Wet snow covered our yard. I grabbed a handful, rolled it forward and created a big ball. Before long, an evil snowman stood in front of me. His stone eyes and buttons, created from the gravel in our driveway, stood out against his white uniform. A wet stocking cap, stuffed with snow, stood erect on his head. His stick arms threatened my kingdom.
“Snowman, stay back. If you want a fight, you better be ready for a good one!” I threatened.
He said—actually, he didn’t say anything. Snowmen don’t talk much.
I hit him with a snowball. One of his buttons dropped to the ground. “Had enough?” I yelled. Stony-eyed, he stood silent. I pelted him with several more snowballs. He began to show the effects of my onslaught. One eye was missing and a couple of his teeth lay at his feet. The stocking cap lay several feet behind him. In his weakened state, I grew brave, moved in, and pulled my sword—the sword from a swordfish—from my belt. It whistled through the air. His head toppled to the ground, dislodging his remaining eye. My kingdom was safe again.
A road passed in front of our house. It became a border. On the other side was an open field, where the enemy prepared their attacks on my make-believe country. Above the border stretched a maze of power lines. The wires were a defense system. At night, I’d launched snowballs in the direction of the enemy. They became imaginary bombers. If they got through the wires, my bombers were successful in their attack. If they hit the wires, they failed, and disintegrated into puffs of white crystals that sparkled in the brightness of the street light that hung on the pole down the road. I launched one for my side and one for the enemy. They took turns attempting to penetrate the defenses. After ten turns each, the winner was the one who got the most bombers through the wires.
“Michael! Time for bed!” Mum called. The battle was over.
I stood and looked down the slope to the harbor. Sunlight reflected off the icy surface. I shielded my eyes, pursed my lips, and lowered my sled to the ice. I stretched out and held myself still. My damp wool mittens froze to the ice. My heart hammered in my chest. Happy the hard crust held my weight, I smiled, sucked a deep breath and pushed off.
I shot down the hill, gained speed, and screamed with pleasure. My hands gripped the handles so tight, my fingers turned white inside my mittens. The metal runners rattled over the ripples in the ice. The frigid wind made my eyes tear. Cold wind turned my cheeks red. My hat blew off and wind whistled past my ears. At top speed, I leaned into the first turn and slipped to the right. On the second turn, I tipped to the side, gained control, and ripped down the final slope to the bottom. My heart continued to hammer in my chest as I neared the end. I stopped and wobbled when I tried to stand. The pounding of my heart slowed.
I played all day. If I crashed, my body bounced over the ice, and slowly came to a stop. I’d lie on my back and wait for a pretend ambulance to cart me away.
The end of another day of playing in my frosty backyard approached. The sky turned dark. A light snow began to fall. I turned our porch light on and lay on our front steps. Big snowflakes drifted down from the sky, landed on my face, and tickled my nose. I kept staring at the falling flakes. After a few minutes, I had the illusion of flying upward. The flakes, white from the porch light, looked like stars. I was on a spaceship traveling through space to places unknown. The stars passed by. New adventures were mine to have. Earth was far behind. I was flying.
Whenever I needed to escape a mean brother or a family squabble, I could count on the snowflakes to help. I could fly away.