12 Plays of Christmas: When The Snow Fell

When the snow fell, a man and woman became lost and wandered into the village where I was born. They were aware of just how fragile the planet was with too many people packed too close together. Human beings were hurting Earth and this village was one of those tiny and oh so very poor places in the world unknown to cartographers that was struggling with overpopulation.

The couple had been on an excursion to find their souls and instead found a half-frozen little orphan girl whom no one could afford to take in, and that day I found a family because even though the man and woman hadn’t planned on having children themselves, they believed in their hearts that it was the right thing to do.

They’d both been bitten by the wanderlust bug at early ages, so when I became old enough to truly appreciate presents, my adoptive parents gave me the two greatest gifts they could think of: a passport and an ear for languages.

From a young age, I trekked across the globe several times over, first with them, and then on my own when I became mature and worldly enough to claim the freedom to make my own pathway. And it was an exciting adventure for a while, but I eventually reached a point where the only place left to visit was home, or more precisely, the place where I was born.

Thanks to Google Earth, uncovering the location of the village, whose name was not translatable into English in written or verbal form, was easier for me than my folks but even in this age of digital information, the only reference I was able to pull up was a Christmas urban legend regarding a mysterious woman, a snow witch called, Dame Donatore, the giver of gifts.

According to myth, she was an eight-armed sorceress who had been tragically separated from her offspring during a snowstorm on the night before Christmas. Grief made her wander aimlessly into the mountains where she became a hermit. One of her many talents was that of a skilled craftswoman and in order to cope with her loss, she built knickknacks and toys by hand, things she would have made for her children. When these items began cluttering up her cave, she carried them down from the mountain and handed them out to the poor girls and boys, which happened to be on the anniversary of the loss of her children. And so began the tradition. It was said that she would spend the whole of Christmas Day with brooms in her many hands sweeping the snowcapped mountains clean, showering the village below in a blanket of white on that most special of days.

***

Reaching the village had proven more arduous than I thought, requiring passage on several modes of transportation over land and sea and air. I wound up having to travel farther than I initially planned and when I ultimately arrived at my destination, it was the twenty-fourth of December, a surprisingly mild weathered night, and to my great fortune, I bore witness to the arrival of the legend herself, Dame Donatore, who sat her gift-laden sack on the bench-like flat stone in the village square.

The snow witch appeared to be in her sixties, possibly older, and was cloaked in the infamous magical red robe that made six of her supposed extra arms invisible to mortal eyes. Beside her sack, she placed a pile of coal and as the children approached one by one, she asked,

“Have you remembered to be good?”

and upon hearing the child’s answer, she would sometimes fake reaching for a lump of coal, much to the child’s dismay, before pulling one of her bespoke presents from the sack. After the children had collected their gifts, she handed the coal lumps to the parents to be added to their home fires.

I spied all this from afar, hidden in the shadows, and only decided to approach the woman when everyone had retreated to their homes. Upon seeing me, Dame Donatore said,

“Oh, hel—beg pardon,” she caught herself. “I thought I knew you for a moment. You have a face like a forgotten memory, but clearly, we have never met.”

I had no idea what that meant but before I could question it, she continued, “I am afraid I have no gift for your little one.” Her tone was regretful as she held up her empty burlap sack. “They have all been given out.”

I waved away her concern, “I have no children.”

She sighed, and more to herself, said, “A pity that. I can think of no greater tragedy than to be childless, especially during the holidays, for children are the greatest gifts of all.”

From a distance, this mysterious giver of gifts seemed an almost ethereal being conjured by Christmas magic, but up close, with no children present, she was the saddest person I had ever laid eyes on and her magnificent cloak was nothing more than a ratty old blanket draped over her shoulders and held in place with a rusty pin.

“I don’t think being a mother suits me,” I said for no apparent reason. Why would this woman be interested in knowing that having children wasn’t part of my life plan?

“Well, what you think and what I know are two different things,” she offered a weak smile. “I could tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

“Girl or boy,” she answered. “Motherhood is indeed a part of your destiny. I have a sense of these things.”

“So, you’re a fortune-teller?”

“Everyone has a path which has been mapped out on their bodies from birth. I do not tell fortunes but I can see auras and have been known to trace the roads yet untraveled on a palm.”

