When I was a kid, until maybe my late middle school/high school years, I collected snow globes from different places all over the world.
I remember starting my collection very young—I think one of my first snow globes must have been from a gift shop in Alabama or Florida when I was about six or so, but I’m not really sure. We lived in Louisiana, so those close states were easy to collect. The number grew and grew over the years, plateauing at around 130-150 snow globes at the height of its glory. They took up multiple shelves of a bookshelf, betraying the bookshelf’s original purpose of housing books. The bookshelf instead housed individual little worlds, from most of the fifty states to some foreign countries (those were the ones I treasured the most). I had multiple ones from Alabama and Florida and Mississippi and Texas, but I also had snow globes from Washington, the Carolinas, the Virginias, California, Maine, Utah, Kentucky, Washington D.C.—you name it, I probably had it, although I’m sure there were a few states here and there that escaped my grasp. In fact, in naming those states just now I am calling upon a distant memory, attempting to call upon the little machine-made letters laser-printed into the plastic seal at the bottom of the snow globe. That’s because most of the snow globes I collected, I did not collect myself, and therefore I had no real memory to tie to the water or glitter inside. My parents, excited about my fascination, told relatives and friends that I was collecting them, and so they did, and on each adventure and trip a family friend or relative went on, they collected a new snow globe for me. I have never been to Utah, either Virginia, or either Carolina. I have been to Washington D.C., but it was far after my collection ceased growing, and I did not get a snow globe; it’s the same with Washington. I have not been to Maine, although I want to go, and I will never go to Kentucky.
I didn’t think about whether I would go to all of these places when I was a kid. I simply liked the fact that I had captured a place I had never gone to. I had a little specially made object, carried or packaged to me from a faraway place. Each one contained little plastic replicas of the monuments from the place in question, and they all had snow or glitter, and they all had water, except for one.
The ones from overseas were my favorite. I had one from Holland, although I’m not sure from who it came from. I think I collected another from the Netherlands, too, although I’m not sure why. I believe I had one from Paris. It was not mine. When I went to Paris on my senior trip years later, I brought back an empty bottle of limonadefor two reasons: one, I could not carry liquid in my bag on the plane; two, I could not drink alcohol and therefore could not bring a more fancy looking bottle; and three, I felt like I had to bring back something glass and beautiful, and the bottle was beautiful in a French way. My dad put it on a shelf he handmade, where he puts empty bottles of expensive scotch or whiskey that he’s finished. I was proud to add to the collection with my empty bottle of soda water, even though it was obviously less grandiose. Maybe it was the only thing I could bring back of value. Maybe it was the fact that it was glass and delicate. Maybe it reminded me of a snow globe, although it must have been subconsciously, because I never thought of that until now. Now it just looks empty.
My grandfather went to China for work. He brought me back a snow globe. This one was different than the others. It was a small glass globe, a little smaller than a golf ball, and about as light. Instead of water, the inside of the snow globe was filled with paper, with designs and markings on the inside. I think there was a traditional dragon drawn on the paper, although I could be remembering incorrectly now, but I know it was filled with black and green and red coloring. The snow globe had a small hole on the bottom that lead to nowhere. It sat on a wooden pedestal. Aside from my snow globe that was fitted into a large anthropomorphic shark’s belly, it was one of my most prized possessions. Since that snow globe had no water, I suppose it wasn’t the water that was most important to me. I think it was about possessing an object from somewhere I had never been. I wanted to collect the world.
When I was a kid, I was super into the mystical and magical. My best friend and I would collect interesting things like crystals and stones and interesting sticks and bones and leaves, and pretend they were magical in some way. We convinced our classmates that magic was real, too. It was all about owning the small, special objects. Plastic things meant nothing to me and my friend. We needed the stone, the smooth, the cool to the touch, heavy, important things that we weren’t supposed to have. Things that wizards would have used. Things that inspired us to invent up some creative use for them. Things that made us create our own little worlds. Maybe that’s why I liked snow globes. They were small, glass, smooth, cool to the touch, and most importantly, breakable. They were little globes that I wanted to live in: little worlds that I wanted to protect.
I stopped collecting the snow globes slowly. I collected a few in middle school, but by high school, the collection’s growth had ceased. Like I said, it peaked at about 130-150. To some, this is an impressive number.
My parents are hoping to move out of Louisiana soon. I moved away to Boston for college, so they decided which snow globes to keep and which ones to throw away, since I wasn’t here to decide. From the years of sitting and being marveled at, some of the snow globes have evaporated, leaving nothing but fake snow and glitter. Most of these were yellow. These were the ones that were thrown away. I can only assume the oldest ones are the ones that were trashed. I don’t know which ones remain.
Today is March 30th, 2020. I am here in Louisiana again, quarantined away from my home in Massachusetts because of the massive pandemic that is affecting the world. They are in a blue plastic box, covered with newspaper as padding. I have placed some empty boxes upon it to clear space in the room, but otherwise, it sits there, to the right of my empty old bookshelf, and to the left of my old closet. I have not looked at these snow globes. I never moved the newspaper off of the top of the box. I have not touched the box. I have simply left it in the corner of my room. When (if) the pandemic is (ever) over, it will be packed with the rest of my old things and be put into storage, until I have a home of my own and decide whether or not to take them with me.
As a kid, the snow globes filled me with wonder. Wanderlust, maybe? The excitement that I might go to all of these places, perhaps? They contained some sort of magic, maybe, that like the dragon in the globe my grandfather brought back from China: transcendental and holding power greater than something I could have ever had. Now they fill me with dread. I don’t know which little worlds I have left. I don’t know which places in the real world I will be able to go to anymore. Which of my little worlds have died and turned yellow?
We are in the middle of a global pandemic, or maybe it’s just the beginning. I am writing at my old desk, and my snow globes sit behind me, little perfect worlds where nothing is wrong, where magic is real, where it snows all the time but it’s never cold. Where the sky glitters. And I cannot bring myself to look at them.