A story written by Jenny Bateman and read at the Family Service on Sunday 7th February.

Stephie stared out of the window at the huge dark grey clouds massed overhead. ‘It’s like having a lid on the world’ she thought and then, to her delight, a few flakes of snow drifted by. ‘It’s starting to snow! Oh goodie!’ she thought, ‘I must go and tell Linda!’snowdrops

Then she suddenly remembered, very vividly, a February day almost a year ago when it had started to snow. Things had been so very different then... Her mum and dad had split up and she and her mum had come to live with Linda and Linda’s dad, Jack. The Christmas before that had been horrible as her mum and dad had spent most of it shouting at each other which Stephie absolutely hated. She used to get so upset that she felt it was almost better to be at school. And then, worst of all, her Mum had told her just after Christmas that they were moving out of the house to go and live with Linda and Jack. Her mum explained that she would be able to see her dad at weekends and that she was now going to have a younger sister to play with. Stephie had been appalled. She didn’t want a sister. She wanted to be on her own. She loved their house and her little room with the special cupboards and wardrobe that her dad had made. So she had cried and cried and argued fiercely with her mother but nothing she said or did made any difference. So early in the new year, she and her mum packed up their things and moved out. Stephie was dreading it but at least she found she had a bedroom to herself even if it wasn’t as nice as her old one. Her mum had warned her not to talk to Linda about her mother because she had died almost two years previously. Anyway it seemed that Linda didn’t want to talk much at all and she would often shut herself in her room.

‘What a stuck-up little madam!’ Stephie thought. She would go and knock on Linda’s door but Linda wouldn’t answer which made Stephie crosser still. However, one day in February it began to snow. Big, thick flakes were swirling around and Stephie saw that it was settling thickly on the frozen ground. She was excited as she loved snow and thought that maybe Linda might just come out and help her make a snowman. So she went and knocked on Linda’s door again, expecting no answer, but somehow Linda had left it unlatched and the door swung open. To Stephie’s surprise, Linda wasn’t sitting at her little desk but was lying on the bed face down crying her eyes out. Stephie stood there for a few moments, wondering what to do. Linda hadn’t been very friendly since she and her mum had moved in and part of her just wanted to shut the door and go back to her room. However, despite everything, she couldn’t help feeling sorry for the little girl so she went in and sat down on the bed.

‘Whatever is the matter?’ she said gently. She thought that Linda might push her away but instead, Linda turned and clung on to her.

‘I miss my Mum’ she sobbed. ‘Your mum is lovely but I want my mum back’.

‘Oh goodness!’ thought Stephie, ‘So that’s why she shuts herself in her room and all this time I thought she was being unfriendly’.

She then began to realise what it must have been like for Linda not only losing her Mum but then having two strangers coming to live with them. And Linda was only eight, whereas Stephie was much more grown up and would be ten years old in the summer. She wondered how on earth she could stop Linda crying and suddenly remembered the snow.

‘Linda’ she said ‘it’s snowing – have you noticed? Why don’t we both go outside and make a snowman?’

Well it turned out that Linda loved snow too, so she dried her eyes and they both put on their waterproof macs and went outside. Stephie’s mum and Jack soon joined in and they had a wonderful time making the most enormous snowman Stephie had ever seen. Jack lent them one of his gardening hats and Stephie’s mum found some large black buttons for his waistcoat and a carrot for his nose. It was such fun although they got pretty wet and a bit dirty too but no-one seemed to mind. It was almost dark when they finished him at last and he looked very splendid and smiley with a big red ribbon for his mouth.

Somehow that day was a turning point. Stephie began to realise that she rather liked being a big sister to Linda and thinking of things to amuse her when she got sad. After a while, Linda didn’t shut herself in her room anymore and the two girls began to have a lot of fun together. She also noticed that her mum and Jack never shouted at each other. If they disagreed about something they would go and talk about it together, without Stephie and Linda being able to hear. Stephie saw her dad most weekends and she realised that the new arrangements were not half as bad as she had thought they would be. It would have been lovely, of course, if her mum and dad were still together but she also realised that it couldn’t have been very pleasant for them when they just didn’t seem to agree about anything. Jack was nice too and, if Stephie did something naughty, he would tell her off but always with a twinkle in his eyes so she didn’t feel too resentful about it. But the best thing was Linda. She found it difficult to remember the time when she had been on her own. They had such fun together although Linda was almost two years younger but she was probably more grown up, thought Stephie, because of losing her mum.

So now, looking at the falling snow again, she thought how much things had changed in a year. She remembered the day the door of Linda’s bedroom had swung open when she knocked and was very, very glad that she had decided not to ignore her but to sit down and talk to her kindly. If she hadn’t done so, she might have gone on thinking that Linda was stuck up and unfriendly whilst all the time she was just missing her mum. It made her feel good too, being a big sister, helping Linda with her homework and sometimes protecting her when things got a bit rough at school. It had been a new beginning, although she hadn’t realised it at the time, and some really good things had happened.

‘Well, well’ thought Stephie, ‘it was such a big change but who would have thought everything would work out so well?