Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Snow Globe

When I came home from BlogHerWriters last October, I brought E a snow globe from New York.

I bought it in the airport, rushing to catch my flight. My 48 hours in Manhattan had been an absolute whirlwind; I'd barely had time to eat or sleep, let alone shop for souvenirs. But I knew exactly what I wanted, and sure enough the Hudson News next to my departure gate had a small display of snow globes next to the candy rack.

It had a pink base and inside, tiny snowflakes swirled around tiny New York things: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, a yellow taxicab.

She loved it. I loved it almost as much as she did.

"It's delicate," I whispered as she dipped it upside down again and again to watch the swirling flakes.

"I know," she whispered back. "I'll keep it safe, Mommy, I promise. I love it so much."

She must have sensed how much I loved the snow globe too--a reminder of the city I love more than any other. I've never told E that my soul lives forever in New York City...but sometimes she understands things way bigger than she should be able to just by looking at my face.

The snow globe moved around. Sometimes E wanted it to live on her bookshelf. Sometimes, she carried it to my desk "So we can both love it, Mommy." Sometimes I'd find it in the kitchen next to her latest bunch of wildflowers. I reminded her constantly to be careful with it. That it was fragile, made of glass. That if she was too rough with her snow globe, it would break.

This morning, I heard a loud crash while I was upstairs getting dressed.

"E, what was that?" I called down.


Then, "It was just...something, Mom."

More silence.

And then hysterics.

I came down and there it was, her New York snow globe, in pieces on the floor. E was inconsolable, kneeling above it as though if she stayed there and cried hard enough, it would piece itself together and float back into her palm.

My first instinct was to reprimand her. How many times had I told her to be careful? Shouldn't this be a teaching moment, a lesson in taking care of belongings? Shouldn't I just clean up the mess and let her mourn the result of her actions? Remind her that things are just things and tell her she should be lucky she's healthy with a roof over her head and plenty of other toys to play with?

But as she sobbed, my mind flashed back to another moment, just weeks ago, when I sobbed because I lost something precious to me. Something irreplaceable. Something that I should have been more careful with. She had crawled into my lap that day, wrapped her skinny arms around my neck, and said "I'm sorry you lost your ring, Mommy. It was a really beautiful ring."

And then I had one of those moments--those what kind of mother do I want to be? moments. Where I stood at a crossroads of actions to choose.

She looked at me, afraid, waiting for my angry words, sorrow transforming her face into one I barely recognized.

The broken snow globe lay on the floor between us.

I swallowed the I told you sos and the You need to be more carefuls on my lips. I pulled her into my lap and held her tight. I wrapped my arms around her neck.

"I know you didn't mean to break it," I said into her sweet dark hair.

"I," she cried, her body shuddering.  She looked at the shards of glass, the bits of fake snow swimming in a pool of water on the living room floor, and broke down again. "I want to hold it again. Please, Mommy, I want to hold it again."

Oh, baby girl, I know you do. I know just how it feels to want something back that badly. The desperate desire to reverse time until it's the moment right before the bad thing happened. To have all the broken pieces be back together again.

My life, and my parenting, is all about gratitude. Yes, we should be grateful for our lives, and our health, and the people we love. We should understand that things are just things. 

But sometimes we love things anyway. And it hurts like hell when we lose them.

Even if it was our fault. Even if we should have been more careful.

Today it was a snow globe.


Sometimes, things that don't seem so fragile will still shatter. Things that aren't things, at all.

Sometimes, without meaning to, we break what matters most:
Friendships. Relationships. Dreams.

In those after moments, when we're on our knees wishing we could go back in time and undo what we've done, the best thing we can hope for is that someone will wrap their arms around us, and hold on tight, and help us pick up the broken pieces.

And understand.


  1. Your poor sweet little girl. You showed awesome restraint to not just lose it and to instead offer exactly the comfort she needed. I'm sure she knew she should have been more careful, and your instinct to comfort is one that will add a layer of insulation to your own bond with her.

