At six, Jade knew that the best things were over her head. Candy in the top cupboard. Cookies on the refrigerator. Tiniest toys on her closet shelf. Prettiest statues above the fireplace.
When she saw Grandpa’s step stool next to the armoire in his room, she had to have a climb.
“Be careful, “ said Grandpa. “And hand me that old light bulb.” He tossed it in the trash then sat on the bed, breathing heavily.
“Aw, Grandpa. You gotta dust up here,” Jade said. She sneezed a few times to show she was serious but giggled when she lifted an old framed snapshot of him and Grandma making angels in the snow.
“I make snow angels too,” she said. “Is that you and Grandma? She’s just a girl.”
“She’s the best girl in the world, honey.” Grandpa stared at the tremor in his hands. “I would have given your Grandma the world if she’d let me. But we weren’t rich and never traveled far. Still, we’ve laughed a lot and enjoyed our times together.”
Grandpa pushed himself back toward his pillows and leaned against the headboard.
“We loved to take long walks together, especially in winter. Grandma always wished she could hold winter forever in her hands. To her it was the most romantic time of the year.”
He shut his eyes and folded his hands across his stomach, waiting for his breathing to even out.
Jade put the photograph aside and reached for something else. It was larger than her little fists. And heavy. She knew she would drop it if she tried to carry it in her hands.
She got her fingers around its base and slid it to the armoire’s edge. It was a glass ball but so grimy she couldn’t see anything. She tilted it over and cradled it in her neck.
“Jade!” Grandpa hadn’t moved so fast in ages. He was off the bed and grabbing the globe from her. “My god, child, you could have seriously hurt yourself. Now get down off of there. Go see what Grandma’s doing in the kitchen.”
Grandpa sat back on the bed and held the globe in the palms of his rough, steel mill factory hands.
“Grandpa, what is it?”
Balancing the globe on his lap, Grandpa reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a washed-out blue bandana. Like he was bathing a newborn baby, Grandpa cleaned the globe of its dusty film.
“Grandpa?” she whispered.
“Honey,” Grandpa lifted it up. “This is a snow globe. Grandma has loved this globe more than anything. She brought it with her when we moved in here after our wedding. She said her father gave it to her. She keeps it up on that armoire. Once in a while, I see her pick it up and shake it. She gets a little misty-eyed then puts it back.”
“See?” Grandpa turned it upside down and right side up again.
Jade leaned close and watched snow crystals sparkle as they settled over a bare tree and a bench. On the snowy pond, a boy and a girl, both in skates, stand close together, about to kiss.
“Who are the skaters, Grandpa?”
“Nobody in particular. Just two young people in love. Grandma says they remind her of us. We never had skates and I once asked her, ‘Do you want to go skating?’ But she just called me silly.”
Jade had better eyes than Grandpa. To her the skaters looked a lot older and a lot like her grandparents. But she didn’t tell Grandpa that.
“Now let me put it back.”
At ten, Jade stood in her grandpa’s room and stared at the snow globe.
Grandpa came in, drew her close and together they sat on the bed. “I miss her, too.”
He got down the globe and gave it a shake. “Look.”
The scene was the same, except the girl skater was gone. The boy stood alone on the pond, his arms outstretched but no one to hold.
At fifteen, Jade returned to her grandfather’s room.
“Jade?” Grandpa whispered from his bed. “That snow globe.”
No longer needing a step stool, Jade reached over the top of the armoire and carefully pulled the heavy glass toward her. She wiped off the dust and shook it, waiting for the snowflakes to fall. The pond and the tree were there, but the boy ice skater no longer stood on the pond. He sat on the bench, his chin in his hands.
She brought the globe to her grandfather’s bed.
“Take it” was all he could say.
At twenty, Jade unpacked the snow globe from a box. She gave it a shake before placing it in her first apartment.
The boy was gone. Two pairs of skates, their laces undone, laid on their sides next to the bench.
At twenty-five, Jade fell in love with Tony. When they moved into their home, Jade carried the snow globe up the stairs and into their bedroom.
Tony saw her give the ball a shake and watched with her as snow crystals floated around the two young lovers on skates. “Where did you get this?”
“My grandfather gave it to me.”
“Funny how they look a lot like us, Jade,” he said and he kissed his bride and left the room.
Jade’s eyes grew misty as she shook the snow globe one more time and gently placed it on the armoire. “He’s the best, Grandpa. The best boy in the world.”
Third place in Adult Short Fiction: Dayton Daily News/Antioch Writers’ Workshop Contest 2011