A snow globe and the unexpected gift of forgiveness

Could a shattered snow globe prove the redemptive power of leaving room for people to surprise you?

Illustration: Snow globe [Khaldun M. H. Abusnaina/Al Jazeera]
[Illustration by Khaldun M H Abusnaina/Al Jazeera]

My son placed the gift in my hands, his eyes gleaming like the Christmas lights on the tree.

He beamed with a gleeful spirit of mischief, his face alight with the delight of a secret surprise. He coaxed me to open his present and watched with curiosity alongside his dad and stepmum, exchanging conspiratorial glances.

What mystery awaited beneath the festive wrapping paper? I opened it up, full of anticipation and wonder. Would it be another macaroni necklace, I wondered.

But handmade jewellery it was not. A flood of memories came back to me as I looked inside.

We were young, a lot younger than we are now – my son’s dad and I. We were moving to a bigger rental property, feeling a little like we were moving up in the world. We were full of hope; striking out on a new adventure. Our belongings were being stashed in boxes to be delivered to the new house.

We took care to wrap things with bubble wrap and newspaper and extra pieces of packing tape. I leveraged my experience of moving every year during my childhood to safeguard my possessions as best I could. Growing up, my family would move in pursuit of better educational opportunities, a better work-life balance, better jobs; there was always something better waiting on the other side of the next move. With all the geographic changes in our lives, the things I packed lovingly into boxes always stayed the same. It was comforting to have that consistency, no matter where we were.

My son’s dad and I did not have a lot that was of value beyond sentiment but we were careful just the same. When we arrived at the new house, humble but new to us, the tedious unpacking process began: boxes cut open, newspaper and bubble wrap piling up on the floor as our things found their way to their new resting places.

Sunflowers did not miss having friends, they just tilted towards the light and grew where they stood. I found that inspiring. But here it was destroyed, the glass smashed to bits.


Then, I came to a box that had clearly endured a more difficult journey and cringed inwardly, dreading the condition of its contents.

With sadness, I pulled out a sunflower snow globe, once full of cheerful yellow blooms and glittery liquid. I had always adored sunflowers, because they stood tall and were bright and cheerful. I, on the other hand, had always been on the small side and had sometimes been lonely from being the new girl everywhere we went. Sunflowers did not miss having friends, they just tilted towards the light and grew where they stood. I found that inspiring. But here it was destroyed, the glass smashed to bits.

I remembered the day I had received it. I was probably eight years old or thereabouts. It was a Christmas gift from my parents, and I had thought it was magical, holding it up for all to see, shaking it with glee. The glitter in the dome looked fancy and luxurious. It felt so decadent to have such a pretty thing all of my own.

My son’s father had noticed me sitting there, crestfallen, holding the remnants of this treasured childhood memento. 

“I will replace it, don’t worry,” he proclaimed, full of ambition and his usual fervent desire to save the world, or at least the moment. He was – and is – an idealist, and I always believed he could fix whatever broken thing I brought to him, just as he had helped mend the pieces of my life when we first got together.

I hoped against hope that he would keep his promise and that this precious piece of my past would be restored to its former glory (or at least exchanged for a reasonable facsimile).

But years went by with the broken snow globe sitting on the shelf. I had disposed of the glass and left the rest because the sight of the sunflowers still made me happy. We moved again, bought a house, got married, had a baby, and then split up. The broken snow globe remained in its fractured state.

It was a reminder of the best of intentions in our relationship, promises made and hopes dashed, words said and meant but never translated into actions. I gave up all hope that the snow globe would be made whole again, and I wondered what our once fragile, now broken relationship would look like in the future. Would I ever be made whole? I felt like my snow globe – damaged and forgotten.

Years passed and we eventually rested in a hard-fought and long struggled for peace, having learned to co-parent our son with new partners added to the mix. We are held together with optimism for the future, like the boxes on moving day – a little worse for wear but still containing all that is dear. Every year we spend many of our child’s precious moments together as a makeshift family, exchanging birthday gifts and Christmas presents; presents like this one.

In the small box my son handed me sat a new sunflower snow globe just like the one I had before. It was whole and shiny and every bit as glorious as it was the day I received its predecessor.

“Do you remember, mummy?” my son asked. Clearly, he had been told the story of the snow globe by his father, as it had long since been tucked away.

“We saw it at the flea market mummy,” he explained, bounding about, buoyed by Christmas morning exuberance.

I had lost faith that the promise his dad made on that moving day so long ago would ever be fulfilled. I had written it off with other things as good intentions and kind words that never came to fruition. It happens. But so does magic.

My faith was restored by a flea market find, wrapped up in pretty paper and presented with delight by my little boy. I held my young son close with tears in my eyes and mouthed a thank you to his dad and his girlfriend. Holding the new snow globe I understood the beauty of the gift that is redemption, forgiveness and that things thought long lost could still come to pass when you leave room for someone to surprise you.

Source: Al Jazeera