  2. Sobbing. And speechless. Please hug E for me. xoxo

  3. This made me cry. I remember feeling like that many times, the most recent when I lost the promise ring my husband had given me when we were just out of high school. I know it's not as important or symbolic as my engagement and wedding ring, but it was so precious to me. At least we always have our memories.
    My heart just breaks thinking of poor little E's sadness over her snow globe. It's so hard seeing them learn these lessons. And you're right, sometimes the best thing to do is just hug them and leave the reprimands for another day.

  4. You handled this beautifully! You are such a wonderful mum! I also teared up while reading this post!

  5. Oh, this brought huge, gigantic tears to my eyes. So beautifully written and also because I had this exact scenario happen to me and my 4 year old daughter. Broken globe. I feel so guilty. I actually got a little upset with her. This gift I brought back to her from our SF trip. Ugh. Thank you for this. Beauty.

  6. You have left me in awe, Jenny. I can't even begin to tell you how moved I am by this the tenderness that you showed E, and yourself, in that moment.

    Sending you both so much love. xoxo

  7. This is absolutely beautiful. The writing. The truth. The lesson. The reminder. Sometimes it's our words that we wish we could take back. That shattered all of those beautiful pieces. That's what hit home for me, a young mom with young children. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. Oh, my sweet friend...wish I could hug you right now. These life lessons are so very hard to watch our children learn, and especially painful when we are still learning them too.

    You showed amazing support and love to E, and your compassion as a mom shows in your writing. Much love to you...

  9. Thank you, Nichole for pointing me here.

    I wonder...did I hold my son those days he needed nothing so much as he needed me to say, "I wish this hadn't happened?" or did I scold him for carelessness and recklessness, thinking that "He needs to learn" without truly thinking through the lesson.

    I probably did it both ways.

    I hope next time I remember this way.

  10. Loved this post. I had a similar incident. My 5 yo daughter recently broke something special and she was hysterically crying. I wanted to scold her as I had warned her that it might break. Then I, for some random reason, thought back to 20 years ago when I got at a car accident. It was my fault and I was so worried my dad would be mad. He just held me and told me he was glad I was okay. It cost him time and money to deal with the aftermath but rather that ground me or chastise me or shame me, he held me and told me it was going to be okay. He's not here to do that for me anymore, but I am so blessed that I have the opportunity to do it for me daughters. Thank you for this post.

  11. I will carry this in my heart with me. Seriously. I hope I can show that kind of reaction to my kids when something like that happens, because when something more intangible breaks in their lives, I want them to know I will always be there. Thank you so much for these beautiful words.

  12. Oh this was just beautiful!

    You showed wonderful constraint and in the process taught that beautiful child a very valuable lesson. Bravo!

    I will remember this.

  13. This is absolutely beautiful, in your words, in your treatment of her and the situation, in your comparison to the bigger things in life. I'm sorry the globe got broken but your writing here is glorious.

  14. This broke my heart! Poor girl! You should be proud of the way you handled it. I think moms and daughters can learns so much from each other. Beautiful post, and important reminder to hold on to what we have... while we have it.

  15. Beautiful piece and I love the way you handled it. You took the moment and made a choice. So many times , many of us, get caught up in the moment and react with blind emotion and then no one is happy. You are such a great mother and a fabulous writer.

  16. Beautiful - both the writing and parenting style. E's a lucky girl to have such a talented mother, and friend.

  17. awww...
    I love the hidden lessons in our kids

    I am going to be in NY in a few weeks - can I send a new one?

  18. OMG - tears. What a beautiful post. You handled that mommy moment with perfect humility and more importantly, humanity. Your sweet and thoughtful daughter is obviously following in her mothers footsteps.

    I'm happy to find this blog. :)

  19. Just wanted to say, to every single one of you, how truly astounded, touched and grateful I am for these comments. I never imagined this post would resonate with so many people. I guess we've all had moments where we questioned if we were making the right choice. Thank you, a thousand times, for the support and feedback. It means so much to me. xo