Although a disbeliever in a great many things, I was standing in the presence of an urban legend, so how could I not extend my palm and accept the challenge? “Tell me.”

Donatore clasped my hand in a feeble handshake, closed her eyes and explained, “First, I must make your acquaintance.”

“Oh, of course, pardon me. My name is—” I started.

“Unnecessary,” she interrupted. “Your vibrations will tell me everything I need to know.”

Her hand began to tremble as if palsied but her grip grew tighter and tighter. Trance-like, she said, “I sense turmoil…a maelstrom…” and as she spoke the words, I caught flashes in my mind’s eye of a very heavy snowfall and I could actually feel icy winds cutting across my face.

And suddenly I am in a storm…

and the snow keeps coming…

it never stops…

until nothing exists except the snow…

and that isn’t right because I’m missing something…

something I lost in the snow…

was I holding a hand?

Was that real and if it was…

whose hand was it…

and where was it now?

Someone is calling to me…

“Keep up!”…

and as I try to push forward…

I realize that I have no shoes…

and the cold is everywhere…

even inside me…

hollowing me out…

and I am being buffeted by the wind…

turning around again and again…

I try to keep moving forward…

but I know I am going the wrong way…

I no longer know the right way…

because the entire world is killer frost white…

where am I now that I have turned the wrong way…

I can’t call out because the wind steals my voice…

I am lost and alone…

and the only thing I know is that I am going to die…

And just before I was about to cry out in pain, the witch of the snow allowed my hand to slip from her grasp. The all-encompassing whiteness that was so thick as to choke me…began to evaporate and time held its breath as reality reset itself around me.

“…a face like a forgotten memory…” Donatore muttered sotto voce, and a look of dawning recognition crossed her features. I was certain that I mirrored her expression.

“Are you…are you…my mother?”

“Ameliatta,” she whispered, and I lost my footing in the present, falling back through the calendar of my life to the misty days of forgotten memories when a younger version of myself that I barely recognized delighted in having my mother’s undivided attention.

“I go by Amelia now,” I said, unable to stop the spread of a smile for this woman whom I bore little resemblance to and who was and was not a stranger at the same time.

The giver of gifts struggled to find words and when she finally did, all she could muster was, “How did you find me?”

“I wanted to see where I was born.”

“I knew in my heart of hearts that you would return to me,” Donatore said as she turned away to hide the tears welling in her eyes. “In my quiet moments, I talked to the heavens to let you know that I was still alive and waiting for you at home.”

I hadn’t the heart to reveal that I hadn’t come in search of her, at least not consciously. Truth be known, I had never given much thought to finding my birth mother. I knew that sounded cruel but I wasn’t suffering from abandonment issues. I accepted that life happened the way it did, and I had a happy childhood surrounded and supported by people who loved me.

“You must think horrible things of me,” she said, her eyes unable to land on mine.

“I don’t, honestly.”

“It was my fault that I lost you, but you must understand I was doing what I thought was right.”

“I don’t blame you.”

She wasn’t acknowledging what I was saying and appeared to be lost in remembrance. “We owned nothing but poverty but that did not stop your father from scrounging around for materials to build us a home. If only his heart was as strong as his intention. He died before the house was finished. It was only you and I alone and a violent storm was on its way. I needed to find materials to patch the holes in the roof. It would have been faster if I went by myself but you were so terrified of being left alone after your father died, so against my better judgment, I took you with me. We collected bits of wood and tree bark and raced back home, but we were not faster than the storm. Trying to hold on to the wood that the wind was whipping out of my grip, I lost hold of you. If you believe nothing else I tell you, know that I searched for you day and night for how long I cannot tell, digging through the snow until I could no longer feel my hands, but you were gone.”

“I believe you.”

If she heard me, she gave no indication. “I wanted to curl up in that snow and die, but I kept pushing on. It was what my parents did and what they taught me to do, day after day, you just pushed on. In the same year, I had lost my husband and my precious daughter. There was nothing to keep me here but I stayed because I had a belief that if I left this place, I would never see you again, and I would not have been able to survive that. I needed to keep my mind and hands busy so I began building things, which turned out to be toys, probably because your return was always on my mind.”

