.”
“Who are you?”
“I work for the Good One.” She said sweetly. “I am not the important one right now, it’s you. Did you know that everyone in this world has been given wonderful gifts from the Good One?
Sandy shook her head.
The woman looked sad. “There is so much sadness in this world and so many that would rob you. The Bad One has many working for him. If you feel you are being forced, threatened or frightened into doing something, it is probably from The Bad One.
But there are many of us who work for the Good One. So you just call the Good One for help and we will be there to help you make the right decision.
Sandy nodded, thinking how beautiful she was and not frail at all. “What about those others that the bad man had in their globes?”
“There are those who belong to the Good One who are working to free them, so don’t you worry about. You need to take care of yourself and your gift. Okay?”
“Okay,” Sandy said, as she knew the lady was about to leave.
“One more thing,” The lady said. “You need to pay more attention in class and learn as much as you can.”
Sandy frowned at this.
“Honey, how will you ever know what your gift is unless you explore all the things that make up this world and this life? Child and remember what I have told you. Remember to ask for help, ask if you don’t understand, ask the Good One to send someone to you, ask for protection and guidance. Good bye sweetness.” And the lady was gone.
Sandy was now half awake and half asleep as she looked at her surroundings. She knew she was still on the bus, the older woman that she had leaned on was gone and her neck hurt from slumping over.
Did that woman really exist? Was it all a dream? She had the snow globe in her hand and could see the shy deer watching from the edge of the forest. What she hadn’t seen before was a girl dancing in the snow. The girl’s coat and hat were the same color as the ones she had worn this past winter. She thought of the bad man and when the fear of him came, she called out to the Good One. Peace came to her and Sandy fell asleep again.
Leanne Lemire 2012
PS This story is dedicated to a beautiful young girl with whom I played with as a child. I met her years later. She was a prostitute. I believe someone had stolen her Snow Globe.