Yesterday was a perfect snowman day. It was about 34 degrees. The seven inches of powder which fell earlier this week, covering the icy sediment below and closing schools on Tuesday, had softened up into a beautiful, dewy slush. After dropping Paul at work and Katie at school, Caleb and I indulged in an impromptu snow fight, and every handful of snow became an instant snowball, no packing required. One missile, targeted at my head, missed and hit the side of our apartment building instead. It clung there in an icy clump of mush; I could almost see the word “splat” hanging in the air above it. Like I said, a perfect snowman day.
After we picked Katie up that afternoon, the three of us headed over to North Idaho College. The students hadn’t yet returned to class, and the campus was covered with acres of pristine, undisturbed snow. At least, it was undisturbed before we got there. After spending the whole school day obeying a “no snowball throwing” rule, Katie was eager to paste her brother with a couple of good ones, so the snowball fight continued with Katie in my place. (I declared myself off limits–you know, since I was holding a camera and all.)
Twenty minutes later, once the artillery ground to a halt and the mutual whitewashes petered out, we got down business: our snowman. Conditions were so ideal that the snow nearly rolled itself into balls, and before long we had the traditional three-tiered personage taking shape beneath our hands. But Katie seemed upset. “Wait a minute! How can we make a snowman when we didn’t bring a carrot for the nose?” she asked. I declared it a problem-solving opportunity and set her to finding embellishments for our icy friend while I worked at stabilizing and smoothing the snowman’s structure. She came back with two long sticks for arms, and for the nose, a short, fat twig that substituted very well for a carrot (with the added benefit of being less attractive to Bambi and his relatives, who often come down from the surrounding woods to graze.) Being fresh out of lumps of coal, I had to improvise some eyes and a mouth from the tiny, hard cones I found underneath a nearby fir tree.
Finally, we stood back to admire our handiwork. It was getting dark, but I snapped a few pictures with my pocket camera, praying that I wouldn’t drop it in the snow, since I couldn’t feel my fingertips anymore.
On our way back to the car, I asked the kids what they thought we should name our newly created frozen friend. Katie started to mull it over, but Caleb instantly piped up, “His name is Odie!” And Odie it was.
I know Odie won’t be with us long. The streets are running wet with ice melt today and every so often the silence outside is punctuated by the soft “whump” of piled up snow sliding off of the roof. Nevertheless, he’s already accomplished a lot in his short life. He’s helped to foster the creative spirit in two enthusiastic young minds. He’s brought smiles to the faces of passersby, invoking visions of their own snowmen and snowman days. And he’s contributed another brick to the house of happy childhood memories I hope we are building for Katie and Caleb.
Who needs a carrot?