When we woke up, it was snowing. Not a driving, windswept blizzard, nor a paltry dry dusting, but lazy, heavy flakes that seemed to gather girth as they fell from the sky and covered the ground. Perfect packing snow. On this morning, with no where to rush to, no sense of imperative on my part, it was easy to cram Sophia into last years snowpants, next year’s snowboots, a hat and even mittens. I can’t explain why it can feel oppressive to dress a child to go out into the snow. It’s like making preparations to go exercise—always more onerous in one’s imagination than in reality. Or maybe it’s the having to do everything in double…as it is with all activities of daily living—brush her teeth, brush my teeth, give her a bath, take a shower, bundle her up, bundle me up.
It had been a full year since Sophia had played in the snow and already time has buried the memories of building a snowman in miniature at Grandpa Ben’s house or flying down the hill behind Grandma Judi’s house. She stepped outside and tilted her head towards the sky, opening her mouth wide she exclaimed, “I’m eating the snow!” She quickly moved from flakes to handfuls, her mouth glutted with white chunks turning transparent as they melted in her mouth. A lover of all things cold—ice cubes, popsicles, frozen fruit, ice cream, she was eating her way through our yard. I decided to let her. How many pounds of dirt is it that we eat each year? Let her consume it all in one sitting, if this is how she wants to take in her first remember-able snowfall.
I packed a fistful of snow together and rolled it around the yard. The snow came up in sheets, as if I was rolling up a rug. I had to keep turning the growing mound to keep it from looking like a jelly roll, bits of leaves and grass dividing each spiraled layer. “Look!” I said to Sophie, “I’m making a snowman!” And it was the first snowman I could remember making since I had left home for adulthood. Sophia glanced up from her frozen feast with brief interest. “Come on,” I begged, “help me!” The snow was so heavy and the ball so large that she could only push it a few inches. “Too hard!” she told me. I felt the micro-tears forming in my biceps as I took over, erasing the yard of snow.
A five-year-old neighbor, Travis, came over to join us carrying a carrot and box of raisins in one hand, and an umbrella in the other. “It’s my force field,” he said, by way of explanation. He, too, spent a few minutes of his time helping me roll the second snowball across the yard before abandoning the task in favor of stockpiling snowballs. As I worked on my snowman and Sophie sat in the driveway now (as I had cleared much of the yard) moving on to dessert, Travis updated me on his progress, “I have four!” “Now I have seven!” Growing worried, I took a break to generate my own small pile of artillery. Travis shot me a taunting smile, and I held up a snowball threatening, “Throw it!” he ordered me, crouched down on the ground and hopeful I would hit him. I threw my snowball and it landed just short of his feet, “Missed me! Missed me!” he cried gleefully, “And now I’ve got ANOTHER snowball,” he announced, scooping up the broken snow at his feet. “Eight!” Sophie then started packing her own and I took a couple shots at her, too, before completing the snowman’s head. I could barely lift it and it landed at a precarious angle on top. Not pretty, but done. Travis thrust the carrot into the middle of the snowman’s face, quickly returning to his snowballs, while Sophie begged to have an umbrella like Travis’. Okay, okay, I said going into the house and fetching her a force field. I wanted to be finished with the snowman, but they wanted to be doing. It was a difference, I noticed. Their engagement in process, mine in product. As I shoveled the walk, they moved to snow angels, and as I cleared the driveway, I dumped shovelfuls on top of Sophie, burying her. Soon Travis had to head home for lunch…we never did have that snowball fight. Sophie and I headed into our house for Snow Princess decorations—jeweled flip flops, a plastic lei, a feathery tiara and a magic wand. Sophie set the flip flops at the Snow Princess’s feet while I decorated the parts out-of-reach. Once we were finished, Sophia threw her arms around her and declared, “she’s my best friend!” I realized that we had been out for about two hours. I had forgotten to go to the gym, forgotten to thrown on the wash and was nowhere but here, in my denuded front yard with Sophia and the Snow Princess.
We headed inside to warm up with a bath and hot chocolate. Later we peeked out at the Princess. She was still there. And the snowballs remained on my porch, growing smaller as the afternoon sun rose higher. This is who I want to be.