Day 12, Story 12: When Suzy Came to Town

Rosemary Clooney’s “Suzy Snowflake” LP from 1951.

Pulling up to the hotel, Suzy was already exhausted. Thanks to a major snowstorm across the Midwest, she’d been flat out for three days. Of course, the sledding window was small and the snowfall was melting, less than 24 hours later. A sense of futility was snowballing in Suzy’s soul, big time.

Mother Nature’s email wasn’t super clear, as usual, so Suzy was relieved to see the sign in the lobby. It read, “Seasonal Reps,” with an arrow pointing to the ballroom.

“Here we go,” she thought, as she dragged her powder blue roller bag to the barebones check-in table. Suzy noticed dozens more nametags than usual. “Jesus, the Leprechauns are here?” she muttered to herself. 

It was clear that Mother Nature had something big planned, given the insane number of attendees. She’d flown everyone and their imaginary nephew in for this one.

“Hey, Baby New Year. What up, Nian,” Suzy said with a nod as she passed the oddest odd couple ever, one wearing a diaper and the other with teeth like high-quality steak knives. They cordially raised their glasses of champagne as she passed.

Depiction of Nian from “The Story of Nian – a Chinese New Year Folk Tale.”

Typically, it was open seating but this time, seats were assigned by month and grouped by season. Suzy saw 12 long tables that stretched toward the front, where Mother Nature had her own table and was already holding court. “What is this, Hogwarts?” she wondered. 

Of course, The Great Pumpkin was chatting up Mother Nature, up in her face and desperate for legitimacy as usual. “Kiss-ass,” she scoffed.

Suzy scanned the room over to the right for table 12, for December, nestled between tables 11 and one. The frontline December crew hadn’t yet arrived, including her nemesis. She wondered if he’d be at table 12 or assigned to the late fall fam. “Late fall? More like late fools,” she joked to herself. Summer months had been taking more and more from October, pushing the fall months out further and further.

Then from behind her she heard a low crackling sound, like the thick ice of a frozen lake breaking. His laugh sent chills down her spine–and not in a good way.

“Well, Jack Frost, as I live and breathe,” she said, overtly feigning enthusiasm.

He was already drinking his first vodka on the rocks. “Coming in cold as usual, Suzy Snowflake” he sneered. “Honestly, I’m surprised you made it. Then again, that stormfront didn’t amount to much beyond slush, even in Minnesota. Should we start calling you Suzy Sleet?”

Suzy rolled her eyes. “We don’t all have the distinct pleasure of going around killing crops and dreams willy nilly,” she retorted.

Jack Frost drawing by Margaret Ashenbach.

Jack, as usual, only half paid attention. “Look–the fucking sugarplum fairies are here. Bunch of lightweights.” He took a big swig. “They have no business being anywhere near winter.” The ice clinked in his glass as he gestured toward the tulle-clad set.

“God forbid winter have any charms or enjoyment to offer,” replied Suzy, ignoring the sexist implications of his remark. “People certainly aren’t getting any of that from you.” She picked some stray fuzz off the shoulder of her white cashmere peplum sweater and let it float to the busy mish mash of hotel carpet.

“Whatever, goody two shoes,” said Jack. “Shouldn’t you be tap-tap-tapping on some kid’s windowpane?”

She laughed, hiding her annoyance, “Talk to Rosemary Clooney.” It’s not like Suzy wrote that damn song. Jack knew full well she hated it and had barely anything to do with it. He brings it up when he’s really trying to get under her skin. She wouldn’t let that happen.

A breeze swept across the ballroom. That was Mother Nature’s gentle but very real signal. Time to take their seats. To Suzy’s dismay, she discovered that she and Jack were seated right next to each other at the middle of their table. 

Old Man Winter took his place at the front, of course, with Tomten by his side and a couple of elves across from them. The old boys club looked exhausted as they’d traveled in from the North Pole and Scandinavia. 

Plus, Old Man Winter had been less predictable lately, skipping town when expected to stay and showing up in places like Texas. The wear and tear was beginning to show.

Suzy waved and jumped up as her favorite rep and one of her oldest friends, The Snow Queen, strode up and took her place on Suzy’s other side. They clasped hands and started to catch up as the spring and summer reps continued settling in. 

