by Lee Wyndham
illustrated by Yaroslava
Parents' Magazine Press
The theme of the childless couple pining for a child is as old as literature and history. Sarah laughed at the idea that her ninety year old womb would carry a babe. Hannah wept over her barrenness on the temple steps. A childless Japanese couple plucked a giant peach from the river and found a child inside. Gepetto crafts a wooden puppet who is given life by the Blue Fairy. The little old woman and the little old man baked a gingerbread boy - to eat or to love, depending on the retellers whim.
Then there's The Winter Child, a variation on this theme, born of the snow of the endless Russian steppe.
Maria Nikolaivna and Sergei Petrovitch have everything they need or could ever want. They live on a fine, small farm in a fine, small house. There is always the smell of "newly baked bread, crusty round bublichki cookies, hearty stews, thick soups, fragrant jams and other good foods." The cat, Vaska, purrs "like a samovar" in which his mistress boils the water for the tea. And the dog, Belka, is sleek and happy, "since along with kind words and good treatment," there is plenty for him to eat.
The barnyard is full of ducks and pigs and the finest of roosters. The big brown cow gives the richest milk - "thick with yellow cream."
All that is missing is a child. And although Maria and and Sergei are godparents to most of the village children (so much does everyone love them), at the end of the day, those children always go home, and Maria and Sergei are again left alone.
But one morning, the couple awake to find "a great Russian snow" has fallen during the night. The crisp, morning air is filled with the voices of children. At first, Maria and Sergei are filled with joy at that sound, but gradually they grow "quiet and wistful.
Later, the poor couple go out of doors and wander through the snow village left behind by the children, a village peopled with snow men, women and children. And this quiet, icy tableau inspires old Maria and Sergei.
And here is where I hear echoes of Frosty the Snowman. Because just like that snowy sculpture of Christmas legend,
Snegurochka (which means Little Snow Child) comes to life. And for the whole winter long, Maria and Sergei bask in the warmth of their own, little daughter.
Until the snow begins to melt. And just as suddenly as she came,
Snegurochka is gone,
until . . .
again falls the snow.