The Snowshoe Adventure

Five days before Christmas, on Saturday of all days, Mazey woke up to find the back lawn covered in snow. In fact, it was still snowing when she woke up and she was not happy about it. She didn’t mind the cold, and she certainly loved Christmas, but snow was wet and when the wind blew, snow would fly into your jacket, into your car, into your front door, and snow would hit you in the face. Yes, this was going to be a miserable day for Mazey, she figured as she sat up in her twin bed with the red and green sheets her mother had put on the day before. She rubbed her eyes and huffed. Snow!

“Did you see it yet?” Fred pressed his tiny fingers through the doorframe and slowly opened Mazey’s bedroom door. He peeked his round face full of freckles in and smiled at his sister, showing off his three missing teeth. “Did you see the snow?”

Mazey furrowed her brow as Fred stepped into the room. “Can I come in?” he asked, already halfway to the bed. He stepped up and crawled onto the blankets and stared at his sister with his round, green eyes. “Too bad it’s Saturday; school would be cancelled today.”

“You love school.”

“Yup. But I know you don’t.” Fred tilted his head to the side. “Why are you frowning?”

Brothers! Mazey knew she couldn’t have been so naïve at age six. It must be a boy thing. Fred was always happy, too. It made her so mad.

Fred helped find her slippers under the pile of clothes their mother always asked to be picked up and Mazey followed Fred out the door and down the stairs. Fred was wearing his red pajamas with a massive snowflake in the middle of it, so he could almost slide down the carpeted stairs on the tiny boot-sock things attached to the legs. Mazey couldn’t remember the exact name of the boot-sock things, but was thankful people stopped adding them to clothes for thirteen-year-olds.

In the kitchen, Heather was pouring coffee into two moose mugs and handed one to Carl, who was “on toast duty,” buttering the crispy bread. When their children entered, Carl flashed a big grin. “Good morning, you two. Look at you, both in red! Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas!”

“Not so loud so early,” Heather shook her head. She was a night owl. Carl was a morning person, but as long as Heather had a cup of coffee she was fine. “I just haven’t had my coffee yet,” she said with a sly smile from the corner of her thin, pink lips. Mazey thought her mother was incredibly beautiful and wanted to look just like her some day; she apparently had to deal with several years of teenage blotchy face with acne first. Mazey couldn’t wait to be an adult. She was already frustrated with being a teenager.

“Do you want some coffee?” Heather asked Fred who chuckled, nearly whistling through the gap in his teeth.

“Come on, Mom. I hate that stuff.”

“I’ll have some,” Mazey said, sitting on the counter stool next to Carl, who rubbed his daughter’s back. She folded her arms and bent over onto the counter.

“Really?” Heather took another mug from the cupboard. “When did this start?”

“When it snowed.”

Heather didn’t like snow much either, for the same reasons her daughter had expressed disapproval. Heather placed the mug next to Mazey and rubbed her back also. “I know,” she said. “And it looks like there’s a lot out there.”

“Oh, come on,” Carl offered. Most mornings started with him already in a button-down shirt and tie, but on the weekends he could stay in his robe. In it, he looked almost regal, or, being so comfortable and flowing, the robe made him feel regal, and so he behaved that way. He stood with a flourish. “It’s Christmas time. And it’s winter. There’s supposed to be snow.”

“We don’t all have to love it,” Heather said.

“Mazey only doesn’t like it because you don’t and you implanted it into her brain,” Carl suggested, kissing his wife on the cheek. He was playful because it had snowed and Carl loved snow. “Whereas I got to Slick first and taught him to appreciate the seasons, didn’t I, Slick?”

“Sure did,” Fred said, trying a sip of Mazey’s coffee squinting, as he tasted the bitter beans.

“And guess what?” Carl added, pulling a bowl of grapes closer to him and popping one into his mouth. “I thought today we’d go get our tree.”

Fred’s round eyes lit up. “Really?”

Carl nodded. “Yeah, you know, first snowfall and such. I’ve been so busy at work we haven’t gotten one yet, and I want to enjoy it before Christmas. I have to go into work this morning, but we’ll go this afternoon. What do you say, Mazey?”

Mazey loved having a tree in the living room, wrapped up in lights and decorations from her grandparents and from around the world- but she didn’t want to let on, so she simply looked at Carl, who knew his daughter very well and read the look as enthusiasm. “Are we going to get it like we did last year?” Mazey asked.

Carl shook his head. “Nope. That was a horrible blizzard so we couldn’t trek out, so we got one at the hardware store, but I want to do something we haven’t done in years, not since you were about Fred’s age. You know the farm down the street? They grow trees, so I thought we’d go cut our own.”

“Really?” Fred’s jaw dropped open. “That’s amazing.”

“Seriously, Dad? Can you even operate a saw?”

Carl folded his arms. “Yes, Mazey.”

“He’s good with stuff like that,” Heather said. “We had a small shop in our first house. He built Fred’s bed, which used to be yours.”

“You built that?” Mazey sipped her coffee.

“I did.” Carl ate another grape. “What do you say?”

“How do we cut one down?” Fred asked.

“We hike out into the woods where they grow the trees. We bring a saw with us. We cut a tree down and bring it back to the barn to pay for it. They have hot cocoa and doughnuts there for afterwards.”

