By Rosalie Tirella
I found this small old snow-globe before the global pandemic. My sister gave it to my late Mom one Christmas, decades ago, when we were all still living on Lafayette Street, in Green Island:
♥️♥️ pics: R.T.
I was in my teens, attending Burncoat Senior High School, back then. My two kid sisters were at St. Mary’s Junior High, by Kelley Square. Ma still worked at the dry cleaners. Daddy was living with us again, hanging around these four or so years. Living with us now that my sisters and I were older and not under-foot, so needy toddlers, little children. My lovely immigrant grandfather from Poland, Jaju, had died a decade back; his dumpling-shaped Polish wife, my grandmother Bapy, gasped for air in her bedroom by the kitchen, now sick, no longer feisty and sitting at the head of our kitchen table in her ratty old easy chair, cup of cold Sanka coffee in one hand, hardboiled egg sandwich in the other, watching over us lil’ kids and giving unsolicited child-rearing advice to my sweet mom, all while watching GOMER PYLE, USMC, her fave TV show on our old black and white Philco, parked in front of one of the kitchen windows. All the wind had disappeared from Bapy’s sails – now Daddy was even an ally, bringing her a warm cup of Sanka, entering her bedroom head down and with respect, leaving the cup of coffee on her bedstand. Gone, her cursing Daddy in Polish – “DOG’S BLOOD! You RED DEVIL!” – for his infedelities to my mother, her favorite daughter, and his abandonment of his three little daughters. She was too old and tired for all that noise now.
I saw all this in the snow globe: Bapy’s old black metal bed, no box spring, just thin mattress over the web of metal “springs” – her wedding day gift, a goose down quilt, on top of her … in my little snow globe, now my Global Pandemic Snow Globe. I had set it two feet from my pillow on my night stand and stared into its dirty water every night, the globe of 40 year old water with the gold glitter floating through it. I shook it …
… and saw my tiny Bapy buried beneath the cozy, snowy white hills of her big goose down comforter. I used to jump up and down on it when I was three and four years old, pretending it was a magical snow mountain and I was in the snowy woods, living with white wolves and beautiful deer atop slender, graceful legs, hooves …
I stared into the murky waters of my Global Pandemic Globe all February as I lay on my futon in my kitchen by the kitchen stove, coughing and sweating out a weird fever every night … for three weeks. Chef Joey had just returned from Italy (and France), all January I had handed out winter hats and gloves and scarves to Worcester’s homeless men and women, from my car: Downtown Worcester, under the Green Street Bridge … Pre-pandemic. Doing the wrong things at the wrong time because Trump knew but wasn’t telling us Americans a thing. So I, foolishly, dangerously, lived my life with the novel coronavirus swimming and floating all around me. No vaccine. No facial mask. No PPE. No social distancing. We were all in the dark – duped by the dope Trump.
So, when I felt weirdly ill, I took to my futon and thought: This a weird, end of winter flu. Then the COVID 19 NEWS BURST INTO GLOBAL CONSCIOUSNESS and I said to myself: “I have COVID-19.” I told myself the sad fact while lying alone in the middle of my Blackstone River Road shack. I was afraid but determined to live. I grabbed my Green Island snow globe, probably a Whites Five and Ten find by my sweet sis, and held on tight to it and shook it hard …
… to make the few specks of the glitter sparkle in the dirty water. My deathbed talusman? If yes, then I was holding on to the only things I ever loved in that old Christmas bauble: Green Island, Millbury Street, Kelley Square, Ma, Bapy, Jaju, my two sisters. All in that 50-cents snowglobe, so precious to me now as I stifled my coughs so the diwnstairs neighbors would not gwt suspucious. I struggled on the floor like a lobster clawing banging around on the bottom of an empty pot – to get up from the floor to go to the bathroom. I clawed around my floor like that! How embarassing! I had called for a covid 19 test that day. To every agency. None to be had, for me at least. … If it was just the flu, I thought, and I went to the emergency ward for care, when I really didn’t need it, I COULD CATCH THE CORONAVIRUS. And maybe get very sick. And maybe die.
So I took my chances on Blackstone River Road – I stayed put on my kitchen floor with my cat, two dogs and cups of water and chamomille tea …
I was cozy under the pretty blankets, I listened to all the Michael Moore RUMBLE podcasts on my beat-up smart phone, I watched and rewatched Ken Burns’ COUNTRY MUSIC DVDs … and stared into my little snow globe, the one with the little bears clambering on top of the globe – they are wearing their striped pajamas. And inside the globe, a little boy, in his pj’s too, is sleeping on a crescent moon, craddled by the crescent moon. Inside the globe, I saw – yes! once again! – my beautiful kid sister! Now 19 and “the man of the house,” as Daddy has flown the coop again, and sis now helps Ma run the house/pay all the bills as she works almost full-time as a counter girl at the Millbury Street fruit store – while going to college in Worcester full-time. She is so glamorous looking in her lipstick and pretty dresses! She now buys her clothes, with her own money, at Filene’s Basement at Worcester Center, our Galleria mall downtown.
And there she is, in a pretty sky blue rayon dress with white stars, walking down Millbury Street, lugging a wagon full of groceries she bought for Ma and the family. I am away at college, UMASS, but I still see my sweet, good sister walking down Millbury Street, slender, pretty smile, waving to me…so good to my mother, working so hard, walking so hard, her feet already have small bunions … Never uttering a complaint about having to walk or cab everywhere. Being poor. … Once the downstairs neighbor said to my mother, “Your Barbara – she is gold.”
Yes, she was! Making Thanksgiving Dinner – paying for it with her meager fruit store paycheck. Knowing I loved mashed turnip, she always bought two big hard turnips and sat at the kitchen table with a crumby little paring knife peeling and peeling the tough waxy skin off with that little knife. It took her a half hour. And then she cubed the orange turnip, boiled the pieces in a big pot for a long time, then drained the water from the pot when the pieces were soft … then she mashed them with Bapy’s old potato masher. Smothered them in lovely butter, too. All for me! … Since those days, I have never ever made mashed turnip for myself. Or even ordered a bowl at restaurants. I only love my sister’s, now unattainable.
The giver of the globe, my Christmas angel, my sister. …Wracked with fever on those February nights, afraid, alone, stuck in my sh*t apartment, wondering if and when I’d “go,” I geabbed my sister’s globe and clutched it to my chest and fell asleep with it. Holding dreams of her.
Watching the beginning of the iconic CITIZEN KANE, I never really “got” why Charles Foster Kane, on his deathbed, held tight, then let go as he expired, a snow globe while whispering the enigmatic words: “ROSE BUD.”
At the film’s end we viewers learn ROSE BUD was the beloved sled of his childhood. But the snow globe held the beloved memories of sledding in the snow of his childhood home and the love of his adored mother. The young Charles – before his millions$$$, before the women, the affairs, politics, newspapering – was poor. But his mother loved him and he loved back. The purity heartbreaking. Like with my snow globe.