A little imagination

Tempo di lettura: 6 minuti

«Dinner’s ready!»

Mother always had to call her at least twice for meals. Nova had a tendency to run about at the least convenient of times, usually to pick up things no parent would have wanted their child to touch. At present, her fascination rested with an old toy she’d dug out of an abandoned box in an abandoned building on the edge of the neighborhood, a glass sphere filled with swarming white flakes, which she had dutifully polished that afternoon until light could shine through it again. According to her sister, Julia, it was called “snow globe”, and she’d been toying with it by her favorite window since they’d come back home from their afternoon adventures.

If snow had looked just like the scenery she could recreate by shaking the sphere, it must have been both marvelous and terrifying, but she was starting to doubt that all she read in textbooks or learnt from Mother’s tales about her childhood (her two main sources of information on snow) was as accurate as they claimed it was.

She’d shaken the globe, wreaking havoc on her new personal universe, and placed it on the windowsill she kneeled before to observe the chaos turn back into still order. In the twilight, the little pile of flakes looked blue, a colder shade than the dry earth that could be seen spotted among the identical blocks of concrete outside her window. They didn’t look much like sand. They looked rough like artificial things, much like the shapes of the scanty neighborhood she lived in, not really like something nature might produce. Maybe in real life, snow had looked much more like sand or dirt.

The footsteps of her brother Ilya down the steep stairs and into the tiny kitchen reverberated through the walls, briefly disrupting the top flakes of the pile, sending them rolling down one side of it.
Then her mother’s voice, slightly louder:  «I said, dinner’s ready!»

Nova briefly registered her sister’s voice saying something back to Mother in the other room, the smell of the stew now reaching her side of the house, then her attention was back to the globe again. She moved it with more gentleness this time, giving rise to a softer storm, getting with her face so close to the glass all she could see out of her left eye was the dancing snow superimposed on the view of the darkening neighboring buildings. Julia had told her that in the place where they lived, which only she and mother where originally from, it had snowed every year up until thirty years ago. Of course, Nova knew Julia was, like her, too young to be able to remember the last snow. She wondered what it would feel like to walk through her neighborhood under it. She wondered what it would feel like to the touch.

«Nova, I called you for dinner». She heard Mother’s voice, then her footsteps, then felt her arms wrap around her and pull her up, but in a way that was too gentle to mean she was really angry. «I see you’ve made a mess of your clothes again».

Mother was a pragmatic woman, but one that always got her way in all situations, and even if she didn’t understand most of Nova’s interests, it was clear she appreciated her stubbornness in pursuing them. But then, it could not be so different, because they’d been deemed to be compatible by the orphanage, and even when she’d found out Nova was missing two fingers, Mother had wanted her still.

The people who’d let the temperatures rise and the ice melt, that couldn’t keep the snow falling, had apparently lived wildly different lives, filled with many cheap belongings and raised by their bio parents unless in case of death. They’d been blind to the changes happening to the planet around them, and all their bad habits, and the pointlessness of their wars while the planet warmed, and so children like Mother had grown up in an unstable world. It sounded to Nova like those generations must have lacked imagination.

She looked up at Mother, her broad shoulders, her skin so much paler than Nova’s, her blouse that smelled like the vegetables she’d been cooking. «What did snow feel like?» she asked, «Was it anything like sand?»

«It felt like snow» her mother replied, brisk, only sparing a glance at the globe. Maybe she was, then, angrier than usual. «What have you been up to again? Did you find that toy among the rubbish again? Is that why your clothes are all dirty?»

Nova took Mother’s hand and started dutifully following to the kitchen. «I was adventuring», then, because Mother’s harsh tone had made her feel daring and she was reaching that age, «You could punish me by keeping me in for the afternoon, but you never do».

«Now, that’d be just cruel, to have made you come all the way up here just to give you restrictions on the time you can spend in the sun».

Mother was the only parent in her block who gave her children no curfew: they could play outside even after dinner, before bedtime, which she could’ve forbidden her to do at any time if she’d really been that upset with her misbehaving. Instead she just shook her head and cleaned her face if it was muddy or adjusted her hair if it was messy.

«Even more than your siblings, you should feel like this» she added.

Where her brother Ilya had been born, the sun had been scorching hot at midday, but neither he or Julia had ever known a sun like Nova’s, that forced the children inside for the better part of the day. Her sun, in the middle hours of the day, didn’t allow you to look out the windows and would make you cook yearlong even in the cool basement where the refuges were located.  So much that when she’d first arrived in her new home, she hadn’t wanted to go back inside when her new family called.

«You’re not a cruel mother, all things considered». Nova agreed, which made Mother chuckle.

«I wonder how you managed to grow up like this in an orphanage, always ready to have the last word».

Nova looked one last time back to the window, the concrete buildings now only lighted by the moon, her new toy still and forgotten. It all felt like a tall tale (and she knew because she was very good at coming up with them): entire bits of the planet perpetually covered in ice, flakes of it falling down the sky… And in all of this, no citizens that worried about the rising temperatures, or at least not enough to stop the catastrophe, and no State to take the matters into their own hands, all the many that had been there before too concerned with their pointless fighting to pay attention.

She squinted at the scenery, and could almost make out the buildings again, or maybe she just knew them too well. While she was turning her head, she could swear to have caught a glimpse of how they must have looked before, under the year’s first snow.

di Melina Russo



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