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The Snowflake on 57th Street

Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines, her short story contained herein is a children’s story.

The Snowflake on 57th Street

Once upon a time not very long ago there was a snowflake. It was quite a large snowflake. Did you know each flake is a unique pattern of crystals, completely different than all others? This one was no exception. It was 26 feet long and consisted of numerous silvery rods covered by 3000 light bulbs. Hanging three stories above the corners of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City, it was a very popular snowflake.

In New York City everything is big. Accustomed to tall buildings, super businesses, sprawling stores, New Yorkers have pretty big dreams. Many crossed the busy corners of 57th Street in the morning and looked up at the snowflake glistening in the sun. Passersby loved to stroll past the giant snowflake and bask in its brightness, especially at night when it became a spectacle of wonder.

The people of New York are not from here but from all over the world. They come from New Delhi, India, the Ivory Coast of Africa, mainland China and every other place of the imagination. New York is filled with their cultures. There are wonderful Indian curry dinners, wooden necklaces from Africa and oriental music and dance. Some people say that’s why there is a New York. It is a place where people meet to enjoy each others’ cultures. Many believe this to be true. But since New Yorker’s are always on the go, darting to catch yellow taxis, rushing for subways, nobody has taken the time to completely comprehend and research this.

Along with everybody else, there was a girl from Mexico whose name was Rosa. Rosa was nine years old and had never before left her hometown of Guadalajara. She had come to visit her Aunt Maria and Uncle Carlos for the Christmas holidays. Everything was different in New York. Her cousins called her Rosy Posy. After finding posy means a spray of flowers in English, she didn’t mind because Rosa means Rose in Spanish.

How strange to be in such a big city! There was no place to play and it was very cold. It had never been this cold in Mexico. But Rosa liked many things. Her green and red mittens were wonderfully warm. She liked to pass store windows filled with animated dolls and sparkling dresses. The smells and warmth of corner cafes were alluring. Hot chocolate, baked apples and frankfurters were her favorites.

Best of all Rosa like triangles. Yes, triangles and circles fascinated her. Her older cousin Julie was studying geometry. She showed Rosa how to use the shining compass, see-through protractor and wooden ruler. There were right angles which measured exactly 90 degrees. Acute angles were smaller, and obtuse angles were more than 90 degrees. Ninety degrees was important because it was one quarter the size of a complete circle. No matter how big or small the circle was, it had 360 degrees. Rosa found these ideas thought provoking.

In Mexico the Christmas holidays are celebrated in a big way. There are religious processions and prayers. The children gather on Christmas Eve. Toy animals called piñatas are crafted from papier-mâché and brightly colored crepe strips. They are hung high from trees and filled with candies, dried fruits, nuts, and small presents. Children are blindfolded as each one tries to break the piñata with a stick. Finally it opens showering down all the treats. As the days came closer and closer to Christmas, Rosa thought of Guadalajara more and more.

Her New York relatives were busy getting ready for the holidays. There was a lot of shopping to do and a turkey with all the trimmings to prepare and also some favorite Mexican dishes. The house was decorated and a tree put up. One night Uncle Carlos wanted to go to town and show Rosa the big tree and fancy toy store. The tree had two rows of beautiful angles in front of it. They began to walk uptown when Rosa saw a giant circle hanging between the buildings. It was the snowflake on 57th Street.

She began to count the triangles inside each circle. They were all isosceles, six facing up, six facing down, each containing smaller triangles. Rosa had recently learned that isosceles triangles have two sides of equal length. Uncle Carlos told her how beautiful snow was and showed her how to make paper snowflakes when they got home from their walk. She decided this was the best present to bring back to Mexico.

They bought the nicest paper and worked for days making the most imaginative patterns possible. Rosa began to wish it would snow so she could see how it really looked. On the radio, weather experts kept predicting flurries. Finally Christmas day arrived with roast turkey. Good things to eat were piled high on the table. The family ate mountains of food, and it seemed the feasting would never end.

When raindrops changed to snowflakes, it amazed Rosa. They were not at all like the white triangles she expected. Snowflakes were minute, hardly big enough to fit on a pin. A hush filled the lightness of the air, and all grew quiet with the snowfall! She loved the way the flakes circled and swirled in geometric patterns of pristine white cones. It’s true that snowflakes eventually touch ground and melt, but before they do, they whirl in every direction like small galaxies of soft stars that display the wonders of their cosmos for all to see.

Before Rosa was ready, it was time to say goodbye to New York and her wonderful relatives and travel back to Mexico. We are not certain if she lived happily ever after, but we do know that Rosa became a scholar of both geometry and snowflakes.


Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Three Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of the Net nominations. 

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