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December 22, 2010

Chelsea Cain: The Snow Queen

Posted by Anonymous
ChelseaCain.jpgChelsea Cain is the New York Times bestselling author of several bone-chilling books and novels --- including the Archie and Gretchen series, which has a brand-new installment called THE NIGHT SEASON hitting stores this spring. To celebrate the fact that our days are now a little bit longer, Chelsea tells the story of a secret, book-giving goddess --- whose favorite holiday happens to be the Winter Solstice.
I don’t remember the first time that the Snow Queen came and left me books in a bag outside our front door, but I remember this: I am about five. My mom and I live in a second story apartment in an old house in Iowa City. My bedroom is the old pantry. The kitchen is an old bedroom. An exterior staircase angles up the side of the house to our front door. It’s night. I am in my bedroom, and I hear a knock. I wait for my mother to get it, but she doesn’t. There is another knock. I head into the kitchen. My mother is standing there, by the sink.
“Did you hear a knock?” she asks.
“Uh huh,” I say.
“You better get it,” she says.
I open the door. There’s a paper bag. Sometimes it’s a pillowcase. It is always filled with three or four books. 
Santa didn’t bring me books. The Snow Queen did. She came every Winter Solstice, and at a few other times during the year. My nickname was “Snowbird,” so we had a certain wintery milieu in common. The first time she visited was in 1976, when I was four years old. I know this because I still have the book, WHAT DO YOU SAY, DEAR? with pictures by Maurice Sendak, and it’s inscribed and dated: “Winter Solstice, 1976. Snowbird --- on Earth, the planet you live on, people use good manners as a sign of respect and love. I hope that this book will help you to see how much fun good manners are. Love, the Snow Queen.”
Who was the Snow Queen, and why was she giving me books? What’s more, why was she so invested in my ability to be courteous? I didn’t question it. It was only later, when I learned about the Hans Christian Andersen, boy-stealing version of my benefactor, that I realized that the magical book goddess I had known was a tad off on her message.   
In fact, I didn’t know much about her at all. What I did know, I’d pieced together from details divulged in inscriptions and on cards she’d written me. She lived on the moon. Her favorite holiday was the Winter Solstice. If I looked at the full moon and squinted, I might see her.
She stopped coming when I was about eight. My mom and I had left Iowa City and moved to the West Coast. My parents had been split up for four years by then, and I wasn’t as lonely. I don’t remember the last time she came. And it was only after several years had passed that I realized that she hadn’t been by in a while and probably wasn’t coming back. I asked my mom why the Snow Queen had forsaken me.
“I guess she knew you didn’t need her anymore,” my mom said.    
My mom died long before my five-year-old daughter was born. But if you ask my daughter who lives on the moon, she’ll tell you about the Snow Queen. And those books, the ones left on my porch 30 some years ago? They’re up in my daughter’s bookcase. She reads them, and asks me to tell her more about the magic book-moon goddess. I tell her about the Snow Queen, and I tell her about my mom, and then we both squint out the bedroom window at the full moon, and sometimes we tell each other we can see her. 
Tomorrow, the Holiday Author Blogs are offering up a double dose of seasonal spirit. So be sure to check in twice, as authors Judith Dupré and Pamela Schoenewaldt remind readers why the holidays are a time for family, friends and --- above all --- thanksgiving.