Lady Midday and The May Queen performatively hugged before finally finding their spots. “Bitches in heat,” said The Snow Queen, nodding in their direction. They chuckled. Man, did Suzy love her.

Autumnal steward of barley harvests and benders, John Barleycorn was already slurring his cockney accent when he shouted, much louder than necessary, “Stop faffin’ about you twats!” We snickered. The carefree attitudes of the warmer season reps would never not chafe the cold weather crowd. Especially these days.

John Barleycorn (found on StoryArchaeology)

Finally, Mother Nature stood. The air was still and the silence, instant.

“Thank you all for coming on shorter than typical notice,” she began. “It truly warms my heart to see you all together. All four seasons, all 12 months, a full seasonal bounty indeed.”

“Ugh,” Suzy thought to herself, brow deeply furrowed. “Why do hearts always need to be ‘warmed?’”

And right on cue The Snow Queen leaned over.  “Uh—implicit bias much?” she said out of the corner of her mouth. They fist bumped under the table in solidarity. 

Mother Nature continued, always a striking sight with her glowing ebony skin, innately regal presentation, head held high, “I’ll get right to it. You all know why you’re here. We’re facing an urgent climate crisis.” The “t” on climate and “s’s” in crisis were so sharp they could cut glass. 

“What you may not know is how we are going to combat it. The short answer? It’s going to take all of us. And I mean all of us.”

She explained, “A crisis of this magnitude calls for unprecedented measures. I’m using my executive powers to circumvent the seasonal caucus and infighting that has stalled progress for too long. It’s no longer a choice. It’s our natural and moral obligation to act.”

“No shit,” said Jack under his breath. Meanwhile, the spring and summer tables stirred. To us it was obvious. To them, this was a highly sensitive topic.

Mother Nature paused thoughtfully, gazing across the room, table to table, making intense eye contact with as many reps as possible. “We can do this! We have a plan. A plan in which each and every one of you has an essential role to play.”

She took a beat and adjusted her notes before diving into the details.

“Punxsutawney Phil, from you we need an eight-year stretch of consecutive declarations of six more weeks of winter. No letting up.”

Everyone gasped. “Eight years. Holy shit!” squealed The Snow Queen. 

“Yas queen!” Suzy replied. Wide-eyed and hopeful, the two exchanged huge smiles of excitement.

Record scratch.

“Suzy, we’re going to need you to step it up, especially in the Northeastern United States and across Siberia,” said Mother Nature with a directness that felt like a punch in the face.

Suzy’s cheeks turned from alabaster to crimson. “Step it up?” she thought. “Tell Jack Frost to step the fuck out of my way! Tell Heat Miser to step it down!” A flurry of angry thoughts clouded her mind. It took every measure of composure Suzy had to not flake out.

Across the room, she saw Heat Miser slowly turn his smug face in Suzy’s direction to taunt her. But just then, Mother Nature continued, “Heat Miser—that means we’ll need your full cooperation. We’re placing some common-sense limits on your range as of today.” 

His head swiveled back and his face melted into a deep frown. Suzy felt her shoulders drop and spirit rise. 

“Hell yeah,” whispered the Snow Queen.

“Screw that guy,” said Jack Frost, in a rare note of camaraderie.

“That’s right,” Mother Nature said, squelching a sea of murmurs. “This burden does not only fall on the shoulders of the fall and winter reps. Balance must be restored throughout the year. I think we all know that. Each of you must be prepared to stretch far beyond your comfort zone. It’s crunch time, legends.”

Turning again toward table 12, Mother Nature addressed someone who would really rather go without mention, ever. 

Corn Maiden by Gerald Dawavendewa

“Tomten,” she said, “we know you’re really comfortable with the whole Christmas vibe, but you could be creating some spring magic as well. I’m asking you to serve as a seasonal bridge, a peace keeper. Help Blue Corn Maiden with vegetable gardens or something. Get creative.” 

Already barely visible due to his small stature, Tomten sunk down in his chair, extremely uncomfortable with the attention and the idea. This is a guy whose whole identity is built on laying low. 

Mother Nature turned to tables four and five, April and May. “Your work is artful as always. What we need from you now is patience. Bloom times have been creeping up and it’s throwing off the entire progression. We know you mean well, but remember–spring shines brightest after a long winter.”

