There was a time many, many moons ago when I hadn’t yet become the noted curmudgeon that I am today, a time when I still believed in magic and Kris Kringle and I put a great deal of effort into crafting the perfect Christmas list, one that was sure to grab Gifty Nick’s attention. Many items on that list changed from year to year but there was one thing that always held the Number One position: A Pet.
And who could blame me? Nearly every book I read or tv show I watched at the time clued me in on the fact that no young boy’s adventure life was complete without an animal companion. Dick had Spot (oh, grow up!) the Cocker Spaniel, Timmy had Lassie the rough collie, Mark had Gentle Ben the American black bear, Sandy had Flipper the bottlenose dolphin, and Sonny had Skippy the bush kangaroo. Who did I have? N-o-b-o-d-y and I only had one person to blame. Somebody in the house was allergic to pet dander, and that somebody’s name was Trista, my middle sister.
Undaunted, I penned (okay, it was in crayon but same difference) many letters to Santa detailing my dilemma and making a request for a non-allergenic pet (don’t look at me like that! If anyone could have pulled off that miracle, surely it had to be the red-coated gent whose belly shook like a bowl of jelly) but year after year no little-boy-bestest-pal-in-the-whole-wide-world ever showed up beneath the family Christmas tree (don’t waste your time naming hairless pets in the comment section below. It was the ’60s and we didn’t know anything about that, or if my folks did, they kept it a closely guarded secret).
Since my pleas fell on deaf Clausian ears, I was forced to take matters into my own hands and come up with a different plan. To my credit (hey, if I don’t toot my own horn, who will? Again, get your mind out of the gutter!) it didn’t take long for me to devise a unique solution to my problem.
Tins were a wonderful thing to me. They were a depository where the things a boy kept precious could be secreted away and tucked into the backs of closets or under loose floorboards. Mostly the contents of tins included stamps, coins, marbles, smooth and colorful stones, and the bits of refuse that could be viewed as a treasure to the furtive imagination of a young mind.
I collected snow.
Not just any snow, mind you—I wasn’t some type of frozen vapor hoarding lunatic—I collected the flakes from the first snowfall of the year and packed little rectangular bricks in the back of the freezer. Why? Because of Frosty the Snowman, who came to life after being imbued with the magical properties of first-fall snow. But I wasn’t going to build some ratty old snowman, no sir, not me. My goals were slightly loftier than that.
I was going to build a griffin. Agrippa the Ice Griffin. I couldn’t see my parents objecting to that, unless Trista suddenly developed an allergic reaction to ice, which she might have done, just to spite me.
I’d be the envy of my neighborhood when Agrippa and I went for a walk, and since I read somewhere how griffins have the ability to sense and dig gold up from the earth, I knew we’d be financially sorted for life. And we would totally rule the airways. That went without saying.
Yup. I saw it all clear as day and my plan was foolproof. Since my childhood predated the internet, I had to go to the New York Public Library with sheets of onion skin and trace pictures from mythology books and experiment with PlayDoh so I’d know how to sculpt Agrippa accurately, and knowing he’d be curious about his heritage, I constructed a fascinating family history that would have made any newly birthed mythological creature proud.
As I collected tins of the first snow and carefully hid them in the freezer, I knew the world was finally mine and I was destined to live the most incredibly awesome life ever imagined, and nothing could have prevented it…
Until I discovered the hard way that refrigerators came equipped with a defrost feature. All my carefully stacked magically imbued briquettes had been reduced to not-so-magical freezer run-off that dripped impotently into a catch tray.
Needless to say, I have yet to bring Agrippa into existence. And life, well, it hasn’t quite reached that most incredibly awesome high watermark yet.
But this year’s snow hasn’t fallen yet in my neck of the woods, so here’s hoping I can still lay my hands on those old tracings…