Carl knew this would entice Mazey even more. She loved hot cocoa, and he noticed that at the mention of it Mazey looked up briefly. Then she said, “But there’s at least two feet of snow. How are we going to walk out into the woods?”

“Snowshoes!”

“Those stupid tennis racket things you wear on your feet?”

Carl nodded with a smile.

“I’m not going to wear those.”

Heather cracked an egg into the hot frying pan on the stove. “Even I like snowshoeing sometimes,” she offered.

“Do I even have a pair?”

Carl walked over to the coat closet and opened the door. He pulled out two long presents wrapped in Santa paper and handed one to each of his children. “Ho, ho, ho,” he said. “Here are some early presents.”

Fred immediately began opening the gift, using the method Heather had taught him, slowly peeling away the tape so that the paper could be saved for next year. Mazey paused, but then opened her present and the two children finished at about the same time.

The snowshoes were more stylish than Mazey had wanted them to be. She was hoping they were made of wood and old and dirty like Carl and Heather’s, so that she could have something to say about them, but these new pairs were glossy and skinny. They had thin straps and looked almost comfortable. Mazey held them out in front of her. Hers were green and Fred’s were red. He started putting his on.

“No, Slick, not in the house,” Carl laughed, grabbing the snowshoe and waiting for Fred to let go. “We’ll go out this afternoon. He looked at his daughter. “What do you say, Mazey? Going to come with us?”

“I don’t want to.”

“Even Mom’s coming,” Carl said, raising his eyebrows. He gave a sideways glance at Heather, who looked back with surprise. “Right, Honey?”

“Absolutely,” Heather said, cracking another egg into the pan.

“Okay,” Mazey said. “I guess so. I don’t have anything else to do today.”

Fred was in the closet looking around.

“What are you doing in there?” Heather asked.

“I was hoping there was a puppy in here, too,” Fred replied, stepping out. “Maybe next year?”

Mazey hoped more than anything that no one from school would spot her with her family all strapped into snowshoes, clamoring through the snow looking for a tree to cut down. She just wanted to go to the store again and buy a tree without all this fuss, but Mazey hated being left out, and was not going to stay home while everyone else went out, so after lunch she dressed herself in layers, wearing her favorite Christmas sweater, and then she went into the garage where Carl was laying out boots and snowshoes. Heather helped Fred put on his snowpants and coat and then Mazey and Fred sat on the bench in the corner to get instructions from Carl.

He held up one of Mazey’s snowshoes. “Slide your toes up into here,” he said, pointing. “Then you sit your heel down and pull this strap around. That’s it. Super easy.”

“That’s it? Dad, I’m going to fall out of them.”

“No, you don’t. It the straps do slide, you just strap them again.”

Fred asked, “Why do we wear these, anyway?”

“They make it so we can walk on top of the snow,” Heather explained. “The way they’re fanned like that sends your weight out, so it’s not like a heavy foot going straight down into the snow. It’s more like a duck foot, or something. You know, wider.”

“Cool!”

Mazey put her boots on. She hated wearing boots, but at least her parents had bought her new Christine’s, which were In right now and very comfortable. Plus, they had them in dark purple, Mazey’s favorite color. She wanted to fit in but wasn’t about to wear white and black like Veronica Spaulding and the other popular girls. They were mean. Dark purple was just the right color for not being made fun of and yet not trying to be popular, which Mazey did not want to be.

Heather opened the garage door. Snow had stopped coming down. The sky was a pale gray color and the roads had just been ploughed. “We’re not taking the road, are we, Dad?”

“Not with these, Sweety, no,” Carl replied, holding his foot up and showing off his old, worn snowshoes. “We’re going to take the lawns. Man, I love doing this. When I was a kid, we lived in a place with fewer houses, so my dad would trek to and from the barn on these things. He’d even walk to the store in them, sometimes. Mazey, you’re too young to remember, but the old house was on a hill, and had all this land, and if we walked through the woods we could actually get into town faster than taking the road. In the summer it was no problem at all. In the winter, we’d snowshoe to the market and to the downtown. It was really fun.”

Carl bent down to check the straps of his snowshoes. When he looked up he wasn’t smiling anymore. Heather stepped over to him and kissed his cheek.

“You all right, Dad?” Fred asked.

“Sometimes,” Heather explained, “when you talk about family that’s passed on you can get sad. It happens to me when I talk about my parents and brother. It’s fine. You’re dad’s thinking of good times he had as a kid, is all.”

Carl looked down at Fred and nodded. “I wish you had known Grandpa Ed,” he said. “You two look alike.”

“Missing teeth and everything,” Mazey said, rolling her eyes, causing Carl and Heather to laugh.

Carl took a deep breath. “Ready?”

They marched onto the lawn and crossed behind their house, following the tree line onto their neighbor’s property, but all the backyards were big enough that no one ever minded anyone else walking across them near the tree line. A few other people were out, shoveling their decks and driveways. Children Fred’s age were out trying to build a snowman, but the snow was too loose, so the game soon turned into a wet snowball fight.