At that moment I was able to see beyond myself and considered the stages of her life, of our lives, before and after the storm. There were paths each of us had taken that would fill in the gaps of our individual travels and maybe, just maybe, we could start walking a new path together.

“This might sound strange but can I hug you?” I asked.

“For as long as you like,” Donatore smiled and the years seemed to melt from her face.

We threw our arms around each other and it seemed so natural and so right, so much like a home I never knew existed. She whispered in my ear, “Life is filled with little miracles and I knew one day I would receive one.”

We stood there locked in an embrace, taking turns weeping. It was strange to discover just how much I missed this woman, my mother. When we eventually separated, she folded her empty sack and tucked it beneath one arm. “Would you like to see the house? It took me longer than I thought but I finally finished it.”

“That would be nice.”

“I must warn you that it is a little crowded in there.”

“You have a family?”

“Of sorts, I take in homeless children, especially this time of year, because this is a horrific place for young children to be isolated, and as I said before children are the best gifts one can have. In exchange for food and shelter, they help me build toys. You think I did all this by myself?”

Clearly, my work was cut out for me, separating my mother from the myth from the woman she became without me.

I wasn’t sure how long we had been standing out in the cold, which oddly enough hadn’t really affected me, but I had a sense that it was after midnight, Christmas Day, and as we held hands and walked the path to her home, the snow began to fall.

15 responses to “12 Plays of Christmas: When The Snow Fell

  1. I’m glad Amelia had a good family and a nice upbringing but I feel so bad for Donatore. Even though she became a surrogate mom to all those other homeless children, she was robbed of the experience of watching her own daughter growing up. I can picture her staying up at night praying that her daughter was alive and healthy in a safe and loving environment. I hope they stay in touch and share the rest of their lives with each other. Thank you for sharing this… 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m not a religious man but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I disbelieve in a grand design and sometimes from our limited perspectives we fail to see the big picture. Perhaps, like Donatore said, Amelia’s life was mapped out for her since birth and she followed the path she was meant to follow. If the “snow witch” hadn’t been separated from her daughter, would she still have taken in the stray children? Something to consider.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Such a beautiful story, Rhyan. I can feel the sadness, hope, and joy that you’ve expressed in this warn tale. The joy of having a child and the sorrow of losing one are feelings one has to experience to really know. Relationships aren’t just blood ties, they are larger than flesh and blood. Sometimes the only binding factor is unconditional love and caring. I wish you well this holiday season and hope that you stay healthy and continue to spin such charming tales. They really warm the heart. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kind words from you, Terveen, which has been consistent from the onset and throughout. Not being a man of religion, Christmas for me has always been a time for children, especially while they still believe in magic and I agree with Donatore’s sentiment that a childless Christmas is like having an undecorated tree with no present beneath. Thank you for the holiday wishes and of course, I wish the same for you, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. “For as long as you like,” Donatore smiled and the years seemed to melt from her face.
    Oh, how my eyes watered reading this!
    Such a precious story. Your descriptions are so vivid and endearing, it’s hard to not visualise them to the exact detail. I’ve become a biiiiggg fan of yours, sir. I don’t become anyone’s fan very easily.

    Just brilliant! The storyline, thr emotions,all so wonderfully thought out and penned. More than loved it! I’m bawling my eyes out. This is precious! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on A Cornered Gurl and commented:
    I don’t recall how I happened upon his blog recently, but I’m so glad I did. If you’re looking for a wondrous storyteller who leaves you wanting more after each story, you NEED to be reading Rhyan, aka MADDFICTIONAL. Seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure what detour or rabbit hole led you to my blog, but I’m glad you found your way here and decided to stay a bit. I say this often because I have no better way of expressing the emotion but thank you for taking the time to read, comment, and in your case, spread the word about my scribblings. It is very much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have three for you today because I couldn’t choose between them:

    “[Adoption] carries the added dimension of connection not only to your own tribe but beyond, widening the scope of what constitutes love, ties, and family. It is the larger embrace.” —Isabella Rossellini

    “Family is like branches on a tree; we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” —Unknown

    “The only thing sweeter than union is reunion.” —Kathleen McGowan

    Liked by 1 person

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