DALTON >> I'm not sure when snow globes were invented (and I'm not about to google it); but I've had one since I was about 10 years old. It has a heavy black plastic base, holding a glass globe in which a skater glides along a snowy surface with one leg gracefully raised behind her. The skater is dressed in red, including a jaunty beret on her black-painted curls. Some of the water has evaporated over the years, but you can still give it a good shake and watch snow swirl around the scene.
At 10, I loved that globe for many reasons. First, there was the magic of that always swirling snow. It never melted, froze, or turned to slush. It was always pristine and ready to be shaken and fall slowly down to the bottom of the globe. Kids do like repetition, and I must have shaken that thing a hundred times, studying just how the snow did fall and how long it took for all the powder to settle down. When I wasn't shaking it, the globe sat on the top of my junior-size roll-top desk, a constant reminder that winter in the Berkshires was never far away.
Another reason I loved the globe was because of that skater, perched perfectly on one foot for all time. As a skater, I was a bust. I could barely balance on the pair of single-bladed footware when standing still. When I attempted forward motion, my ankles twisted and I usually plopped into a nearby snowbank. But the dream remained. Even years later, watching skaters in the Olympics, I believed that somewhere inside me was a Nancy Kerrigan waiting to burst forth and twirl and leap across the ice in perfect form. I think it's important to have dreams; but I have finally traded in the dream of ice skating prowess.
I took both my children to ice skating lessons at Charles Moore Arena in Orleans. Watching them take their first tentative steps and glides made me wonder if they would become the skater I never was. Despite all my cheering from the sidelines, and bribes of hot chocolate after skating lessons, it was not to be. My younger son has even finally forgiven me for the torture I called fun. To be fair, he didn't like swimming lessons either.
I did know some children who loved skating, and I lived the life of a skater vicariously, hearing about competitions, skating outfits, and the cost of having skates sharpened from the children and their dreamy-eyed parents. No one made it to the Ice Capades or Disney on Ice; but some had a good run.
As an adult, I have a different take on that skater in the snow globe. She exemplifies a kind of perfection that is hard to achieve in the real globe. She doesn't grow or change, or find new skating moves to try. I don't envy her anymore. Rather I pity that solidary figure, frozen in place amid the swirling white pretend snow. Nothing is real there. The swirling is the only movement, and that requires the power of a human hand to work.
How many of us are stuck in a similar situation, frozen in place and being tired of looking like we're having a good time while someone else controls the action? Luckily, we humans have the capacity to change, to try new things and quit the things that make us tired or unhappy. When the snow falls for real—it's coming any day now—we can rush outside and make angels in it, or slide down a hill, or skate on a frozen pond. Or we can sit inside with a steaming mug of hot chocolate, shake a snow globe, and enjoy the happy memories of a childhood long ago.