The First Winter


Valerie Zhang '24


He is a beautiful being, one sculpted by the loving caress of ‘The Maker’ themself—known for his stoic maturity, yet he is one who is most naive to the world around him.


The snow fairy lives under a patch of mushrooms near a theater. Each day he will tug himself up a plant stalk, and settle on the windowsill where he can amuse himself by watching the silly humans perform to other silly humans. It is quite entertaining to watch the high-pitched crowing, the ugly prancing, and last of all the standing ovation at the end as the crowd roars and he is almost swept off by the motion. By that time, the night will have fallen, and he will descend down the plant stalk and into his cozy home, savoring a bowl of redberry and scallion soup for dinner.


One morning as his teeth chatter and he fumbles out of the leaf covers, he notices amidst the bright sky filled with scars of pink over blue, white dots his vision. He frowns and splashes his face with a droplet of cold water, but the white flakes don’t seem to disappear. In fact, he thinks to himself as he emerges from his cove that they seemed to be everywhere: clumps hanging off the branches that tower over him, coating the ground, falling from the heavens themselves. A sudden, childish inclination comes over him to taste it, and he scolds himself almost immediately, pausing the foolish train of thought that pushes him to do it. He gingerly scrapes away the layer that covers the stove, marveling at the way it is light and tinges the tips of his fingers with water. The new discovery trails after him as he busies himself with daily chores, watching the small flame of the stove burn feebly, causing the thick white area around it to slowly recede.


That afternoon, he becomes aware of another discovery. The white powder is soft, but it is also firm and could be used to create inanimate objects. His eyes grow round as he pats down the powder and instinctively starts to mold a shape—finishing not one, but five stars in total. He soon takes advantage of the hills covered in thick layers of the magical substance and copies the children nearby. A rare gasp leaves his mouth as he slides down the slippery hill on a leaf, adrenaline coursing through his body, the wind rushing by his ears leaving him breathless. The ride lasts for a brief minute (though it felt like an eternity before it ended), and almost deliriously, he stumbles as he flies toward the half-frozen lake, his wings feeling freer than they ever have been. He drinks the cold, freshwater vigorously, an unusual buildup of excitement pounding through his veins, cheeks flushed red and his heart bursting—and then it all explodes as he throws his head back and laughs, unleashing his newfound love for the world.


There is an unusual crowd at the theater that night; people are seated as far as he can see, and curious, he carefully shifts closer to catch snippets of conversation. “Blessed be, the snow outside is…” Snow? Was that what the white substance was called? “Merry Christmas to you as well, Mrs. Laurie!” “Harry darling, are you here to see the play as well?” “No, ma’am. I’m running the concessions stand.” Christmas…? Was that the reason behind the crowd? What was Christmas? Questions spinning in his head as a big hush descends on the crowd and the curtains part.


He tunes out the announcer after the first two minutes of swirling this snow. The show kicks off with the jingles of bells and his attention is captured by a pair of cardboard deer, and a fat, jolly man whose booming laughter echoes through the large room. The atmosphere is warm, and everyone’s eyes seem to sparkle with joy as they nudge each other and whisper (“Mama, is that really Santa?” He catches a child asking their mother, and he bites back a smirk as the woman struggles to answer) and clap as the choir belts out a swinging song. For the first time in forever, he finds himself intrigued with the production, and even finds himself hiding a smile as Santa trips over a present and lands on his plate of cookies and milk. The songs indicate today is a celebration, so he indulges his childish half and hums under his breath along with the horrid, out-of-tune—more shouting than singing—audience. After a few mishaps, six acts, and the final slow, sweet song, the play members bow to thunderous applause. The snow fairy claps too, after all, out of all the ones he’s seen this was the most amusing. He is almost disappointed that it ended so fast.


Before the humans start to file out, he flutters down the plant stalk before anyone can see him. A hot feeling stirs in his stomach, traveling up to his head and down to his toes until he’s tingling with warmth. Something has changed…and he’s not sure, which frustrates him, but a missing piece of him has been found, and he feels like a thriving, perfect mess. Abruptly, he sticks his tongue out and closes his eyes as a snowflake melts on his tongue. The stars twinkle overhead, and as he watches the mass of chattering people leave, he turns his head in astonishment to the lights and other festive pieces that decorate the town. Couples cling to one another as slow violin music fills the square, and the children are out building snow people as the smells of Christmas dinner waft down the street. He sighs as he stirs the pot of turnip and parsley soup, the stony expression on his face softening.


Closing to a most peculiar day.


For now, anyway, he spares one more look at the sparkling town, all is well