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how to make a smowman…

November 10, 2011

"Free America" snowman screen saver

Today is November 10th.

Which means we are about three weeks (more or less) away from our first real snowfall of the season.

The reason I mention this is because I read today that a patent has been taken out in the United States for a machine that will make you a “perfect” snowman every time you use it.

Just plug it in, pour in the required amount of water, and turn it on. It will make a perfect snowman every time!

You won’t see them for sale in Wal-Mart just yet, but they are coming soon. Isn’t that awesome!?

When I was a kid (around that magic age of eight, or nine), I remember that my brother and I would have to stand by the window and watch and wait for the snow to fall; eagerly anticipating great piles of pure brilliant white wonderfulness.

I remember how we stood by the window, watching the snow fall, learning from my grandfather the signs that revealed whether it was going to be a slight skim of new snow, or great oceans of snow in which school would be closed and life would be wonderful. It was not uncommon in those days to get weekly storms of thirty or forty centimeters, from mid-November straight through April. To my grandfather’s notions, it didn’t really become a serious snowstorm until you had those whaling Arctic whiteouts that swept in from the Prairies and across Lake Superior, to then shriek down the Ottawa Valley, dropping 60-70-80 centimeters at a time, and piling snow drifts against the barn doors so high that it sometimes took me more than an hour to shovel them out.

“Oh, such magnificent castles and forts we built in the snow!”

Behind our great castle walls, my brother and I had mighty-pitched battles over good and evil. We dug such elaborate backdoor tunnels that lead us from one castle to the next. We would lob snow-grenades from one foxhole to the next.

Around that time in my life, my parents business began doing well enough that my mom could afford to buy us those new-fangled things from the Sears catalogue called “snow suits”. After a lifetime of having to wear endless layers of clothes – long underwear, tee-shirts, flannel shirts, wool sweater, coat – which were mostly hand-me-downs passed on from older cousins to me and then onto my younger brother…now we had these light-weight space suits which you could zip in and out of in a matter of seconds! The suits were a godsend to my mother.

How many winter hours she had used up in the simple task of just dressing and undressing us so that we could “go outside and play”; and when we “just came in to use the bathroom”.

Our snowmen were made on those mild winter days  just warm enough to made the snow gluey, and constructable. Castle walls were re-fortified on such days. Igloos were made. Snowmen were rolled.

Our snowmen were always lurching in one way or another. They were often made purposely ridiculous. There was drunk snowman. And sad snowman. Quicksand snowman, and head-on-backwards snowman. Once, when the weather turned warm in mid-December, we were able to make Santa Snowman. One week-long January thaw, we made a whole snowman family. Mom, dad, two kids. A dog.

My mother still says she never laughed so hard as the day she drove into the driveway and saw Big Penis Snowman. (One of my last snowmen – I was nearly twelve by then.) I remember she told us we were silly for making him so very gifted, and that we should take it down before the neighbours saw it. Apparently, our neighbours were strict Pentacostals, and they would say – my mother said with a grin – that she was a bad mother if it was allowed to stay in the yard. But, we were not to take it down until after our father got home. He had to see it first.

Which, I can still recall, he too found wonderfully amusing.

We once made a bunch of little tiny snowmen, and placed them on the downslope edge of our front yard, and then rolled a huge ball of snow up behind them. My brother and I pretended we were evil giants, and the townsfolk were about to be crushed by the giant runaway snowball. In evil triumph, my brother and I thumped our chests like gorillas.

My dad had a snowplow on the front of his truck and he would pile the snow in the driveway as high as the truck could get it to go, and my brother and I would climb those majestic mountains of snow, and we would be kings; benignly and self-righteously ruling over all the village folk who lived in the great white fields of snow below…

On Saturdays we would play outside in those great ocean waves of snow (a thousand miles away from school) until the freezing tips of our fingers became so painful it drove us back indoors. And once inside, my mom would be pulling fresh-baked peanut butter cookies from the oven; to have with our hot cocoa.

Now, I can get a machine that will build my kids a perfect snowman every time. We can turn it on when we are going out to swim lessons, or Kuman class, and when people pass our house they will see our perfectly made snowman, and they will think to themselves, “how wonderful” that he plays with his kids, and together they make such perfect snowmen.

Maybe, if we have time on the way home, I’ll take my kids to that new Tim Horton’s at the end of our street, and we’ll have a hot chocolate together, and I’ll tell them what it was like when I was a kid’ and we had to make our own snowmen.

Calvin and Hobbes

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2011 12:56 am

    Wow Sherwood – beautiful and very touching story and all too sad commentary on our quickly changing times. Great work!!

  2. November 11, 2011 9:00 am

    Our snowmen were fraught with pine needles and dirt as we didn’t have more than three or four inches of snow. A snowman machine would have been nice, as long as my brother didn’t get one, too.

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