illustration ARIEL R. NELSON

This story begins with

                                                       Madison’s own words, the ones that start any authentic folk tale: “Far, far away.” What follows is the tale of Icetopia.

I listened while standing far, far away from the galaxy of the warm schoolhouse, shivering on the four-square court, awaiting the recess bell. Here on the winter playground tundra, we didn’t need a thermometer to know we were in single-digit cold—Icetopia cold.

While being treated to the legend of Icetopia, Fairytopia and Volcanotopia, I had an epiphany.

I am the school principal who spent thousands of dollars on a fancy set of new, colorful, plastic-coated playground equipment: a glider, a curving slide tube and monkey bars. “Won’t the kids love these!” the playground committee and I thought. Had I known of all the Topias, occupying the same space, I could have economized. For the empire of the imagination is priceless.

“In the winter, we call it Icetopia,” explained Madison, a second grader. “In the summer it’s Fairytopia, or just Topia.”

She gestured to the snow piles beneath the new equipment, tunneled and burrowed by the kids. Here, just inches beneath the summit of Icetopia’s tallest mountain, K12, was the terrible fount of hot lava.

The next day, I learned more… in my warm office.

“Volcanotopia,” said Madison, “is the mountain range between Ice and Fairytopias. When we slide down in it there’s rising hot lava. You almost get burned.”

Fellow Topian Amelia chimed in. “You get in a sled and the people that didn’t slide down pull you up. If all of them slide down, one has to figure a way to get up and hoist you out.” My customary sense of “Topia” was inaccurate. Danger was everywhere. The playground was fraught. Deliciously.

Who lives in Icetopia?

“A winter queen who makes sure the snow doesn’t melt,” said Madison.

“Queen Snowbell,” Amelia added, “and the snow fairies.”

Fairytopia and Icetopia are in fact mixed together. Or was that mixed up? “One half is Fairytopia, where the spring fairies and fall fairies live,” said Madison, “and Icetopia is where the winter and cold air fairies live.”

It gets trickier. If the spring fairies venture into Icetopia, they risk freezing and turning into snow fairies. If the Icetopia fairies venture into Fairytopia, they risk melting. Or turning into summer or spring fairies.

Then I learned that I stood on an island.

“In the middle part of the island is where the Tornado Fairies live,” said Madison, “and they can go into either side. But if they stay too long they’ll be in trouble.”

That’s Trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with C, and that stands for cold.

“Those fairies are rotten and don’t like any other fairies except themselves,” said Amelia.

It doesn’t end there. Once you’re far, far away anything can happen.

“There are water fairies too! I was a water fairy,” said Madison, ”but I stayed in Icetopia for too long.” She froze.

“We were shivering for a few days, but we got used to it,” said Amelia.

“When you first start shivering you should zoom back to the water. You’ll be saved as soon as your feet touch the water,” added Madison. “All of our school friends were snow fairies and we were the only ones transported from another land,” said Amelia.

Are there boys in Icetopia, Tornadotopia, Fairytopia?

“There was a boy named Jonathan,” said Madison. “We made him up.”

“One boy fell into the hot lava,” said Amelia. “By the time we got him out his wings were burnt.”

Boys are highly combustible.

What do you eat in Icetopia?

“Snow,” said Madison. “To make sure we don’t melt.”

“In Fairyland we eat berries,” said Amelia. “We live in a strawberry. Frozen. Once I licked it and my tongue got stuck. Never lick ice or frozen strawberries.”

Never—not even for a double dog dare!

That afternoon the Recesstopia skating rink was filled by the volunteer fire department—Firetopia. A tanker truck full of magic liquid ice arrived. You just pour it into a mold. Then all the fairies stand back and utter their magic spells and it hardens. In the twinkling of an eye, under the light of the waning moon, Skateopia appears.

Long live Queen Snowbell and her triple salchows.

. . .

Todd R. Nelson is a retired school principal. He lives in Penobscotopia.

. . .

Favorite ...
Comfort food and best time of day or night you enjoy it?
Grilled cheese sandwiches. I could eat one every day. The panini machine is always on the counter. My homemade bread awaits. 

Multi-cheese, ham or bacon, perhaps some grilled onions… Before you put the assembled sandwich in the panini, I spread mayo on both sides instead of butter or oil. Makes a better crust. Cut up a whole half-sour. Chips. Done.
It’s not a morning thing; not a before-bed comfort food; mid-day. I await Gu Fieti’s visit to the Nelson diner/dive.
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