Winter was early.
It was the beginning of fall when she saw Old Man Autumn plodding through the forest. Old Man Autumn spent a lot of time planning. He carefully planned the colors for each and every leaf. He even planned the speckled patterns underneath. Old Man Autumn walked to each leaf, held it to his lips, and whispered to it the secret of which color it would become. Green leaves turned to gold or to red or yellow at the touch of his long wooden fingers. And when the leaves fell off the trees, he would turn them to brown with his old knobby toes.
Winter loved playing in the snow. She decided it was her turn now. She hid behind a tree and when Old Man Autumn wasn’t looking, she made it snow. Her happiness exploded into flurries that floated gently down covering all of Old Man Autumn’s leaves in white.
“You’re not supposed to be here yet, Winter. Why is everything covered in snow?”
“Because I want to play!” Winter smiled.
“I haven’t even finished changing all the leaves’ colors yet, Winter. Please stop snowing,” Old Man Autumn demanded.
“But everything looks so much better in white.” Winter puffed a cloud at Old Man Autumn.
“Can’t you wait until it is your turn? I have to finish my work!” Old Man Autumn waited. “Winter, please!” But Winter wasn’t listening. She was running around trying to catch snowflakes on her icy blue tongue. Old Man Autumn sighed and trudged away.
Happy as a snowflake, Winter skated around on her bare feet. She yelled to all the animals, inviting them to play in her piles of snow. She played for a very long time. Winter was having so much fun. She had snowball fights with the trees. She played hide-In-A-Pile-Of-Snow with the squirrels. She would even make snow angels with the birds daring enough to lie in the cold snow with her.
One day while Winter was playing tag on the tops of the trees, she saw Lady Spring strolling through the forest—her skin smooth like a young sapling. Lady Spring tenderly picked buds from her hand-basket and hung them on all the bare branches nearby.
Winter crashed to the ground like a falling icicle, in front of Lady Spring. “What are you doing?” Winter shouted. “It’s still my turn.”
“No, Winter, I am afraid your turn is over.” Lady Spring looked all around; her fern and flower dress swayed gently.
“It looks like you have been having a lot of fun, Winter. But it is time for everything to grow again. I hope you will understand.”
“I don’t understand. I want to play! I was having so much fun until you came here. You’ve ruined everything.”
“Winter, please listen.” Lady Spring said gently.
“No!” Winter shouted at the top of her lungs. “I will not listen. It is still my turn!”
Winter stomped her feet and pounded her fists. Snow cut violently through the air. The snow was thick and wet. The air became colder.
“Winter, please stop this. You are hurting everything around you.”
“No!” Winter shrieked like a cracking glacier.
In an instant, the wet snow froze solid. Everything was covered in a thick sheet of ice, including Lady Spring.
Winter stormed off in a blizzard. She stomped and stomped and stomped on the hard ice beneath her feet. Ice crystals grew everywhere she stepped.
Lady Spring whispered through the air, “Winter, stop and take a deep breath.”
Winter stopped. She took a deep breath in and held it. All was quiet. There was nothing but ice as far as she could see. No birds. No squirrels. Nothing.
Winter’s eyes opened wide and she gasped. “Oh my! I did this?” Winter sighed.
Lady Spring, still covered in bits of broken ice, put her hand on Winter’s shoulder. Winter was startled and jumped back, sliding on the ice. “Nothing can come out now. It’s too icy and too cold,” Lady Spring said.
“I know.” Winter put her head down and looked at her feet. “I was… I was just so…”
“I know,” said Lady Spring. “You were having fun. But now no one can have fun.”
Lady Spring moved closer to Winter and got down on one knee. Lady Spring’s hair of vines slid along the ice as she bent over. She kissed Winter on the forehead, and Winter fell to her knees sobbing.
“But I was happy. Why can’t it be winter forever?” Winter asked through her tears.
“You can still be happy, Winter. Happiness doesn’t end with the season.” Lady Spring smiled. “But, everything has a time and a place. Winter has its place. And, right now, it is time for spring. The plants and trees and birds and squirrels are done playing in the snow and are ready to play in the grass and the sunlight.”
Winter cried harder. And because of her sadness, it started raining. The ice and snow melted away. Winter cried for a long time. She wasn’t crying because she couldn’t play even though that did make her sad. She was crying because of how she acted. She was embarrassed because she treated everyone so horribly. Winter knew Lady Spring was right. Her turn was over and it was time for spring.
Lady Spring picked Winter up and set her on her feet again. With her thin fingers that smelled like freshly grown grass, she brushed Winter’s tears away.
“Winter, take a walk with me. I want you to look at something.”
“What is it?” Winter asked.
“You’ll see.” Spring smiled. “Look there.” Lady Spring and Winter bent down to see a small seedling that had come up through the earth. “You see? And look here.” They walked over to a tree whose leaves began to poke through the buds. “Beautiful isn’t it?”
“Uh huh.” Winter agreed and she sniffled. “Just like you, Lady Spring.”
Lady Spring grabbed Winter’s hand and held it.
Winter looked into Spring’s eyes and said, “I am really sorry, Lady Spring. That was such a rotten way for me to act.”
“It could have been worse. Remember when your brother, Summer, refused to take a bath and dried everything out? But don’t be sad, Winter. We have turned everything right again.”
Winter and Lady Spring walked barefoot in the soft green grass and watched as life returned to the forest.