Hillsboro Farm was the oldest place on the street, while the neighborhood had grown up around it. When Mazey was eight years old, Farmer Corey had passed away, leaving the farm to his son, Dave, who lived in the farmhouse with his wife, Julia, their two children- one was Fred’s age and he other was ten- and Dave’s mother. Mazey knew the children from school, but didn’t interact with either of them much. She liked the Hillsboro Farm, biking past it in the summer and her family often driving that direction to get to the movie theater and park. The farm started at the street but then went back into the woods and beyond, into the fields. There were two barns, one much smaller than the other, and as they approached they saw the doors of the small barn were open and a wood fire was pushing huge plumbs of smoke up a chimney and the odor of wood fire permeated the crisp dead air of winter.

Mazey looked down at her shoes. She thought that maybe it would be hard to walk with them, and it wasn’t like walking without them on normal ground, but if she picked her feet up high the shoes moved along with her, and it was interesting to walk across the snow, only sinking about an inch. Fred was having a great time, only, he had difficulty staying upright, wanting to play, and had already stumbled a few times, once falling over completely, his snowshoe coming off as he fell onto his back, shaking with laughter.

Several other families were at the barn, some entering, others leaving. A few were dragging trees with them, strapping them to the tops of their cars in the parking lots. The barn was inviting, with a gold glow emanating outward. Entering the warmth, Mazey pulled off her hat and looked around.

The barn was one large room with a loft. Hay bales and tools had been pushed into one corner. The fireplace was on one wall and had hay bales situated around it for people to sit on. There were marshmallows in a bowl and long twigs to stick them onto in order to roast them. Against the other wall, a long table had cookies laid out and a large carafe full of hot cocoa. Mazey started walking towards it. She felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked around and up at Carl.

“We have to earn that,” he said. We get that after we get our tree.”

She frowned. “Seriously?”

Heather said, “It’ll taste even better afterward.”

“Hello, Dave. Merry Christmas.” Carl shook the farmer’s hand. “How are things?”

“We got busy today,” Dave said. He wore a thick flannel shirt with work pants and tall winter boots. His beard was brown with patches of white and his hair was greasy. He waved at the rest of the family. “I think the snowfall got everyone excited about Christmas. Remember the last few years? First no snow at all and then two years of ice, ice, ice! We ended up cutting most of the trees ourselves and selling them in the parking lot of the grocery store, which isn’t as fun as chopping down your own, I don’t think.”

“Certainly not.”

“And you know, we just let them grow. We don’t really have a designated field for the trees. We just make sure they have space to grow. We have about two hundred acres and about one hundred is wooded.”

Carl brandished his saw. “Well, we’re prepared. Do we just drag it back here when we’re done? I haven’t done this since… Well, since Corey was doing it.”

Dave laughed. “My old man loved Christmas. He used to get the horses out and he built this rickety sleigh that he gave rides in. There’s no way parents would allow their kids into it theses days. My mum still helps out.” He pointed to an elderly woman sitting by a cashbox, talking with a group of people about their tree. “She’s looking more like Mrs. Claus this year, so she fits the part.” Dave laughed.

“I know my dad was always happy doing business with Corey, and my mom made sure to invite both your parents to their Halloween party each year.”

“Yessir; I recall those parties fondly.”

“Dad,” Mazey huffed; “I’m getting cold just standing here.”

Carl nodded. “Off to it, I suppose, Dave. We’ll see you in a bit.”

“Watch out for the east side of the pond,” Dave said. “There are a bunch of pools and a small brook. You’ll probably not have any trouble, but the snow can hide them sometimes and you may slip through. Good thought wearing snowshoes.”

Heather noticed a sparkle in Carl’s eye at this comment, and took his hand.

“Well, I wanted to get the kids some antique snowshoes, like mine, but I knew Mazey would never wear them, so I bought shiny new ones, but they’re good quality and they’ll last.”

“Let’s go test them out, then,” Heather said, smiling. “Merry Christmas, Dave.”

“Same to you, Heather.”

Mazey looked out of the barn. “I really don’t want to go out into the snow. Look how windy it is.”

“What are you going to do, stay inside all winter?” Fred asked.

Mazey nodded. “Totally.”

“I picked today because I knew it’d be perfect to try out your snowshoes. Tonight we’re supposed to start getting a blizzard with high winds, and there could be more ice. Let’s take advantage of a good snowfall while we can.” Carl looked at his daughter and pursed his lips. “Or are you going to be a Scrooge this whole time?”

“A blizzard? I wish we lived in Arizona.”

“You can move there when you’re eighteen,” Heather said. “Until then, we’re going to make the most of a bad thing.”

“That’s not helping, Heather,” Carl said.

Heather smiled. “Look, Mazey, when I was your age I really hated winter. As I get older I appreciate how it makes me consider slowing down, showing gratitude for the nice days. And some things are worth a little more work. We’re going to have to work for this tree, so we’ll keep it until February, that’s for sure.” She laughed at her own joke.

The family walked out into the cold and made their way to the wooden bridge that crossed over a wide part of the winding brook. Mazey kept her head down in order to block it from the wind, and also so that she wouldn’t have to see anyone she knew. Carl and Heather weren’t the worst parents, but Mazey still didn’t want to be seen with them, and even though all her friends thought Fred was cute, he could be annoying.

