Magic Snowball Time

Magic Snowball Time

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

Magic Snowball Time

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.

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Every fall, when the frost first played freeze tag with the grass, Papa would come to our house. He would shuffle in, his soft, shiny leather shoes dancing across Momma’s sunflower-yellow-tiled kitchen floor. All six of us kids knew why he was there. First frost meant magic snowball time.

Papa only came to our house once a year. He and Granny lived in an apartment upstairs from an old neighborhood corner store in the big city. Papa said they lived there to be close to the old-fashioned penny candy counter in the store.

We went to see Papa, Granny and that penny candy counter every Saturday. Unless, of course, the first frost fell on a Saturday. The first frost always meant that Papa was coming to see us.

Papa would bring an old battered coal shovel and an old-fashioned ice chest with him. He’d hustle all six of us kids out to the backyard. Then, he’d start digging and talking. He always worked as he talked.

Papa would tell us how he’d lived with the gypsies before he’d met Granny. He’d tell us about life on the road with the carnival. He’d show us magic tricks and tell us strange but true tales of gypsy powers. Then, Papa would start talking about the importance of the magic snowbank.

We’d gather around him and listen like we were supposed to, but never did, in church. He would tell us how some folks believed that if you wanted a good snowy winter, you always had to save a little snow from the winter before and put it into the magic snowbank. Then, he’d let us each have a turn digging.

The dirt would fly, as we steadily took turns digging down into the earth. We could smell the last barbequed breezes of summer, and the newly fallen leaves of autumn. Sometimes, we’d all swear that we’d smelled the peppermint, candy cane, gingerbread house and poinsettia fragrances of Christmas wafting out of that hole.

Papa would tell us how some folks believed that you have to give to the earth if you want it to give to you. He’d talk about how any good farmer knows that you can’t expect to reap a harvest without planting seeds. Our snow seeds were in his old ice chest.

Soon enough, Papa would open that old ice chest. We’d crowd around it with the same amount of wonder every year. Inside, Papa would have seven perfect magic snowballs. There was always one for him, and one for each of us kids.

We’d wait politely, but impatiently as he passed them out. We could never hold them for long, as Papa said it wouldn’t work if we were selfish. We didn’t want to melt the snow and have nothing to offer the earth.

We would solemnly place our snowballs into the hole, quickly, if still a bit reluctantly. There’s not a child I’ve ever known that didn’t want to throw a snowball once it was placed into his or her hands. We weren’t any different. We just knew that we had to give our snowballs to the earth. Our snowballs were magic. Our snowballs were the seeds for the magic snowbank.

Papa would cover our magic snowbank with the dirt that we’d shoveled out of the hole. We’d all hold hands and sing Christmas carols, as Papa buried our magic snowballs.

Then, Papa would wipe his hands on his pants and smile.

“Well, we’ve planted our magic snowballs on the day of the first frost, kids. It’s up to the magic snowbank now,” he’d say.

When the first snow came, as it did every winter, all six of us would run out into the yard and catch snowflakes on our tongues and in our mittens. We’d taste the tickly, shivery delight of falling ice stars. We’d examine the crystal beauty of bright white, frosty flakes on dark, warmmittens.

It was all Papa’s magic, and we were a part of it. We would dance and hug and giggle and grin and sing, all six of us together. We never quarreled or argued on the day the first snow fell. We were too pleased with ourselves.

We knew we were magic. The first snow reminded us of Papa, the first frost and our magic snowbank deep within the earth. We knew we had a secret all our own. We had helped the snow to fall once again. We were snow farmers, and to us, first frost meant magic snowball time.

I’m all grown up now. Still, I’ll tell you a secret. My family carries on Papa’s magic. We have a magic snowbank in our backyard. Think of us when the first snow flies . . . as I think of my Papa and hope that someday my grandchildren will think of me.

Colleen Madonna Flood Williams

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE. ©UFS. Reprinted by Permission.

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