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I was the only drop of water in this vat of oil, unable to mix, while I watched everyone else rise above me. Even though I towered over everyone in class, even the teacher, I felt like I was slowly being pulled into the earth, sitting there at the back of the class with my voice caught in my throat, sinking inch by inch before I disappeared. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand how to mimic the kids around me, the embarrassing part was that I tried so hard, and they knew it. My failure to become one of them was amplified by my fervor. Looking back, I can no longer remember why fitting in had mattered so much to me. As third graders, we hadn’t quite grasped the skill and grace required for true nastiness. But we had become alarmingly good at using exclusion to make someone feel completely alone.
Throughout the night in all the neighborhoods surrounding the school, kids pretending to be asleep peered out of frosted windows panes as they watched weightless snowflakes dance onto the frozen ground. As the snowflakes grew heavier and the night sky became a whirlwind of white powder, there were whispers of wishes. Ice cubes were being flushed and we were all sleeping with spoons under our pillows. The possibility of a snow day was in the air.
My third-grade teacher Mrs. Lake had frizzy grey hair that after a long school day would closely resemble a puffy thundercloud. When she saw our defeated sighs and lingering glimpses at the winter wonderland that beckoned to us from the classroom window, she declared that we would spend the morning outside. A hush fell over the crowd as the door swung open and we were plunged into this realm of blinding light and finger pricking chill. The field of untouched snow merged with the drab grey sky and the cold winter sun made the snow glow. Our lungs gasped in shock as we choked down frozen air, running, ruining the untouched snow with no hesitation. I welcomed the mind-numbing cold as I was enveloped into a cloud of powder. We must’ve looked like bright tropical birds chasing and playing in the sky with our fluorescent coats, the snow billowing like clouds underneath our feet.
Our shrill voices seemed to echo endlessly into the sky as plans for snow forts and snowmen were tossed around. I was lunging a now medium-sized snowball around the ground. Carefully turning it as the once small snowball grew to a commendable size. One of the girls noticed my snowball and wordlessly she came over to help. I was shocked but the cold made it difficult to say anything. Wordlessly, I let her help. The snowball grew massive as everyone joined in. Slowly, the weight that I carried with me started to lift as the snowman grew. I no longer felt afraid to talk. With wide grins that hurt our cold chapped faces, we strategized on how to lift the head of our snowman onto the body. Since I was the only one tall enough to reach the top of the snowman, the other kids cheered as I gave our snowman its head. We all stood there for a while, staring up at the snowman that towered over many of us. Our teacher occupied herself with admiring the pine trees, trying desperately not to interfere. She wanted us to learn how to fly. However, I still caught her sneaking glances, the corners of her eyes crinkling into a thousand tiny lines. When we reluctantly started heading back to class, I felt light enough to fly.
From outside our classroom window, we all sneaked glances at the snowman, pride swelling in our hearts when we saw how proud, how dignified our snowman looked. Even though it was shaped from cold, frozen, and lifeless matter, there was something distinctly human about its upturned face and fluttering, waving, fingertips. Through the synthesis of a million irreplaceable snowflakes, there now stood a friendly giant in our schoolyard. Although we were only children whose voices were shushed over, every one of us saw our little corner of the word differently. But even with our differences, we all realized how powerful and strong our tiny third grader hands were when they lifted together.
School was almost over when we noticed a couple of middle school boys sprinting towards the snowman. We all froze into broken icicles when they started to kick our snowman down. It couldn’t run or speak so it stood there, trembling as its head wavered. With a single swift kick, our snowman was decapitated. The middle schoolers kept hacking their snow boots into the carefully rolled snowballs until inch by inch, our snowman crumbled back into the earth. Mrs. Lake ran across the classroom and flung the widow upon. The freezing air whooshed in and hit us at the same moment her voice did. Her cries were too loud for this little classroom but they needed to be to reach the boys. We watched in gleeful shock as she screamed, “Get away! Go home!” The boys ran for their lives, clumsily tripping over each other. When she turned back to us, her face was still flushed fire red, sadness filled her eyes as she silently begged all of us not to cry. Over and over, she reassured us that even though our snowman was demolished, she would always be immensely proud of our hard work. I struggled to keep a straight face, a smile threatening to emerge as I studied the remains of our snowman. He had been reduced into a pile of snow. But our little footprints still surrounded him, a stampede of pathways leading back to the door. The tallest snowman in our little world no longer lived but the echoes of our laughter still rang in my head. Sad faces were shared around the room but I was still drifting in the clouds.

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