Before long they had to hike a small hill, which would have been no trouble at all in the summer, but became exercise in the snow. A week ago there had been another snowfall, so beneath the fresh, heavy snow, a layer of packed snow made the ground sturdier. At certain points the snow was too fluffy, and even with snowshoes a foot here and there would sink deep down and the rest of the family would stop and help.

At the top of the hill, families split off in multiple directions, disappearing into the woods. Carl looked around. “Which way should we go?”

“You pick, Sweety,” Heather said, knowing Carl was on an adventure.

“All right. Let’s head that way.” He pointed towards a thinner tree line in the direction of the mall, if you continued for another twenty minutes or so. Mazey sighed. There was no snow in the mall, no cold winds, and no bulky net-like things attached to your Christine’s.

Mazey looked up from her daydream and saw the field they entered. “Is that still their property?” She asked.

“They own all this,” Heather said, gesturing around.

“Woah.”

Carl nodded and led the family through the trees. Underneath the canopy the snow would grow heavy on branches and periodically tumble down. Mazey dodged them the best she could, but snow was falling down her neck and she shuddered at the cold. “Why’d we have to come this way?”

“This is cool,” Fred said. He put his hands on his hips, looking around formally and nodding like a foreman proud of the day’s work.

As they exited through the other side, into a less cluttered field, they saw many possible Christmas trees growing up from the snow. “This is an untouched treasury,” Carl said. “I don’t see any other foot tracks out here. What an interesting spot.”

The wind was picking up and snow began to fall again. Mazey pouted. She pulled her scarf tighter around her neck and pulled her hat down over her ears. Everything was getting wet. Fred tried jumping from rock to rock on his snowshoes, slipping, and falling over laughing. Carl and Heather looked around at the trees.

“What about that one over there?” Heather asked. “All these here are too tall, but that one is fat and full.”

“What do you two think?” Carl asked.

“Whatever,” Mazey said, shivering.

The land was uneven as they crossed a dip toward the chosen tree. The snow was very deep and it was hard to walk through, even with snowshoes. Determined, Carl made his way to the tree and brushed snow off the branches he could reach. “This is a great tree!” He handed Heather the saw. “Want to start?”

Heather knelt down with the saw and began cutting into the tree. Mazey looked around. The storm was coming and she wanted to be inside, but part of her liked the idea of picking out a tree as it grew naturally, now that she was out here, almost done.

Heather stood up and handed Mazey the saw. “Give it a try,” she said.

Mazey shook her head. “Ew, Mom. No way.”

“Go on.”

Mazey took the saw and knelt. The low branches prodded her face and more snow fell down her neck, starting to melt. Her nose was cold and hurt and her cheeks burned from the cold. If it would speed up getting inside, Mazey was prepared to saw the rest of the tree. She set the saw into the groove her mother had started and continued slicing.

“She’s good at that,” Carl said, a bit surprised.

“Like you, Carl. She’s got that carpentry side to her. She’s very artistic.”

“Do you think I should get back into making things?”

“Your toolbox is still in the basement,” Heather shrugged. “You’d need a table and some fresh blades. That’s it.”

“My dad was so good at building things. I guess I always felt in his shadow.”

“Yeah, but he never thought you were bad at it,” Heather assured. “Sure, your crafts were a bit unsteady or uneven, but your dad worked in his shop every day. You did it, what, a few times a year?”

“True.”

“Uh, guys?” Mazey said from beneath the tree. Above her, the tree was swaying as she reached the other side of the stump with the saw. She moved quickly out from underneath and Carl gave the tree a kick. It swayed and soon fell with a loud pop as the last threads of wood snapped. The tree landed in the snow.

“Woah!”

“Agreed,” Heather said, pulling on the tree. She pulled rope from her jacket pocket and tied it to the stump of the tree. She tied a second one on. Then she and Carl began to drag the tree. “We should have brought the sled,” she said.

Carl sighed. “I knew we forgot something.”

Mazey helped push the tree over a rock that was in the way and then they were on an decline, so gravity helped take the tree down, back toward the barn. At one point, Carl’s foot sank into the deeper snow and the tree continued ahead of him. Heather, stopping to help Carl, let go of her rope and the tree swung around. The snow wasn’t too slippery, so the tree didn’t travel far, but Carl had slipped and sunken deeper into the snow.

As he pulled his right foot up he heard a crack. “Oh no,” he said, stopping with a shock.

Heather gasped. Mazey and Fred went over to help. Carl reached down into the snow and undid the strap around his boot. He pulled his leg up and reached down, pulling up his snowshoe. The back part of the shoe was intact, but the front was snapped off.

“What happened?” Fred asked.

“I think my snowshoe got caught underneath a branch, or something.” Carl reached his hand into the snow, feeling around. “When I pulled my foot up, the snowshoe snapped off.”

Mazey looked at Fred. His cheeks were very red. “I think we’re getting frostbite, Mom.”

Heather put her hand on Mazey’s cheek. “She’s right, Carl.”

Carl was still feeling around beneath the snow.

“Come on, Dad; it’s just an old snowshoe. Now you can get new, cool ones, like Fred and mine.”

Carl started to say something, and then stopped. He sat in the snow, putting his hands in his lap. He looked very said. Fred hugged his neck. “It’s okay, Dad.”