Suzy saw Blue Corn Maiden nod in agreement. “She’s so damn cool,” thought Suzy. Blue Corn Maiden, of Hopi fame, was pretty much the only springtime rep who had her respect. She’d been through more than anyone, yet knew her purpose and truly served the people. Suzy saw that Blue Corn Maiden never got her due, much like herself.

In Suzy’s case, for what felt like eons, she dealt with Jack Frost dominating the entire winter precipitation game, giving no credit to her at all and, a while back, forcing her to attempt a PR campaign that backfired. 

That song she’d disavowed was supposed to elevate her brand, and take her rightful share of the winter limelight from Jack, but all it did was cause people to take her even less seriously. But maybe, just maybe, “be an obnoxious jerk” would no longer be a winning strategy in this new era—for Jack Frost, Heat Miser, or anyone else. 

Finally, Mother Nature turned her attention to summer. The June, July, and August reps all straightened in their chairs. Among them were flower fairies of all kinds and lightning sprites in various hues. Little Miss Sunshine sat with hands resting in her lap, appearing as innocent as can be in her yellow gingham dress, in contrast to the formidable Lady Midday, that brutal, Slavic summer demon who fancies herself a crop crusader. Heat Miser, as usual, seemed sweaty and nervous.

Lady Midday (Poludnitsa) found on Myths and Folklore Wiki.

“You know I admire your commitment, your enthusiasm, your drive. People love you and find joy in your season’s embrace.” Everyone else was grossed out by the coddling but also on the edge of their seats at this point.

“But your strong numbers, all those record-setting temperatures… they’ve turned the balance of the seasons into a winner-take-all contest. We’ve forgotten that the seasons all share a common goal: supporting the cycle of life. 

Fall, winter, and even spring shrink each year. Wide swaths of the earth are parched. Thirst and hunger are growing. As ice recedes, tides rise and disaster unfolds.

You are hurting your own bottom line as the glories of your season fade. Flowers and trees need rain. Beaches need sand. Sunny days need shade. People need relief.

I’m calling on you to scale back for the good of all—yourselves included.”

“‘Bout time,” whispered the Snow Queen, heartened by the much-needed and rather momentous call-out.

“Damn right,” said Suzy, amazed.

“This better stick or we’re screwed,” added Jack.

A bubbling energy infused the crowd. The chatter rose when, unable to raise a hand, The Great Pumpkin stood to ask a question.

“Oh gourd, now is not the time, GP,” said Suzy. “Get ready to cringe to death, everyone.” Both The Snow Queen and Jack Frost stifled their laughter.

“You know I don’t just show up for just anyone,” The Great Pumpkin began, as if that mattered. “I just want to say how great your plan is and that I will do everything pumpkinly possible to help. You’ve been an incredible leader, Mother Nature, and I want to thank you. With you as our champion, we can tackle the climate crisis once and for all!” 

He turned his giant orange head to face the rest of the reps and tried to instigate a round of applause, eliciting just a smattering of awkward claps.

“Shut up!” shouted a rowdy John Barleycorn, to some laughs and some disapproving looks. This interjection served as a release, and the reps all burst back into their discussions, positive energy percolating along with uncertainty.

Everyone felt the wind pick up in the ballroom. A napkin fluttered up and snagged on The Great Pumpkin’s stem, Blue Corn Maiden’s silky hair blew back in a most glamorous way, and Peter Rabbit’s nose twitched to catch a scent carried in. 

Then, all was still and quiet again. Mother Nature continued, “You know what else is at stake here? All holiday traditions, which innately depend on connection to the seasons.”

The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren

This point hit home. The elves exchanged worried glances, sugarplum fairies held hands, and a small coven of witches tapped their brooms on the floor, their way of applauding in agreement. 

Somehow the energy in the ballroom had changed, infused with an aura of shared understanding. Mother Nature concluded her remarks, and servers emerged with their platters, pitchers of water, and wine bottles.

Suzy felt something like—though she’d never admit this—proverbial warmth. She looked around at all the crazy souls gathered.

