My earliest memories from my childhood are of playing in the snow.
I sat on the hard doorstep leaning against the wall in an attempt to hide from the worst of the bitterly cold wind biting my fingers. I hadn’t had a chance to get my coat or gloves and my thin sweater did little to stop the cold penetrating my bones.
I looked across the huge ground, at the tall trees which seemed to sway dangerously, and at the grill between the two stone benches. I briefly considered trying to light it but quickly dismissed this idea. It wasn’t worth it to get yet another burn on my wrist.
I began counting the cars passing by to pass the time until I could return into the warm and comforting house. I would finish building my Lego castle and then cuddle up with the giant bear in bed. Perhaps I could even have a hot chocolate. I counted the last car. Four. Not many enjoy the winter.
“That doesn’t look very fun”, A cheeky voice next to me said, “Here’s the hot chocolate.” I spun around and saw a boy with gloves and a coat on. Charlie’s eyes shone excitedly as he held out his hand to me. “Come on! I have a better idea”. “Where?” I asked, pulling away from him. He snatched by my hand and just as quickly dropped it again, “Your hands are freezing! Here”. He pulled off his own plaid patterned gloves and slid them on my hands. “What about you?” I asked, desperately hoping he wouldn’t change his mind. He grinned, “I’m never cold! Now what should we do? You wanna play tag?” “I’m supposed to be doing my homework, we’ll get in trouble and it’s too cold!” But his enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself jumping to my feet, my melancholiness fading away, “Fine, you deal with Mom if she is mad at me.” Charlie surveyed the ground as I had a few minutes earlier. He watched the swaying trees for a moment before saying, “Don’t you hate it when it’s freezing but not snowing? Wanna see something magical?” I nodded shyly and still holding my hand he took me towards the middle of the ground. “Close your eyes” he instructed. I stood for a while with my eyes closed hoping this wasn’t some stupid prank just like last week, “Okay open them!”
My ground was no longer boring and neat. It was as if Santa had just flown overhead, declared it winter and covered the land with crunchy snow. Charlie jumped up and down besides me, “Do you like it? Do you? Isn’t it awesome?” I nodded dumbly, not being able to believe my eyes. “So what first? Sledging down the hill?”
What followed was the best experience of my life. we played for hours. We raced down the hill on the most magnificent sleds I have ever seen and when I fell off it didn’t matter because it was like falling onto massive marsh mellows! Then we had a glorious snow fight, followed by making the greatest snowman I had ever laid my eyes on. I was content and tired and soon felt myself beginning to drift off against Charlie’s arm. “This has been the best day ever!” Charlie didn’t move his arm, “Yeah it has. It’s fun with you. I know! I love it when you are not mad at me for leaving you behind to play with other boys. You are the best sister I could ask for.” This was also Charlie’s last day at home before leaving for boarding school. I did not want to say anything and upset him but I think I just stepped on his favorite watch.
I fell asleep after going home. When I woke up, Charlie had left. It was scary at first to be all by myself when my parents left for work but Charlie called me every night and kept telling me jokes until I laughed. When I told my parents this, they looked worried and I had to speak to a man who kept asking lots of difficult questions so I learnt not to mention him again.
I’m thirty and he’s thirty-five now. When I really think about it, it hasn’t snowed in my city for over fifty years and I’m an only child. I don’t know if he’s a ghost or my imagination. I ask myself if it matters, decided it didn’t. Whatever he was, he was the older brother I had always dreamed of.