The sun was setting and all four were getting cold. Carl looked at his watch and it was nearing five. Because of the oncoming storm, there wasn’t going to be much light left. He stood. “Mazey, I can’t walk too well with my broken snowshoe. Help your mom pull the tree, please.”

Mazey didn’t want to help pull the tree, but she did want to help her dad feel better, so she took up the rope and started pulling. She couldn’t understand why her dad was so upset over an ugly snowshoe. Carl hobbled his way down. Eventually they returned to the barn.

“I’ll get the car,” Heather said. “It’ll be easier to strap it on top.” She looked at Carl, who sat on a hay bale by the fire. “I know you wanted to pull the tree all the way home, but it’s not a good idea.”

Carl nodded. “I’ll stay here with the kids. Mazey, go get some hot cocoa with Fred.” Mazey took Fred over to the table of treats as their mother kissed Carl and went out into the parking lot.

“We should get Dad some cocoa, too,” Fred said, adding marshmallows to his mug and popping a doughnut hole into his mouth. Mazey fixed another mug for her dad and the two went over to Carl. He smiled as she held out the cocoa. He took it and his children sat down on either side of him. He had his snowshoes out on the ground in front of him.

“Why are you so sad, Dad?” Mazey blew on her cocoa to cool it down.

“They were my dad’s,” Carl said. “I don’t think I ever told you this, but the house I grew up in burned down. I was already living with you mom in an apartment at the time, and my parents were in the process of selling the farmhouse to retire to the condo we used to visit with you two. We were fixing up the stove one day and left it to have lunch. We didn’t put it back together correctly and the house caught. A lot of what your grandparents owned was lost in the fire. We had moved some things to the barn. Of all the things I really remember about my dad, these snowshoes were the only to survive. The rest were dishes and some clothes. He made these snowshoes himself.”

“He did?”

Carl nodded. “He loved Christmas. We had many traditions, and I feel his presence every year at this time. When these broke I felt like it was something gone wrong with his spirit, or something.” He sipped his cocoa. Then he looked at his kids. “It’s just stuff,” he added, shrugging. “Things come and go. It’s more important that I remember him than I have his snowshoes.”

“Yeah, but it’s okay to be sad, too, Dad.”

Fred sniffed. “I get sad and cry sometimes,” he added.

“Yeah, and I like my snowshoes a lot,” Mazey said.

“You do?”

“Yeah. Even if I saw someone from school here, I might even show them off.”

Carl smiled. “Well, that’s good to hear.”

“And I like mine, too,” Fred said before spilling his cocoa on his coat and snow pants.

Mazey had yet to get her dad anything for Christmas. He was hard to shop for because he didn’t like the same music, clothes, or movies that she did, and she never understood what made a good gift for someone that didn’t like new stuff. She once tried to buy him an antique, but they were expensive and boring. This year, she had asked Heather for suggestions, and the option most reasonable was making him a coupon for a day canoeing when they make their annual camping trip.

Now Mazey had another idea. She woke up early and went into the basement, a place she hated because it was damp and while one corner was her mother’s and everything was organized, the other was Carl’s, and things were scattered everywhere. She walked to her father’s corner and found a stack of wood. The wood was old, and she’d always wondered where it had come from. Now she realized it was from her grandfather’s shop. The wood was still in good condition, and Carl kept it stacked nicely to keep it from warping. She had brought down with her the broken snowshoe. She felt the wood with her hands and then tried the woodpile for similar wood. She found the same kind of wood, which had a label on it: “White Ash.” She took the wood out and laid it on the ground. Carl’s tools were in three different cardboard boxes. Mazey dug through them, pulling out the tools she’d seen Carl use now and again for different projects, like when he made the spice rack and the hamper for the upstairs bathroom. The hamper looked something like a snowshoe, so Mazey figured she could use the same tools.

She loaded everything she had onto a sled, strapped on her snowshoes, and set off, following the same trail they had taken two days prior to get the tree. She walked to Hillsboro Farm and knocked on the door. An old woman opened the door.

“Hello,” she said, smiling. She was wearing a light gray bathrobe.

“Merry Christmas,” Mazey said. “You’re Dori’s grandmother.”

“Yes, I am. My name is Beatrice.”

“I’m Mazey.”

Beatrice smiled. Her face was full of wrinkles and her skin was dark in some places and very white in others. Mazey had no idea how old she was, but she had certainly been around a while.

“Is Dave home?”

“He went out to the barn. Can I help you with something?”

Mazey held up her father’s snowshoe. “This is my dad’s. It broke a few days ago when we were here getting a tree. It used to be my grandpa’s. I want to fix it for Christmas, and was hoping Farmer Dave could help me.”

Beatrice took the snowshoe in her hand. “Ah, yes. What nice craftsmanship. I remember your grandfather kindly. He was a sweet man. He and your grandmother held the best Halloween parties. We had snowshoes like this, too.”

“Do you think Dave could help me?”

Beatrice scoffed. “We don’t need Dave.” She looked at Mazey with her soft, hazel eyes. “Farmer Corey learned everything he knew from me,” she said with a smile. “Let me get dressed and we’ll see what we can do.” She winked and stepped aside for Mazey to come inside.

