Issue No. 4, Spring 2013

Paper Snow: A Memory
Stella Rothe

Everyone swore that the house was haunted: everyone being my mother, my father, and me at four years old. The house was more of a mansion, sprawling with rooms that my young eyes were eager to explore and touch. It had pink walls and a white balcony where there was always snow. Come winter, summer, fall, or spring, that snow would always be there in one massive, feathery pile.

Inside the place, there was a confusion of furniture and knick-knacks, all a-clutter across the floors and through the halls. There was a working, free-standing bathtub that my father and I filled with bubble soap to make the water foamy.

The third-floor closet was where the haunting occurred. Every night I would hear a knocking sound, followed by my dad’s hushed words: “The ghost is here” – his gentle Oxford accent with the German trace sounding like music to my ears. In delight and expectation I tiptoed to my bedroom, knocked on the door, and was admitted by candlelight. The knocking noise continued and we hunted the house, pretending not to know where the sound was coming from, but both knowing very well. It was the same each time: my father led me to the closet in the third-floor bedroom. He would throw open the tiny door and there, always, hovered a spirit cast in white and reflecting the candle’s flame.

I always screamed – that was part of the fun – and I really did have shivers down my arms, but I liked that ghost. He was friendly. All he wanted was to escape the closet, but we always shut the door too fast for him to emerge. My eyes would stray to the balcony where the eternal snow stood in its heap, and I always had the same request: “Daddy, make it snow.”

And he did. My father, all candlelit and golden, brought his giant bag of paper snow to the balcony and shook down its feathery contents. Every month the mound grew larger and larger, spilling onto the green carpet below. Oh, how I loved my dollhouse with its eternal snow and midnight ghost!

When my mother and I left for America, my father stayed behind with the memories and the dollhouse, the cotton ghost still locked in the closet and the paper snow still on the balcony. I heard that the dollhouse stayed in my father’s room until it fell apart one day: just broke into pieces and collapsed. I never saw the ghost again, and the eternal snow was swept away by an imaginary wind. The house was not fixable. My father broke down with it.

Nothing was ever quite the same after that.

Stella Rothe is 26 and currently studying English and philosophy in Rochester, Michigan. Her photography and writing has most recently been published in Ceremony, Pink Panther Magazine, Nain Rouge, and BAC Street Journal.