Just and I feel as if thirty years have just been taken off me. Here is that snow covered alley with no sign of life, except two passers-by and tire tracks over the fresh snow. Oh, but there’s so much more! I smell the fumes of a kerosene heater, taste the steamed sugar-beet sold on a stand around the corner and hear the man who is carrying his snow shovel on one shoulder shout, “Oi. . .Barf-andaaaaz.. .”
The white alley is a fresh canvas where I can imagine my wildest colors. Branches of a honeysuckle drape over a wall and the snow clusters on it resemble new blossoms as if it has bloomed overnight. There’s a garden behind that wall and I know that garden too well. For years, I washed my hands in the murky water of its little pond, played endless summer afternoons in its shades, and picked gladiolas from its flower beds. Ah, so many winter mornings I opened the drapes to marvel at the glistening snow that had fallen the night before and imagined its taste.
After the man finished plowing our roof and dumped mounds of snow in the yard, I helped my brothers to build a slide. I carried jugs of water to pour over it, cold water freezing my little fingers under the wet gloves, the jug feeling too heavy. When the slope felt icy and slick, we would slide on it over and over until the seats of our pants froze. Not a care in the world, or a sorrow in our hearts.
Later, we pushed our frozen toes under grandmother’s Korsi and savored the cup of hot milk before us as we dipped our ginger cookies in it. No sooner had our feet dried than we planned building a snowman.
Childhood lasted only days, but now Looking at the photograph, I am once more a young girl, hiding a letter she will have to keep secret from the world. Afraid that the neighbors might have seen her, worried that she may have been caught talking to the young man, she listens to the pounding of her own heart. But on such a snowy day faces are harder to recognize for they are half hidden in a long scarf and the dimmed light of the day helps as well.
I stood in the middle of the alley and watched him walk away, shoulders up to protect his ears against the cold wind, hands in his pockets, heart left with me. I cannot believe the dying of that flutter in my heart, nor could I imagine that the mystery that surrounded us would someday melt and evaporate into oblivion.
When time took away our youth, when the fog of dreams lifted only to disclose ruthless realities and when that beautiful snow melted to once again reveal all the ugliness it had concealed, I presumed that to be the end of my alley of memories.
But here I am; just one photograph away from a moment that was otherwise presumed lost. Indeed, memories are mountains that even the worst tragedies fail to destroy. Halfway around the globe, a little photograph once again connects me to my little snowy alley. I hear the car that just passed by, I hear the man offering to plow snow and I taste the many flavors of winters long gone. How uplifting to know that as long as I shall live, part of that alley will continue to survive within me.
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