Mazey waited in the living room while Beatrice went into the side apartment where she lived. When she finally came out she wore brown pants that went high over her waist and a thick, dirty sweatshirt. She asked Mazey to help her put her work coat on and then she led the way out a side door into the shop at the far end of the larger barn. She did all this without saying much, but once she opened the shop door she began, “Now what makes a young girl like you want to fix up this old snowshoe?”

“I guess because it’s important to my dad.”

“You know, my father was a carpenter. That’s where I learned all my tricks. Corey, he came from farmers. He could milk goats and breed chickens, but I was the one building the coop. What was great about us was that we learned from one another.” She paused, looking around. “Here, darling; place the shoe on this workbench. I’m a bit old these days, so I’ll do more instructing than doing, if that’s all right.”

Mazey nodded. She was in awe of Beatrice’s seemingly sudden burst of energy. Beatrice sat next to the workbench on a closed wooden trunk. “It was a sad day when your grandparents’ house burned down.”

“Yeah, I had no idea that happened, until recently,” Mazey said, setting the snowshoe down. She also put the white ash up beside the shoe.

“Ah, good. You have the same wood. This will be easy. We’ll need a ruler to measure one and half inches. Then we’ll use this table saw to cut the wood. You’ll have to smooth it all out. We’ll steam the wood to make it soft. While you do that, I’ll make hot cocoa. Do you like hot cocoa?”

Mazey nodded.

Fred could barely believe how much work Mazey put in to fixing the snowshoe, as she explained it in detail to her brother later that night. She hadn’t understood the amount of steps taken to make a snowshoe, and even though she was only mending one, Beatrice explained how to make one from scratch, and even found an antique snowshoe iron frame, which they used to hold the shoe in place while the fresh piece of ash was bent and stitched onto the old shoe.

“Did it work?” Fred asked, whistling through his teeth?

Mazey nodded. “I hid it in the basement. The wood has to cool completely. Then I’ll paint it with waterproof gloss that Beatrice gave me.”

“Wow.” Fred shook his head. “Do you think we could make more of them someday?”

Mazey nodded. “I’d like to make Mom a special pair. And Beatrice might show me how to make poles to help balance us in the snow.”

Fred liked this idea. He was getting excited about Christmas, now that the tree was up and decorated. Even though Carl had been sad for a day, he eventually moved on from his loss and with the help of Heather returned to the Christmas spirit. He and Fred had built a snow fort that very day. Heather had asked if Carl wanted to keep the broken snowshoes and he said, “For now. I might try and fix them.”

Mazey was also excited for Christmas. She had never been so enthusiastic about giving a present over receiving one, but this year she couldn’t wait for Carl to open the repaired snowshoes. On Christmas Eve she carefully placed them in the same box her pair had come in. Then she wrapped the box in blue paper with snowmen on it. She wrapped a bow on it and brought it downstairs, placing it under the tree.

“Who is that for?” Carl asked from the couch where he read the newspaper.

“You, Dad.”

Carl put the newspaper down. “That’s for me?” His eyes went wide. “Is it a really, really big tie?”

Mazey laughed, shaking her head. “I wish you could open it now,” she said.

“Me too,” Carl winked, “but the best things really are worth waiting for.”

Mazey thought about this as she went to bed, and for the first time she could remember, she had no trouble falling asleep on Christmas Eve.

In the morning, Santa had left presents for everyone. Fred was first to wake up and shout down the hall. Mazey found him kneeling by the tree, staring at the gifts. Over the next couple of hours, the presents were opened one by one, until Mazey couldn’t wait any longer. She handed her gift to Carl.

“Ah, finally,” Carl chuckled. “What could it be?”

“Open it, Daddy,” Fred said, winking at Mazey the way he’d seen Carl wink.

Carl removed the paper and then opened the box. He paused, staring inside as if the contents were pure magic. Heather leaned close and looked inside the box too. “How?” she started, trailing off.

Carl lifted the shoes out of the box.

“I fixed them up,” Mazey said. “I was thinking we could go snowshoeing this afternoon, if you want to.”

Fred looked outside. “It’s snowing,” he said. “You’re not going to want to go out.”

“I might,” Mazey said. “We might even get Mom to go, also.”

Heather rolled her eyes. “What happened to my daughter?” she laughed.

“I don’t know,” Carl said, pulling Mazey close and kissing her forehead, “but this is the merriest Christmas I’ve ever had.”

And Mazey agreed.

“Let’s get home,” Carl said, looking up as the snow fell harder. “This is getting nasty.”

“Agreed,” Heather said, pulling on the tree. She pulled rope from her jacket pocket and tied it to the stump of the tree. She tied a second one on. Then she and Carl began to drag the tree. “We should have brought the sled,” she said.

Carl sighed. “I knew we forgot something.”

Mazey helped push the tree over a rock that was in the way and then they were on an decline, so gravity helped take the tree down, back toward the barn. At one point, Carl’s foot sank into the deeper snow and the tree continued ahead of him. Heather, stopping to help Carl, let go of her rope and the tree swung around. The snow wasn’t too slippery, so the tree didn’t travel far, but Carl had slipped and sunken deeper into the snow.

As he pulled his right foot up he heard a crack. “Oh no,” he said, stopping with a shock.

