By BETHANY HUSS, January 31, 2022
I hear them the moment they wake up. Their shrieks of delight at the long-awaited snow almost melt me. I know I will be built well this year.
It’s only a few minutes before they stumble outside, their scarves flying and faces shining merrily. Eagerly, they fall to their knees and begin to form me, the snow, into balls.
“Look, James!” the little girl cries. “This can be the snowman’s head!”
“Good job, Emma. I’ll finish making his body. You can go find some sticks.”
“Ok!” She turns around and toddles away, happy to be given a job.
I wait patiently as James carefully sculpts each ball. First, he gathers a small clump of snow, rolls it around a bit in his hands, and then rolls it in the snow to make it bigger. I’m fascinated by the way humans have advanced so much of their world, yet making a snowman remains basically the same as it was 200 years ago. The children, the wonderful children, are always so excited to see me every year, and I’m sorry when I hear their complaints when I’m gone. I wish I didn’t have to go. I wish I could talk to you, tell you how sad it makes me to see you so sad.
When James has crafted three more balls, he calls Emma over, and together they roll the biggest ball where it can be seen from the street. James stacks the other balls, patting down the bottoms and tops beforehand so they won’t roll off. He lifts Emma up on his shoulder to place my eyes, nose, and pipe onto my face. After dressing me in a hat, mittens, and scarf, the children step back and gaze happily at me. I try to smile back.
“I like him,” Emma stoutly declares.
“What should we name him this year?” James wonders.
“Rudolph,” Emma says promptly.
“But he doesn’t have a red nose!”
“He has a carrot nose.”
After retiring as snowman constructors and volunteering as hot chocolate drinkers, James and Emma drag Mother outside to show me to her.
“His name is Rudolph!” Emma says proudly.
James rolls his eyes.
“Would you like a picture with him?”
Mother takes the picture, then shivers and says, “Ohhhhh, it’s cold out here. C’mon, kids, let’s go inside.” Mother has forgotten her coat again, just like every year.
She guides them to the house, but Emma breaks away and runs back towards me. She leans in, and wraps her arms around me, and whispers, “I love you, Rudolph.”
They visit me every day. They bring out books to read to me and toys to show me; one time, they convince Mother to let them eat lunch out in the snow with me. I am surprised when she agrees; she’s usually pretty uptight about things like that. Another time, I am watching them play with Chole, the Jack Russell Terrier, she dashes over and snatches one of my arms! I don’t mind, though. Even the dog loves me.
Like the children, I desperately want Christmas to come. James always gives me a new carrot nose, and Emma always says “It’s Christmas, Rudolph, Christmas! Did you know that!?!?” Best of all, they haul their new toys out here, just so I can see them. It’s been a lot of Fisher-Price toys for Emma the past few years, and last year she brought out her whole collection and told me all of her characters’ names. “And this one’s Mia and Zoe and Matt and Leah, and this one’s named after my best friend Hannah, and this one’s Lucy and Andy and…”
James loves music, and two years ago Mother and Father gave him a piano and lessons. He couldn’t take that outside, but he put it in the window closest to where I was, so I could hear him play. He’s really good at Für Elise.
They already told me what they want this year. Emma wants a playhouse, “the kind that sits on the grass and has the big red door!” James contemplated for a while before saying, “I think it would be splendid indeed to have new headphones this year, black if you don’t mind, darling” in that funny British accent he does. Then, he said out of the corner of his mouth, “If you have any trouble convincing my mother, just tell her they’re for school, alright? Thanks, Rudolph. You’re the best.”
As December progresses, they go sledding and ice skating, and shopping with Mother, but they still make time for me. When Father returns from his work trip, they bring him out to admire me. “You know,” Father says, “if I got a shovel, I bet I could make Rudolph even bigger.”
“No!” Emma replies. “Rudolph is wonderful, just the way he is.”
Aw, thanks, love.
I know it’s Christmas when their shrieks pierce the morning again. I can picture them scrambling out of bed and down to the Christmas tree, then back upstairs to wake Mother and Father. Even as I think of their joyfulness, a heaviness sets into my body. I hope they come out soon.
I hear paper ripping and laughter. I smell the cinnamon buns and apple cider. I wish I could watch them, but I can only stare at the empty road. Still, I can’t complain, because my favorite part is next.
James got his headphones, dear boy. He chatters on and on to me about all the cool features they have, and how he’s so happy he got black. And Emma got her playhouse. She says she can’t show it to me ‘cause it’s still in the box, but that Father will put it together in time for spring.
But her words sadden me, for I feel the familiar dullness in my head and the ache in my body. My arms are already beginning to droop, and I have nearly lost my nose. I try to smile for her, but my face has gone too soft. She doesn’t notice, though, and gallops back into the house.
It is simply the nature of things. I am given one month, one beautiful month, to spend with the dearest children. I get to watch them laugh and play and grow up together. It is a gift, it truly is, to be loved by the children. It is just this part that hurts, the saying goodbye. When humans die, their family gathers at their bedside to hold their hand. No one wants to watch a snowman die; it is too slow and too sad. But as I sink lower towards the earth and the snow around me disappears, I try to remember small, good things about my snow angels. Like how Emma says “yight” instead of “light” because l’s are hard for her. And how James can do any accent after hearing it a few times. And how Emma’s favorite color is yellow, but “not soft yellow, yellow like the hard lemon candies Mama buys.” And how James is always humming The Entertainer. These little things, they comfort me as the snow weakens and drips down my face, collecting at my nose.
My angels are my world. So I wait every year for the air to turn cold, and the clouds to grow heavy, and the soft drifting of snow to arrive. When you have something so wonderful to anticipate every year, it’s not hard to spend eleven months alone. For you know that one day, you’ll hear those beautiful voices, and see their smiles as they race outside, and feel their warm hands burrow into you, and you’ll be happy again. One day.