She considered their collective endangerment, mind-boggling array of quirks, shared sense of vulnerability, and centuries of ups and downs, and it all caused her to soften a bit. Even toward The Great Pumpkin. Even Heat Miser and yes, Jack Frost.

He, too, seemed to have shifted.

“I really think we can do this, you know,” he said to Suzy as they ate their dinner of so-so chicken marsala, over-cooked broccoli, and rolls.

“You know what? Me too,” said Suzy. 

Later that evening at the hotel bar, Suzy did something no one could have seen coming even on the clearest, crispest winter day. She performed her song. Yes, that song. 

As they recognized the retro sound of the opening note, the entire audience shrieked with delight and began shouting encouragement. “Oh hell yeah!” cried an ecstatic Blue Corn Maiden.

Reps of every season rushed over to the karaoke stage and joined in as Suzy belted out the lyrics.

The Snow Queen lifted her glass of ice wine and turned to Jack Frost. “Here’s to anything being possible, after all.”

“…If you want to make a snowman

I’ll help you make one, one, two, three

If you want to take a sleigh ride

Whee! The ride’s on me

Here comes Suzy Snowflake

Look at her tumblin’ down

Bringing joy to ev’ry girl and boy

Suzy’s come to town…”

The end

Note: All 12 stories can be found here. Happy holidays, however and whatever you celebrate!

Day 11, Story 11: Vintage Ornament Catalog

Spread from a vintage German Christmas ornament catalog from source Artgaze on etsy (unwatermarked version available for download there; I had a large print framed for holiday display)

#1943 – Tree topper, silver with green accents, 30cm

I remember my first Christmas in existence. The postal service was bogged down by a snowstorm. By the time I arrived, the tree was already decorated. 

He lifted me from the box and held me up for all to see. Then, atop the ladder as he stretched to the highest bough, I snagged. My spear-like tine scraped the ceiling, causing him to cringe and leaving a gouge in the plaster.

I was too tall.

He darted away. I’d been abandoned. Crestfallen and reeling, I began to doubt myself. I’d come all that way, and there was no point. How ironic!

But soon enough, he returned with a saw. Ornaments shook, needles flew, and tinsel shimmied. I saw a couple of pretty glass bells and a fallen angel on the shag carpet, no worse for wear. He cut slices from the top of the tree, not once but twice so that I would fit just right. 

His family clapped and cheered. I’d found my place at the top of the world.

#1773 – Parakeet clip ornament, 5cm (body) + 6cm (tail)

Jenny had begged for a pet budgie, but the family just couldn’t take it on that year. Dad had recently lost his job. 

And Jenny could tell when her mom was Mom worried. An indent would form between her eyebrows, when she thought Jenny wasn’t looking. 

Besides, they already had a dog and a cat and both could be real jerks. The dog thought he owned the place, but the cat really did—and came dangerously close to taking me out on several occasions over the years. 

Anyway, when her mother saw me in a catalog, she got the idea. Jenny opened my box on Christmas morning and smiled. The card read, “One day, I’ll become a real bird.” 

Yeah, we’ll see about that.

#363 – Silver spherical ornament, houses with snow and sunset, 7cm

I was a housewarming gift, and unexpected kindness, for a family of five that had just moved to a new neighborhood. The winter move was stressful, and they didn’t know anyone in the area. 

The elderly couple next door also had three daughters, long since grown. They remembered being in the young couple’s shoes when they themselves moved in many years ago.

Seeing the Christmas lights that the family managed to hang soon after the work of moving in, the couple figured a special ornament might be a fitting housewarming gift and welcome.

All the couple really knew was that, at the very least, it was a nice thought and that it’s the thought that counts. They didn’t know how right they were. 

The young mother was pregnant again, and had been feeling tired and alone. The move made it all worse. So when the couple came by to introduce themselves, it was a bright spot in her day.

After thanking them for their gift and seeing them out, she set me down and finished making dinner. I was sure she’d hang me on the tree after that, but she did not. She picked me up and walked right past the tree and into the kitchen.

That year, I never found my way to a branch. I wound up hanging in the window by the sink, where she could more easily admire me throughout the day. 

#744 – Golden rose ornament, red and green detail, 5cm

I now hang on Pip’s tree. But years ago, Pip chose me for her dear grandmother Adeline, whose carefully tended rose garden was its own fantastical, sorbet-hued world when in bloom.

