Winter is my least favorite time of year for one, simple thing: the cold. I don’t dislike the snow, though I definitely wouldn’t mind if it weren’t made of ice, and it gets dark earlier meaning the temperatures go down before I can get inside my home and get some hot chocolate going which is so not cool. But the snow and ice do make the whole world seem clean and peaceful, so I can’t hate the winter completely.
A couple years back, in winter, I was having a tough time of it. I was still trying to climb out of the pit I had fallen into and as a result my grades were falling at a rapid pace. It was my second semester in college, and my first as a Psychology Major at Holyoke Community College and things were difficult. One night I get a message from a group chat that I am in with a handful of close friends to go out for dinner. Just what I need, I think to myself. A few hours later finds me walking out of Foody Goody Chinese Buffet in Eastfield with the whole pack. All 8 of us end of talking about what to do next for a few minutes before one of the girls says they want to go to the Petco next door. There had been a storm a few nights before and as we walked one if the boys takes interest in the huge piles of snow and ice the snow plows leave behind after clearing the parking lots. Deciding that the slippery mountains were far more dangerous than a half empty Pet store, I left the girls and one of their boyfriends to go along inside while I followed the boys to the piles to make sure no one got hurt.
The 4 of us made our way to the biggest mound in the parking lot and immediately the boys began their ascent; being the timid person I am I stayed at the bottom and merely watched to make sure no one slipped and fell. Among us was my best friend as well as my boyfriend. My best friend, we’ll call him E, gets to the top and starts hollering something before he whips a large chunk of ice down onto the pavement where it shatters into a thousand glittering pieces.
“What the heck are you doing E?” I scream into the sky, surprised by the violence. Our friend, J, must have caught what he was yelling because he’s the one that answers me.
“He’s yelling out his frustrations,” he shouts before bending over to pick up his own hunk of ice.
My boyfriend, K, tossed a piece rather unimpressively and clambered back down to me, “go up there”, he whispers, “go and let it out”.
I smile and shake my head, “you go on up, I’m good down here”.
He huffs at me but begins his ascent once again. Then I hear E yelling something different from what he was before
“Self hate!” crash.
“The past” crash.
“Jem, what else is bothering you?” E calls. He’s got a huge piece of ice in his hands and I start to worry about frostbite. I shrug my shoulders and kick a chunk of ice that’s landed by my foot.
“You’ve said it all,” I shout.
He frowns down at me a moment before he squares his shoulders, “then this,” he raises the hunk of ice over his shoulder “is for everything that won’t be said” and with a scream he launches it into the night. It shatters like glass and I watch the millions of possibilities of what would’ve-could’ve-should’ve scatter over the frozen pavement. I laugh, and for a moment I feel light.
After, when the four of us are walking back to Petco to round up the rest of the group, E walks up behind me and bumps me a little with his shoulder. We get into a light shoving match and only stop when I almost slip on some ice. He pulls something small and round from his pocket and holds it out to me in the dark of the parking lot: a little purple rubber ball with brown and white swirls all over it.
He told me it he found it amidst the mess they had made of broken ice. He told me to keep it as a reminder that good and exciting things can come from some of the hardest things we face, and I’ve never forgotten that.
I’ve acquired many a bouncy ball over my 20 years, but this one holds a special significance: that I can bounce back from just about anything, and that I’ll always have people around me to help if I need it. It’s an ugly, uneven little ball, but to me, it’s precious.