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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Snow Business

     “There you are; now, go out and have fun.” My mother had just tugged on the final piece of “fun in the snow” outer wear and, it seemed to me that she was a whole lot happier to be hustling me out the door than I was to be hustled. In fact, I hated the snow. That last idiot mitten to go on just capped it off for me, really. I mean I felt like one of those stiff gingerbread man cookies with my arms straight out from my body and my legs barely able to come together in that bulky snowsuit. Being reminded that there were lots of poor little kids that would just love to be so encumbered with warm outer wear did not serve to remind me of how grateful and happy I should be. To tell you the truth, in later years when I caught sight of the astronauts in their space suits, I felt sorry for them and was taken back, immediately, to those cold Montana winters as a child. If you were one of those “poor kids” who had the joy of never having to go outside during the cold winter snows or were so fortunate to have been born in a place where rain drops never turn white and fluffy, let me clue you in. A “snowsuit” in the fifties looked like this: First, it was put over the regular clothing of jeans and shirt so the bunching up of fabric from the sleeves and pant legs made the donning of the suit a time-consuming venture. We had to lay on the floor for mother to get the pants on us. The suit was thick with some kind of heavy padding. The pants were elastic wasted pull-up style and the jacket had a zipper that just never seemed to be interested in a smooth glide to closure. But, as happened sometimes, if mother had forgotten to thread the idiot mittens in the jacket before putting it on me, I was snuggly zipped up and the error only noticed when she reached for my hand to slip in a mitten--no mitten. Off would come the jacket, while the warm lower garb began to overheat my legs and lower torso. One mitten was threaded through the sleeve and the yarn connecting line adjusted to assure both mittens would be available for wear symmetrically. Okay, back went the jacket, zipped in the usual start-stop-yank-slide manner. One after the other my hands were clothed in warm mittens. Reaching the outside door, the hood was secured with a string under my chin. There was that last minute twisting /shoving each tennis shoe clad foot into the rubber overshoes and, finally, out I went to play. How I hated snowy, cold winters!
     “It is too early for you to come back in the house,” Mom said through the closed glass storm door a full five minutes later. “Why don’t you make a big snow man for Daddy to see when he comes home? He will be so surprised to see what you made.” Okay, waddling back and forth across the front yard, stooped over and rolling the increasingly large ball of snow, I joined my excited sisters in making a snowman for Daddy. Of course, finishing the lower part of his body was no problem, as long as it ended up in the place we would want the snowman to stand. It was the largest ball. Pushing the middle ball over to join the base was a little bit trickier and our snowman sometimes held that middle-aged paunch if the second ball had to be rolled a bit too far to arrive in the right place. No problem, though, Daddy could trim him down later. The last ball was the easiest because it could be carried over to rest on top for his head. Once all three parts of the cold, wet personage had been created and moved to the first ball, the three of us little girls tried, together, to lift his large round tummy up to rest on the lower section. This was quite a feat because to drop the ball would break it up and the whole process would need to begin again. New snow just was not wet enough to hold together right away. There was a lot of grunting and instructing one another to move this way or that; but, sometimes, it actually did get in the right place before it fell off. Then the head ball had to be set on the very top. Depending on just how big the first two sections ended up, we may or may not have been able to put his head on. Yes, there were times when Mr. Snowman was still in three parts when Daddy got home and it was his job to assemble the parts, which would be stuck to the cold ground and not as easy to hoist up as it would have been that morning! When all three parts were in place, snow was stuffed all around the area where the two balls came together. Once it had frozen in place, it would stay there until the thaw came. It is possible that when we were older the snowman actually did get finished before we were so wet and cold we just had to come inside the house, but I don’t really remember—although, that may be due to my constant focus being on just how to get back in the house in the first place! At some point, however, the snowy front yard fixture included a variety of elements to give him eyes, a nose, a mouth, and, of course, some kind of hat and scarf to keep him warm out there! Tree branches were stuck in the middle section to give him arms.
     Once back in the house, wet snowsuits and mittens lying over the wooden clothes rack stretched out on the furnace grate, we carefully sipped our steamy cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top. It was a treat that almost made it worth the wintery torture!
     Since Montana had cold and snow for, at least, half of the year I could hardly wait to grow up to move to warmer winter pastures. There just had to be a better way for a kid to spend her weekends and Christmas vacations. Indeed, there was!

****Snow Business, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow

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