A Snowy Disappearance

a memoir by
SHELLY SITZER | Vision Therapist + Writer



IN THE LATE 1950’s, when winter brought snows that fell in droves, and blanketed the Brooklyn, NY streets around my home, something happened to make an imprint on my mind. Perhaps because I had grown up sheltered from the world, and kept my naivety, I was totally unprepared for the face that I was to see.

My parents and I had moved to a four-family home in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, where we lived with three families, plus the landlord and his wife, whose names I still remember. Mr. Bonder was withdrawn from most people; Mrs. Bonder was the friendlier of the two.

On this snowy day, my boyfriend and I looked out at the crunchy snow. We decided to build a snowman. He would be special, our first creation together. I was fifteen, my boyfriend, seventeen. Perhaps we wanted to be children for just a little longer. Perhaps the snow was just so beautiful that we became inspired. Now, many years later, and married to each other, we still recall the happenings of that day.

We, of course, had to secure a shovel for this exciting project. Not owning one ourselves, we were pleased at our good luck when Mr. Bonder appeared. “Could we borrow a shovel?” we blurted excitedly. “Of course,” and for the first time, I saw him smile. It seemed that the snow had inspired him, too.

Our snowman was special. We chose the center of the courtyard for his place of honor, a sheltered area that no one ever went into. Almost as tall as I, he was soon adorned with a carrot nose, button eyes, a shawl around his neck, and a red beret cap. With so much snow on the ground, we were sure that we could keep him around for several days. As the cold bit our faces, we took some precious black-and-whites, and receded to shelter.

I wondered how he would look from my window when I got home. I wasn’t at all prepared. There was Mr. Bonder, my landlord, throwing our creation down with the shovel that we had returned to him! I must have known that the world wasn’t perfect. But this felt foreign, coming face to face with cruelty. “Why did he do it?” we later pondered. Perhaps he thought that we had borrowed his shovel to clean off the steps to the house. But the look that I saw on his face, as he had his fill, spelled disgust at our youthful exuberance, at our trivial past time. It was a look that I would always remember.

What he could not take away was the snowman himself, safe and secure in the photos we took of the two of us and his honor, “Mr. Snow.” Nor could this man change what would remain inside the hearts of two people, the buoyant spirits that may still be found inside the same two people now in their 70’s. When the wind blows huge snowdrifts, I can still see our snowman—standing bravely against the wind.

Photograph courtesy of Shelly Stizer