Heather gasped. Mazey and Fred went over to help. Carl reached down into the snow and undid the strap around his boot. He pulled his leg up and reached down, pulling up his snowshoe. The back part of the shoe was intact, but the front was snapped off.

“What happened?” Fred asked.

“I think my snowshoe got caught underneath a branch, or something.” Carl reached his hand into the snow, feeling around. “When I pulled my foot up, the snowshoe snapped off.”

Mazey looked at Fred. His cheeks were very red. “I think we’re getting frostbite, Mom.”

Heather put her hand on Mazey’s cheek. “She’s right, Carl.”

Carl was still feeling around beneath the snow.

“Come on, Dad; it’s just an old snowshoe. Now you can get new, cool ones, like Fred and mine.”

Carl started to say something, and then stopped. He sat in the snow, putting his hands in his lap. He looked very said. Fred hugged his neck. “It’s okay, Dad.”

The sun was setting and all four were getting cold. Carl looked at his watch and it was nearing five. Because of the oncoming storm, there wasn’t going to be much light left. He stood. “Mazey, I can’t walk too well with my broken snowshoe. Help your mom pull the tree, please.”

Mazey didn’t want to help pull the tree, but she did want to help her dad feel better, so she took up the rope and started pulling. She couldn’t understand why her dad was so upset over an ugly snowshoe. Carl hobbled his way down. Eventually they returned to the barn.

“I’ll get the car,” Heather said. “It’ll be easier to strap it on top.” She looked at Carl, who sat on a hay bale by the fire. “I know you wanted to pull the tree all the way home, but it’s not a good idea.”

Carl nodded. “I’ll stay here with the kids. Mazey, go get some hot cocoa with Fred.” Mazey took Fred over to the table of treats as their mother kissed Carl and went out into the parking lot.

“We should get Dad some cocoa, too,” Fred said, adding marshmallows to his mug and popping a doughnut hole into his mouth. Mazey fixed another mug for her dad and the two went over to Carl. He smiled as she held out the cocoa. He took it and his children sat down on either side of him. He had his snowshoes out on the ground in front of him.

“Why are you so sad, Dad?” Mazey blew on her cocoa to cool it down.

“They were my dad’s,” Carl said. “I don’t think I ever told you this, but the house I grew up in burned down. I was already living with you mom in an apartment at the time, and my parents were in the process of selling the farmhouse to retire to the condo we used to visit with you two. We were fixing up the stove one day and left it to have lunch. We didn’t put it back together correctly and the house caught. A lot of what your grandparents owned was lost in the fire. We had moved some things to the barn. Of all the things I really remember about my dad, these snowshoes were the only to survive. The rest were dishes and some clothes. He made these snowshoes himself.”

“He did?”

Carl nodded. “He loved Christmas. We had many traditions, and I feel his presence every year at this time. When these broke I felt like it was something gone wrong with his spirit, or something.” He sipped his cocoa. Then he looked at his kids. “It’s just stuff,” he added, shrugging. “Things come and go. It’s more important that I remember him than I have his snowshoes.”

“Yeah, but it’s okay to be sad, too, Dad.”

Fred sniffed. “I get sad and cry sometimes,” he added.

“Yeah, and I like my snowshoes a lot,” Mazey said.

“You do?”

“Yeah. Even if I saw someone from school here, I might even show them off.”

Carl smiled. “Well, that’s good to hear.”

“And I like mine, too,” Fred said before spilling his cocoa on his coat and snow pants.

Mazey had yet to get her dad anything for Christmas. He was hard to shop for because he didn’t like the same music, clothes, or movies that she did, and she never understood what made a good gift for someone that didn’t like new stuff. She once tried to buy him an antique, but they were expensive and boring. This year, she had asked Heather for suggestions, and the option most reasonable was making him a coupon for a day canoeing when they make their annual camping trip.

Now Mazey had another idea. She woke up early and went into the basement, a place she hated because it was damp and while one corner was her mother’s and everything was organized, the other was Carl’s, and things were scattered everywhere. She walked to her father’s corner and found a stack of wood. The wood was old, and she’d always wondered where it had come from. Now she realized it was from her grandfather’s shop. The wood was still in good condition, and Carl kept it stacked nicely to keep it from warping. She had brought down with her the broken snowshoe. She felt the wood with her hands and then tried the woodpile for similar wood. She found the same kind of wood, which had a label on it: “White Ash.” She took the wood out and laid it on the ground. Carl’s tools were in three different cardboard boxes. Mazey dug through them, pulling out the tools she’d seen Carl use now and again for different projects, like when he made the spice rack and the hamper for the upstairs bathroom. The hamper looked something like a snowshoe, so Mazey figured she could use the same tools.

She loaded everything she had onto a sled, strapped on her snowshoes, and set off, following the same trail they had taken two days prior to get the tree. She walked to Hillsboro Farm and knocked on the door. An old woman opened the door.

“Hello,” she said, smiling. She was wearing a light gray bathrobe.

“Merry Christmas,” Mazey said. “You’re Dori’s grandmother.”

“Yes, I am. My name is Beatrice.”

“I’m Mazey.”

Beatrice smiled. Her face was full of wrinkles and her skin was dark in some places and very white in others. Mazey had no idea how old she was, but she had certainly been around a while.

