A young girl wonders about reality while on vacation in the mountains.
“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heavens…”
“Snow! My gosh, I love it!”
Christmas always made me giddy. Mommy and Daddy were quite enthralled with nature. Every year of course we made our little winter escape to the mountains; slid into the warm car and coasted a few miles north into the snowy peaks I often adored from the warmth of my bedroom back in the city.
“That’s wonderful, Allie. Will you come down here for a sec?” mother called.
I did not reply. I knew what this nightly call entailed. Warm tea, perhaps coffee if I was lucky, and certainly cookies. I dashed down the varnished wooden stairs of our humble cabin. It was a quaint little structure. Mostly oak, with some pine and mahogany furnishing. I suppose it was intended to have a log-cabin feel to it. For me though, Cabin 27 was the mountains. It was fragrant and bright in the spring, homely and warm in the winter, and well, empty in the summer. Summer’s for beaches.
Once I received my warm tea and peanut butter cookies I jauntily skipped towards my father. Plopping myself down in his lap I threw my head back over his arm. I noticed quivering flames darting about in the fireplace. My eyes followed the bouncing flames and I laughed. I don’t exactly know why.
“Hard to eat upside down, Allie,” daddy said.
I was rudely sucked back into the real world. I bade goodbye to the jittery flames and began to munch eagerly on my cookies.
“There’s no race,” mommy whispered as she passed daddy and me on her way to her cozy armchair by the hearth.
“Ima-Ungry,” I managed to spill out as I shoveled the last cookie in.
A few minutes later, as I sat sipping the last of my tea, the room grew oddly silent.
“Like to hear a story, Al?” daddy asked.
He brushed the crumbs off my rosy cheeks and began to talk.
“It was a daaark and storrrmy night…” he began.
“No, Daddy! Not that one!” I blurted in between giggles.
“Oh, all right.”
He winked at me and then looked up at mommy.
“Once, Allie, there was a young girl. She was round about 8 or 9, long blonde hair and deep brown eyes. She was tall for her age and always wore a red bracelet, much like you. Well it so happened that this girl-we’ll call her Lizzie- was up here in the mountains not too long ago. She was playing outside when…”
My eyes were beginning to get heavy. Daddy wasn’t very good at telling stories, but I liked to hear his voice and smell the peppermint on his breath. Suddenly I was very tired. I didn’t bother to resist my sleepies this time.
Just as I was about to fall fast asleep I realized daddy had put me down. I was alone now. The room was rather cold too. The fire had begun to dim and, curiously, the glass-door was cracked open.
“Mommy? Daddy!” I yelled, not frantically, only impatiently.
There was no response. I blinked my eyes a few times and stood up out of the monstrous, warm armchair I had been lying in. Not seeing my parents, and being the audacious little girl that I was, I walked towards the door and slid on my daddy’s furry bedroom slippers. I giggled. They felt funny.
As I glided along the slick, icy snow, my toes danced around in the furry slippers. The night was incredibly clear. I don’t much see the stars in the city. Mommy says they are still there, though. I looked back behind myself and could still see right in the parlor window. Empty still, but bright and warm looking as ever.
I continued my trek on the snow. I didn’t even sink. What joy. I had slid probably twenty paces along the ice-glazed snow when I arrived at an odd looking shrub.
“Don’t remember seeing you before,” I mumbled, watching my breath puff through the air like smoke from a choo-choo train.
“Well I know you, little Allie,” the bush said back.
I jumped back, aghast.
“You’re not supposed to talk!” I said. Then I covered my mouth and began to laugh hysterically. What a funny thing! A bush that talked!
“The bush didn’t talk, silly, that was me!”
Just down and to the right of the shrub stood a small little creature. He looked something like a rabbit, but also I must admit looked not totally dissimilar to a teacher I once had in kindergarten.
“Hello,” I said, still giggling.
“I’m Allie,” I told him. I think it was a him.
“I know. I’m Mr. Lewis,” the creature said with a smile.
“How is it that you know me?” I asked the little bugger.
“Your mummy and daddy are always talking about you. Why, I’d be pure mad to not know all about you.”
“Oh, Oh! You know mummy and daddy! That’s exciting!”
“Yes indeed, Allie. Like your bracelet?”
I looked down and was surprised to see a new red bracelet wrapped loosely around my little wrist. My old one was rather faded. I looked back at Mr. Lewis, confused.
“No worries, deary, its from your mum and dad and myself for Christmas.”
“I love it!” I smiled a big, toothy grin and dropped to my knees in the snow.
“So what, exactly, are you, Mr. Lewis?”
“Oh I suppose I’m just one of Father Christmas’s special creations.”
I looked confused again.
“Pardon. Santa Clause, I meant”
I smiled and nodded understandingly this time. My cheeks and nose felt flushed and hot, as did my ears.
“Suppose I better head back inside. I’m sure mommy and daddy will be back soon. Why, you don’t know where they are do you Mr. Lewis?”
“No, don’t guess I do. But here I want you to keep this.”
Mr. Lewis took a small peanut butter cookie out of his tiny coat pocket. I held out my hand and he placed the cookie in it.
Suddenly the wind began to pick up. I felt little tiny flakes of snow strike me in the face. The trees around me bristled and creaked in the howling wind. I could barely see little Mr. Lewis now.
“Better head on in,” I heard him yell.
“Right. I will. Thanks for the cookie!” I smiled and tossed my hair back over my shoulders.
Suddenly a question arose deep within my heart. I yelled back to Mr. Lewis over the growing din.
“Are you really real?”
“What do you mean real, Allie?” I heard him answer.
“I don’t guess I know,” I responded. I took a bite of the cookie and stuffed the other half into my nightgown pocket.
“I’m real enough to talk to you, aren’t I dear?” He yelled through the crying wind.
I didn’t respond.
“Suppose I’ll think about it!” Mr. Lewis yelled towards me, as if in answer to his own question. There was a loud roaring gasp and then all was silent.
I’m not sure how long had passed. I awoke in my own bed, safe and warm. Mom and Dad were standing in my doorway watching me rouse.
“Morning,” I said, raising one eyelid.
“Hello, Al,” Dad said.
I suddenly grew terribly sad.
“It was all a dream…” I sobbed.
“What, dear?” they asked in unison.
As I reached my hand down to remove the blankets my fingertips were met by the remains of a half-eaten peanut butter cookie.
“Nothing,” I said. “Nothing at all.”
“…And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.”