I was the last ornament Adeline ever collected, and the favorite of her long lifetime.

#483 – Red-capped acorn ornament, 3½cm

I was a loving nudge, in the form of an early Christmas gift from a mother to her daughter Emma, then a young woman. Emma was an aspiring writer, but since graduating she had not succeeded in publishing a single word. 

Nor had she found a creative job to replace the administrative assistant role she’d adamantly insisted would be temporary.

As she opened the tiny box and laid eyes on my charming form, her mother said, “Don’t give up before your roots have a chance to grow.” Emma kept me, and her mother’s words, on her desk until she published her first short story. 

Now a successful author, Emma has as many published books to her name as ornaments on her Christmas tree. Now as old as her mother was then, Emma still carries that spark of encouragement. And I’m as shiny as ever.

#976 – Green pinecone ornament, 9cm

Judging from all the stories, I wouldn’t be here if not for a golden retriever named Buster. 

Apparently, there was no one he didn’t love. Buster was genuinely excited to meet, see, sniff, visit, and generally be around every human he encountered. When it came to energy and enthusiasm, he had a lot.

But he was always getting into trouble, mainly gastrointestinal, because there was nothing he wouldn’t eat. Dubious mushrooms, rolls of toilet paper, dropped movie night popcorn before it even hit the ground, a twenty-dollar bill, entire chicken wings, a cooling pan of brownies. It was a lot.

He mellowed as he aged but pinecones remained a weak spot. The two boys would try to keep the yard clear of them, but Buster always seemed to find one, as if he had a secret stash. 

This unkickable pinecone habit drove the family absolutely mad. The resulting digestive issues led to expensive vet visits and gag-inducing messes, inevitably deposited on rugs. They wished so much that Buster could just learn from his mistakes. But he never did.

Buster was 11 when he became seriously ill, and not from pinecones. If only it were that simple. His condition dramatically deteriorated over the course of just a couple of months. He lost interest in eating altogether. Pinecones lay in the yard, untouched. Visitors, ungreeted. That’s how his family knew that Buster had found all the joy he would find in this life, though it had been a lot. The time had come to say goodbye.

The parents and sons all surrounded the very good boy. They thanked and held Buster as he took a contented last breath.

The rock that marks his grave is etched with a pinecone and his name. 

It is an honor to witness how Buster’s spirit bounces back to life when the family sees me each year. Of course, his memory must also be lovingly recalled at the sight of his favorite “snacks,” and there were a lot.

#1733 – Peacock clip ornament, 7cm (body) + 8cm (tail)

My first time around, I was flying high. Marcy ordered me and eleven others destined to become the decorative stars of the annual tree that towered over the great room at about 15 feet tall. Minimum.

I was proud of my role, and certainly well cared for. Each holiday season, the staff diligently dusted and buffed to ensure we all sparkled in preparation for display. 

Marcy had a passion for over-the-top holiday decorating, which she would direct while cradling a martini between two long fingers.

Several children and many grandchildren later, however, things changed. It seemed we’d fallen from favor. The fabulous Marcy had faded away, along with her glamour. Christmas came and went. We stayed in a dark box on the cold floor.

Time is so hard to gauge in the absence of light and traditions. But eventually, I wound up in a Seattle thrift shop. It felt good to be admired again. I soon caught the eye of a young man named Theo. Next thing I know, I’m back in a box.

I’d guess it was just a day or two later when I was suddenly jostled and heard a familiar song: “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”  A little girl’s face peered down at me, and her hand pulled me back into the world.

She jumped up while holding me carefully in both hands, and ran around to show me to her grandparents, baby nephew, aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone. “It’s the peacock from the Nutcracker!” she said over and over. “Isn’t she pretty?” 

They all replied, “Yes, Mallory!” or “Wow, Mallory!”

It was a tradition for Theo to take her to the ballet each Christmas in Seattle, where the production always featured a peacock dancer. Far and away Mallory’s favorite part of the show.

Once again, I found myself front and center on a Christmas tree. A small tree, but as merry and festive as any I can remember.

The end 

(Note: Remaining holiday stories can be found here as they are released each day through 12/24, and available ever after.)