“Is Dave home?”

“He went out to the barn. Can I help you with something?”

Mazey held up her father’s snowshoe. “This is my dad’s. It broke a few days ago when we were here getting a tree. It used to be my grandpa’s. I want to fix it for Christmas, and was hoping Farmer Dave could help me.”

Beatrice took the snowshoe in her hand. “Ah, yes. What nice craftsmanship. I remember your grandfather kindly. He was a sweet man. He and your grandmother held the best Halloween parties. We had snowshoes like this, too.”

“Do you think Dave could help me?”

Beatrice scoffed. “We don’t need Dave.” She looked at Mazey with her soft, hazel eyes. “Farmer Corey learned everything he knew from me,” she said with a smile. “Let me get dressed and we’ll see what we can do.” She winked and stepped aside for Mazey to come inside.

Mazey waited in the living room while Beatrice went into the side apartment where she lived. When she finally came out she wore brown pants that went high over her waist and a thick, dirty sweatshirt. She asked Mazey to help her put her work coat on and then she led the way out a side door into the shop at the far end of the larger barn. She did all this without saying much, but once she opened the shop door she began, “Now what makes a young girl like you want to fix up this old snowshoe?”

“I guess because it’s important to my dad.”

“You know, my father was a carpenter. That’s where I learned all my tricks. Corey, he came from farmers. He could milk goats and breed chickens, but I was the one building the coop. What was great about us was that we learned from one another.” She paused, looking around. “Here, darling; place the shoe on this workbench. I’m a bit old these days, so I’ll do more instructing than doing, if that’s all right.”

Mazey nodded. She was in awe of Beatrice’s seemingly sudden burst of energy. Beatrice sat next to the workbench on a closed wooden trunk. “It was a sad day when your grandparents’ house burned down.”

“Yeah, I had no idea that happened, until recently,” Mazey said, setting the snowshoe down. She also put the white ash up beside the shoe.

“Ah, good. You have the same wood. This will be easy. We’ll need a ruler to measure one and half inches. Then we’ll use this table saw to cut the wood. You’ll have to smooth it all out. We’ll steam the wood to make it soft. While you do that, I’ll make hot cocoa. Do you like hot cocoa?”

Mazey nodded.

Fred could barely believe how much work Mazey put in to fixing the snowshoe, as she explained it in detail to her brother later that night. She hadn’t understood the amount of steps taken to make a snowshoe, and even though she was only mending one, Beatrice explained how to make one from scratch, and even found an antique snowshoe iron frame, which they used to hold the shoe in place while the fresh piece of ash was bent and stitched onto the old shoe.

“Did it work?” Fred asked, whistling through his teeth?

Mazey nodded. “I hid it in the basement. The wood has to cool completely. Then I’ll paint it with waterproof gloss that Beatrice gave me.”

“Wow.” Fred shook his head. “Do you think we could make more of them someday?”

Mazey nodded. “I’d like to make Mom a special pair. And Beatrice might show me how to make poles to help balance us in the snow.”

Fred liked this idea. He was getting excited about Christmas, now that the tree was up and decorated. Even though Carl had been sad for a day, he eventually moved on from his loss and with the help of Heather returned to the Christmas spirit. He and Fred had built a snow fort that very day. Heather had asked if Carl wanted to keep the broken snowshoes and he said, “For now. I might try and fix them.”

Mazey was also excited for Christmas. She had never been so enthusiastic about giving a present over receiving one, but this year she couldn’t wait for Carl to open the repaired snowshoes. On Christmas Eve she carefully placed them in the same box her pair had come in. Then she wrapped the box in blue paper with snowmen on it. She wrapped a bow on it and brought it downstairs, placing it under the tree.

“Who is that for?” Carl asked from the couch where he read the newspaper.

“You, Dad.”

Carl put the newspaper down. “That’s for me?” His eyes went wide. “Is it a really, really big tie?”

Mazey laughed, shaking her head. “I wish you could open it now,” she said.

“Me too,” Carl winked, “but the best things really are worth waiting for.”

Mazey thought about this as she went to bed, and for the first time she could remember, she had no trouble falling asleep on Christmas Eve.

In the morning, Santa had left presents for everyone. Fred was first to wake up and shout down the hall. Mazey found him kneeling by the tree, staring at the gifts. Over the next couple of hours, the presents were opened one by one, until Mazey couldn’t wait any longer. She handed her gift to Carl.

“Ah, finally,” Carl chuckled. “What could it be?”

“Open it, Daddy,” Fred said, winking at Mazey the way he’d seen Carl wink.

Carl removed the paper and then opened the box. He paused, staring inside as if the contents were pure magic. Heather leaned close and looked inside the box too. “How?” she started, trailing off.

Carl lifted the shoes out of the box.

“I fixed them up,” Mazey said. “I was thinking we could go snowshoeing this afternoon, if you want to.”

Fred looked outside. “It’s snowing,” he said. “You’re not going to want to go out.”

“I might,” Mazey said. “We might even get Mom to go, also.”

Heather rolled her eyes. “What happened to my daughter?” she laughed.

“I don’t know,” Carl said, pulling Mazey close and kissing her forehead, “but this is the merriest Christmas I’ve ever had.”

And Mazey agreed.

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