For many, the arrival of snow is something to dread, perhaps something to escape by going south for the winter. For others, it means an end to the somewhat dreary browns of late fall. Children, particularly, often anticipate and welcome the first few snowfalls.
For me, early winter has long been “snowman weather.” As a farm child in the ’50s, used to making my own entertainment, I enjoyed making snowmen, and the first few weeks of snow were usually the best, when the snow was clean and fresh. If a warm sun softened the snow enough to produce snowballs, I hurriedly dressed in ski pants and parka, and began rolling up balls of snow to make a “snow man” — or in today’s politically correct term, a “snow person.” Sometimes, if my siblings could be persuaded to join me, we would make a whole “snow family.” Even in my teen years, I still enjoyed rolling up giant balls of snow, packing the balls atop each other, and hunting up an old hat or cap, and a scarf. A carrot for a nose, spruce cones or pebbles for eyes, a twig for a mouth, and branches for skinny arms completed the construction.
During the years I spent at university, I didn’t make snowmen. It’s not that it was beneath me, exactly, but staying in the university residence didn’t offer me much chance to be outside, and studies and essay writing were more important than such childish antics. I went home some weekends, but snowman making requires perfect conditions. Besides, building snow people wasn’t one of my priorities at those times.
After graduating as a teacher, I obtained my first job — in a Manitoba town, an hour and a half from home. I boarded with a retired couple in town a few blocks from the school, but I found myself busier than ever, preparing work for two classes of Grade 9 students, marking tests and essays, and helping with extracurricular activities after school.
One Saturday, though, when I’d been too snowed under with class preparation and marking to travel home for the weekend, the warmth of the sun and the softness of the snow tempted me outside into the front yard of the home where I stayed. Before I knew it, I was rolling up balls of snow to make a snowman. Soon a large snowy fellow stood on the lawn surveying the nearby street. For eyes and mouth, I found a few pebbles on the driveway and, enlisting my landlady’s help, I added a carrot for a nose and an old hat for the fellow’s head. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. That evening I looked out the window several times at my snowy friend, and the next day I checked him as well. It pleased me to see him there. The weather had turned colder, so the frosty fellow hadn’t melted.
Monday morning I hurried off to school without thinking to look at the snowman. Imagine my surprise when I reached the school and discovered, sitting almost directly in front of the main school door, the snowman I had built — two days earlier and several blocks away.
I eventually learned that some of my Grade 9 students had seen me building the snowman. They enlisted a parent with a truck, lifted the snowman into the back of it, and brought the snowy guy to school. It was a good joke on me, but I have to admit I was a little embarrassed.
After that, I stopped making snowmen for a few years. But once I married and had children of my own, the children became a good excuse to resume the activity for a number of years. Snow people or families often made an appearance on our front lawn.
Now, if only my grandchildren lived a little closer!