Bay Village High School
Instructor: Kristen Srsen Kenney
Personal Essay & Memoir
The poor thing, left without its mate, had no idea it would sit and gather dust in my closet for five years. This snowman
candle, made of two wax blocks and adorned with a Sharpie face, remained unlit.
Every successive Christmas, or really, anytime the closet door opened, this snowman, Mom's snowman, would anxiously wait to be rescued from its woeful spot in the dark. I made him in elementary school when my teacher asked us to make a craft for our parents. But, I couldn't just make one craft. I always insisted on making two: one for Mom, one for Dad. Each craft had to travel to a different place because my parents divorced when I was merely two years old. Since I was so young when they separated, the idea of them together is completely foreign to my recollections. But, just calling myself a kid of divorced parents oversimplifies the situation, as many labels do. No half-and-half custody agreement existed. It wasn't an equal split, since my mom's condition of bipolar disorder obstructed a "typical" mother-daughter relationship. Because of her illness, pockets of my childhood didn't include her. It was excruciating to not see her face on birthdays, holidays, school events, theatrical performances, and other memorable moments of my life. I'd wonder when I'd get to feel her next embrace or see her smile. Although I tried not to dwell on it often, I saw my snowman as a way for me to grasp one last bit of hope that I'd see her.
That year, near Christmas, I made two snowman candles. My dad unwrapped his candle right on Christmas day. Meanwhile, my mom's snowman candle had to live alone in a little blue gift bag atop my closet shelf because I knew my mom wouldn't receive him that year. Every time I opened the closet door and was reminded of his presence, I sighed, because I had to disappoint the little guy. With each Christmas that passed, the thought of throwing him out flickered in my mind. There were moments I nearly bade him goodbye to the trash, but something always stopped me from doing so.
Because of a restraining order, I waited five years to see Mom, and, thus, the snowman also waited five years. It was always there, a reminder that time kept moving on without my mom. I knew the day it could escape the closet to be placed in Mom's hands would eventually arrive, so I refused to give up. Her snowman reminded me to believe that I would see her again.
It would not be thrown away.
It would not be given to someone else.
It would remain in its spot until it served its intended purpose.
He would be reunited with my mom.
I would be reunited with my mom.
Eventually, the restraining order's time ran out, and when I finally gave my mom the little snowman candle, it was as if a curse had broken. The moment her arms wrapped around me, the young girl inside me emanated pure happiness. I no longer strained to remember the sound of her voice. My mom had returned to my life.
Once I saw the snowman's wick dancing with flames for the very first time in my mom's hands, my loneliness dissipated. There was nothing left in my closet to gather the dust of lost memories. With my mom beside me or just a phone call away, a new era began. The years that followed weren't perfect with the unpredictability of a mental illness, but I cherish the strength of the relationship I now hold with her. Whether she's helping me with makeup, talking over the phone, or even making a craft, we're never truly alone.