West Palm Beach, Florida
Sinking in Snow
by Tessa Bravata
The wish for birthday snow lends hope to a hot and sticky Florida
I’m sitting in my bedroom, with a ream of construction paper stuck to my
thighs and a half-empty bottle of glue about to tip over. I chop hastily away
at a handcrafted heart and paste it to an oversized birthday card. In big
goofy letters, I scrawl my brother’s name on it. Nicco. I hear the patter of
light feet down the hallway and quickly shove the card under my bed. Then
comes the familiar whistle from the kitchen signaling it’s time for dinner, so I
quickly mop up the paste spills with a blank sheet of paper. We all crowd
around the little table, swarming for the buttered carrots and the biggest
hunk of meatloaf. We scoop them onto our plates and settle down into our
“Your birthday’s coming up, little man,” my dad says, ruffling his hair.
“Anything special you want to do?”
Nicco looks quizzically at his plate and pretends to stroke a beard that is far
from growing in. He looks up at Dad and grins.
“We could invite all my friends over.” My mom shudders at the thought of all
those children running around the house.
“I want to make this birthday special. What do you want most in the world?”
asks my dad.
Nicco ponders this, too. His imaginary beard grows longer. Then his eyes
light up. “I want to go to New York and see snow!” he shouts.
My father sighs, shakes his head, and says, “I’m sorry, Nic. We just don’t
have the money for a big vacation right now.”
“Maybe we can go next year,” my mom chips in.
Nicco says “Oh,” and mashes up the carrots with his fork.
We sit there in silence for a long time, letting the thought congregate and
waver in the air, holding our tongues stiff and doughy in our mouths. It’s a long time before my dad responds to that. It’s about two weeks before he
says anything at all, actually, and he finds just the right moment to do so.
“Come here, little man.” My dad is typing vigorously on a stocky computer in
our living room. “I think I found something for you.” Nicco scampers to him
and peers over his shoulder. I look, too. It’s a picture of a giant snowmachine, furiously blowing out delicate flakes of chopped ice. Nicco’s hand
reaches over and grabs the mouse. With a few clicks, he enlarges the photo.
“Dad, is that for me?” he says. Dad takes back the mouse and continues to
scroll through the Craigs List of snow machines. For the next few weeks,
Nicco questions our dad about his birthday party.
Will it be just like real snow? How long can I play in it? How fast does it
melt? Does it taste like ice cream when it lands on my tongue and will there
be enough to make snow angels in because I’ve always wanted to do that.
We’re all living in a hovering state of excitement for a few weeks. We dream
in snow machines and chill our drinks with icicles. My brother and I pull out
the large pointy scissors, the ones specified for adults, and chop little slices
out of white pieces of paper. We hang our creations from the windowpanes.
It was summer and hot as Hell outside. Slowly, we forgot about the snow
machine. My dad started taking us to places like the zoo, the park, and the
science museum. I fully embraced these places, enjoying my freedom of
running around and exploring everything. Nicco didn’t appreciate them as
much. He refused to play tag with me and refused to come look at the
His birthday slapped us in the face. I had slashed up my calendar with a
bright blue pen and realized that the 15th was only a few days away.
And when we were sitting on the bench at the zoo next to the animal food
dispenser, we looked up and saw a single brown sparrow fly overhead.
Monkeys were squealing in their cages only a few feet away. We sat there,
lost in our own reveries, until Nicco took a quick breath of air and yanked us
from our thoughts.
“We’re not getting that snow machine, are we?”
My dad smiled and wrapped his arm around my brother. “We don’t need a
snow machine when we’re going to see the real stuff this Christmas!” he
I clung to his words, replacing the dream of a snow machine with a much
greater temptation. Nicco rolled this thought through his brain like a slow-moving pinball machine. He kept it there through his birthday and through
autumn and deep into winter. We never made it farther north than Disney
World that year, and we never brought up the snow machine again.
But for Nicco’s birthday, I brought out the sloppy glue-stained birthday card
and laid it in his palms. He opened it and read my heartfelt message inside.
And I swear, just for a second, I saw the glimmer of a smile.