Yesterday's Magazette

5 – Special Holiday Essays

Special Holiday Essays – Pages 5-10

YM:Ong:Xmas

Above: A picture-perfect winter wonderland inside the Brimley Forest Park, Scarborough, ON, Canada.

All I Wanted For

Christmas Was A

Snowball

By Richard Ong

When I was a young boy, I lived in a hot, tropical country wherein the temperature in the month of December could get only as low as 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say that even in the coldest night of the year, a snowball would melt and evaporate long before you could finish humming a few bars of “Silent Night.”

Ever since I fell in love with Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Snow Queen,” I had never desired anything more in my life than to hold a snowball and admire its untarnished purity on the palm of my hand. “Is there anything else that you want us to bring back as your present, except for that?” my mom would ask. My parents were flying abroad to visit my aunt and uncle in the States. It was already too expensive for them to travel there on their own after converting the peso to the equivalent American dollar.

I was in tears. I didn’t ask for an expensive toy this time. In fact, I didn’t even want another toy! I had enough Matchbox mini-cars lined up on my bedroom shelves; and on the floor, both of my Apollo rockets and eye-blazing, spark-spitting robots were hopelessly scattered in pieces around the train set that I received (and played with only once) from last Christmas.

But this year was supposed to be special! I held a wrinkled, brightly colored Christmas card in my left hand with its tear-stained portrait of a blue starry sky overlooking a field thickly covered in snow. Smack in the middle of the portrait were three kids wearing bright red, orange and blue ski suits and slinging a handful of snowballs at each other. Off to the right near the edge of the picture was a small mound of snow on top of which a little smiling boy lay on a toboggan ready to push himself down the makeshift hill.

In the background, a corpulent snowman with a carrot nose gleefully stood in front of a cottage with smoke curling out of its chimney towards a clear night sky.

The day I received this card from my cousin in America, I immediately wrote to Santa that all I wanted for Christmas next year was a snowball to show my friends. In my young, selfish and immature mind, I didn’t realize the foolishness of my request on the night before my parents were to fly out of the country. They were both clearly in distress as I begged and bawled my eyes out hoping that they would promise to bring back a piece of snow. And to make matters worse, I insisted that they mail the snowball as soon as possible using the big, brown envelope that I held in my other hand.

“Son,” said my dad. He paused for several seconds, then turned to my mom.

She shrugged and picked up a pair of jade earrings. Those were her favorite whenever she had to travel far. “Well, don’t look at me, dear. You’re the one who filled his head with snow when he asked you about the card last year, remember?”

“But I was just making conversation,” my dad protested. “Who would’ve thought that he’d take me seriously when I told him that he would be able to touch some snow on his own one day?”

“That’s right. ‘One day,’ dear.” My mom kissed me on the cheek. “But not this year. Now then, be a good boy and kiss your mom and dad goodbye. We have to get to the airport soon.”

I stood rooted on one spot, tears streaming down my cheeks. My eyes began to sting from the salt and I felt a quiver from my chest that threatened to erupt through my throat and burst out of my mouth.

“Oh for heaven’s sake!” My mom threw her hands in the air. Her diamond wedding ring glittered under the bright light of the room. She quickly turned around and pressed the intercom button on the night table. “Willie? Can you please come up to our room? We have a favor to ask if you can spare the time.”

There was a short pause before the sound of a voice younger than my dad’s came back. “Be right there with you, Tina.”

It wasn’t long before the tall, lanky form of my brainy uncle entered the room. “What’s this favor you want to ask?”

Mom nodded in my direction. My uncle looked from my parents’ anxious faces down to my own tear-stained one. He saw my still-outstretched hands holding both the wrinkled Christmas card and the brown envelope. “Ah, I see.” My wise Uncle Willie didn’t waste time putting two-and-two together.

“Tony, Tina. Let me take care of this,” he said. He grabbed hold of my hand and said, “Listen, kiddo. Do you really want to know what snow feels like? You don’t have to wait till your mom and dad come back, you know. The fact is, we have an abundance of something the resembles it right here in this house. You interested?”

I nodded my head vigorously and wiped my eyes with my arm.

“Come.” And off we dashed out of the room. My small, skinny legs barely kept up with my uncle’s long strides. We ran down the stairs two steps at a time and I suddenly felt as if my arm had been wrenched from its socket when we turned the corner into the kitchen.

My uncle released my hand and made a beeline toward the refrigerator. He opened the top door of the freezer box and scooped up a handful of frost. He rolled and packed the fine crystalline substance into a ball and placed it onto the palm of my hand. “It’s cold, isn’t it?” My uncle smiled. “Now you can tell all your friends in school what snow feels like!”

Many years later, I held a much bigger snowball in my hand. I wore a pair of mittens, a knit scarf around my neck and a tuque to protect my head against the frigid Canadian winter. It was the last day of school before we broke for the holiday. I stood waiting for her just a few yards off the footpath that led toward the main doors of the school foyer. In spite of the boots I wore, my toes were nearly frozen after standing in one spot for almost twenty minutes. I bent on one knee to scoop up more of the raw material and repack the ball of snow in my hands when I spotted her. “Ah.. Finally.”

I waved and steam came out of my mouth when I shouted. “Hey, Brenda! Wait up!”

The pretty, straight-haired brunette in the pink ski jacket looked around in surprise until she recognized me. Brenda smiled and waved back. “Hey there yourself, Richard. What are you doing standing out here in the cold?”

Instead of answering her question, I stood up and continued to compress the snow between my mitts. I slowly made my way towards where she stood. “Brenda, you’re still going to the prom with me next year, right?”

“Of course. I thought that we’ve already agreed to go together,” she said with a puzzled look on her face.

“And you’ll still continue to go out with me no matter what happens? ‘Cause we’re a team, remember?” I moved two steps closer to where she stood.

Brenda sighed. “Yes! Of course we’ll always be a team, you know that. Now, why are you so –“

Her eyes widened like saucers when she saw what I held concealed between my hands. “Oh-h-h no, oh no you don’t!”

“Good!” I said and suddenly pitched the densely packed snowball towards her with all my strength.

It was the coolest fastball I’d ever thrown in my life.

Vol. 36 No. 4 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter – 2009-2010

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