DORY'S DIARY: The perfect snow for making people
January has seemed more like March than the time of year when we should be deep in the winter of things.
Still, we don’t know what to expect as we edge towards a real spring, so maybe we should look back with a longing glance at what used to be.
When you began seeing snowflakes fluttering down and beginning to cover the earth, it used to make one think and anticipate the makings of a snowman.
We used to refer to it as a “snow man” because it only meant that we were going to go out in the snow and roll it into balls, stacking them one on top of the other until we had what we thought of as an inanimate person. It could be man or woman or child. We didn’t think of it as particularly one or the other except for size and what we added for identity.
Those were the days before we had to be so politically correct. We knew what we meant without being so specific and no one got out of joint about it.
When we donned our coats, boots, cap, and gloves and headed outside to play, we weren’t thinking about the outcome except that it would be as large as we could reach or have help in putting the head at the top. Then we considered whether it should have a bonnet on its head or a pipe in its mouth making it a Mom or Pop.
What child hasn’t tried his or her skill at the task just for fun?
It takes a special kind of snow to make snowballs and to adhere into a growing ball by rolling it on the snowy ground in order to make a snowman.
We’ve had both already this year, the first being powder snow that blew about the earth, moving freely into the air under the sweep of a broom or the shovel. No snowmen can come from that. It is the wet snow that fell later, and I expected to see snowmen in every yard where a child was living; even some who were no longer considered a child.
In my youth I took part in the custom although without as much enthusiasm as most. Someone else always had to lift the balls of snow into place, the largest on the bottom, then a smaller one for the upper body and a small one on top for the head.
Once the figure was in place, we found more fun in dressing it with a scarf about its neck, a pipe of some kind in its mouth, pieces of coal for eyes and nose. If we could find an old hat, it went on the head, or a scarf would do. Sticks or tree branches made arms. A broom or long-handled shovel would serve to stand against its side to look industrious. Sometimes it turned out to be a woman with a bonnet on her head or an apron at her waist.
What a marvel we would have at the end of our energy level, and of course, the adults in the house would have to come out and look.
Childhood passed me by rather quickly and I was happy to turn the task over to our children -— and my husband who never lost the little boy in him. He helped our young sons build snowmen in the yard of his parents’ home out on Watson Street before it became 21st Street. Then he made them on his own volition in order to take a picture of them for our Christmas cards or if company was coming to visit.
One of his last efforts was in the winter of January 1996 when he was 72 years old and we were living up on the hill at Edelweiss Acres.
But, I must fill in some of the advance story to tie it all together.
Every month I enjoyed putting out decorations of a different kind, which he always enjoyed. Christmas had gone by and I tagged January as “toy” month even though our sons were grown and gone. I set about putting out my Mickey and Minnie Mouse collection, my small dolls of various countries and nationalities, paper-doll books, teddy bears and large dolls on the stairway, a train set on the coffee table, and a variety of toys everywhere in our large open-beamed living room. They all went well with my 7-foot-tall dollhouse. I was doing it up “brown” that year while we both had the touch of the child within us.
While I was so engaged, George had disappeared outside.
We were having a big January thaw at that time and snow on the barn roof was sliding off, turning under at the eaves to point icicles towards the barn rather than hanging downward. That meant camera time, so I knew he could be so engaged.
Eventually he came into the house and got his camera tripod, then went outside again. Finally he came back inside with a big smile on his face.
“There are some dolls out in the yard,” he said rather coyly. “Come out and see.”
He took my hand and led me out onto the porch and up the steps to the level of the yard.
There stood two snowmen made of the sparsely available snow mixed with leaves, both almost as tall as I at 5-foot-3. You could tell that one was a man because it wore his black Russian hat. The other was a little more shapely and had on the Scandinavian cap and scarf, which I had knitted, on its head and wrapped around its neck. He had found pieces of coal in the milk-wagon house to make faces with eyes, eyebrows and mouth, with a little red ball for our noses.
I was truly impressed, but he wasn’t finished yet. He had me stand by my cloned counterpart and, with his camera atop his tripod, he focused and ran to stand beside his own.
Now I have that image to remind me of that wonderful January Toy day in 1996 when “our” world was a wonderful place.