Dancing and swirling, with winter's birth snowflakes had wafted over the breezes to come to their rest on the frozen ground. Infantile, the snow had remained there in its place, piling up and whipped about by the creative winds until children, laughing and giggling, had come outside to celebrate a day off of school.
With bright red mittens that stuck to the individual flakes of snow, the smiling, red-cheeked young ones had rolled in the snow to make the imprint of angels, and had lifted sloppy, wet handfuls of slop to fling at those who appeared less than enthusiastic about the frozen sugar that lined the ground.
The most industrious of the children, those that may not have been so creative, turned their talents to piling the snow into forts, or, at the very least, barricades, so that the children could act out mock-wars with snowballs.
To an unknowing bystander, the actions of the children must have been random at best. Lumps of snow represented houses, and patterns drawn with a stick were supposed to be magical symbols. The children, however, knew exactly what they shaped the snow to their purposes, and the patterns they formed were only discernable to those with the same imagination as the young creators.
Three children in particular had grand notions as they stepped off their front porch and the chill of winter first nipped at their exposed cheeks and noses. The siblings had already agreed upon the miraculous creations they would draw from the snow, and as they created deep boot-prints in the soft, powder-like snow, their ideas began to take form.
The eldest of the children was a girl called April. At the clumsy age of twelve, April had just begun to think of herself as an adult, and devoted much of her time and thought to acting as she believed an adult should. April flirted with boys she didn't even like because she was old enough to have a boyfriend in her own mind, and she wore tight and revealing clothes because she had seen older girls acting similarly.
On that magical snow day, however, April forgot her machinations to appear older or maturer. While she wouldn't admit such truths anyone, including herself, April was grateful for a chance to get away from the gossipmongers she called friends and to be a child again, if only for a day.
April's younger brother, Nick, made certain that everyone understood exactly how glad he was that school had been cancelled that day. He, too, devoted his efforts to creating a persona, but he played the somewhat rebellious bad boy who was only happy when he wasn't in school.
Nick's greatest secret was that he was far smarter than he let on, and that he actually did quite well in school. Teachers appreciated his inquisitive mind, even if they weren't so keen on his misbehavior.
As Nick stepped outside and saw the beautiful snow day before him, his imagination expanded and exulted in all the incredible things he could do with a building block as versatile as snow.
The youngest member of the family, Amanda, was only in first grade, and still though school was a fun place where she could play with other children her own age, color pictures, and listen to the teacher, who told stories. She wasn't yet old enough to worry about presenting a good image to her peers, and thus, didn't bother to deceive herself or those closest to her.
The three children danced through the snow, exulting in the magical, white world that surrounded them. Nick tossed the powdery flakes in the air and danced while they fell around him. April, who didn't care who saw, lifted a handful of snow to her mouth and imagined it tasted like cotton candy.
"You guys!" Amanda squealed, fearing her older siblings would abandon her and their plans for personal pleasure. "What about the snow man?"
"It's all right, Amanda," Nick insisted. "We'll build a snow man. April and I were just playing around."
The three converged near the front of the yard, where they could build a snowman that would be seen by the entire neighborhood as well as anyone who happened to drive by. April began the task, for as the oldest, she was the self-appointed expert on snowman making.
She began by walking through their front yard until she found some wet, sloppy snow, perfect for holding together. She made a snowball, and rolled it on the ground until it was large enough to serve as a suitable bottom. She finished by rolling the ball to the snowman's home.
Nick and Amanda followed her lead, but Nick, who still sometimes needed to show off his mischievous side, dumped his first snowball down Amanda's back. Amanda began to cry, and April, anxious to demonstrate how adult she could be, scolded Nick, who didn't listen.
Soon, the children all calmed down again, and their progress on the snowman continued. The progress was long and difficult, and anyone watching would probably assume no child had the patience to work so long in the snow. April, Nick, and Amanda had a mission, however, and worked with a single-mindedness only children could possess.
A few of the neighbor children paused in their own games to watch the erection that slowly rose in the front yard. The snowman was growing tall and strong. The bottom two snowballs were first large enough that they wouldn't suffer if someone knocked them over, and nobody would, for the snowman was too amazing to desecrate in such a way.
Eventually, Amanda grew weary of the task and retired to the warm house. April and Nick, who each saw him or her self as a particularly dedicated worker, continued their task, until finally, the three vertical snowballs stood proud, one atop the other.
April found more wet snow to use as cement to hold each of the snowman's sections together. She'd already used much of the best snow in the creation of the snowman himself, and some spots in the yard were almost bare of snow, although the girl was certain the next snowfall would cover all the grass again.
Nick, meanwhile, dug around each of the trees in his yard, and some of those in his neighbors'. He searched for the perfect sticks to use as arms- they had to be long, but not too long, and skinny enough that their weight wouldn't cause the snowman to topple.
In the end, he found only one usable stick, and the other he tore of a tree in the back yard. Nick felt a small pang of guilt as he remembered his father's lesson that pulling sticks off a tree hurt it, but Nick supposed the tree would be all right with just a little bit of hurt. The snowman had to have two arms, after all!
Just when the snowman's form seemed complete, Amanda burst out of the house with all sorts of garments. "I brought the snowman's clothes!" she declared. "I have a scarf and a coat and a hat and mittens!"
Amanda dumped the winter clothing in a heap before Nick and April. Nick smiled to see that Amanda had brought them snowpants, even though the snowman had no legs to put in the pants.
April, however, felt a twinge of horror as her old self began to peek through. Some of those garments belonged to her! What if her friends came to April's house and saw her clothes on that snowman! What would they think? They would accuse her of being a baby, and she would be unable to deny her hand in the snowman's creation.
In her best grown-up voice, April said, "Go on, Amanda. You shouldn't get these wet, because then we won't get to play outside again. Put all this stuff away."
Amanda stuck her lower lip out and complained, "Kyndra has to have clothes. She can't be naked."
"Kyndra?" Nick repeated.
"That's the snow woman's name," Amanda replied.
"This isn't a snow woman!" Nick declared. "It's a snowman! Who's ever heard of a snow woman?"
"It doesn't matter anyway," April declared decisively. "We're not using good clothing on a snow- whatever it is. Put the clothes away."
"Oh, I don't know," Nick argued thoughtfully. "None of us really wear scarves anyway. They might look kind of cool."
"No!" April wailed. She looked from the clothes on the ground to the snowman, and used the only final protest she could think of. "Those clothes keep us warm, right? If we put them on the snowman, he'll get too warm, and then he'll melt. You don't want the snowman to melt after all our hard work, do you?"
Nick didn't look convinced, but Amanda didn't need to hear another word. "No!" she cried, bending over to gather up the clothes. "No! She can't melt!"
As if she feared her siblings might take the clothes and force her new friend of snow to melt, Amanda ran for the door, and almost tripped as she pulled open the door. A mitten and a hat remained in the yard forgotten; they'd fallen from Amanda's arms and the little girl hadn't noticed to pick them up.
April sighed and began to gather the already wet clothing. "Where are you going?" Nick demanded as she headed for the house. "Are you going to leave me all alone out here to make the snowman's face?"
"I'll be out in a second," April assured her brother.
Nick shook his head, then removed his glove so that he could poke two dots for eyes on the snowman's face. After he'd added a nose and a smile, Nick decided that the face wasn't quite as convincing as he'd hoped it would be.
When April emerged from the house once more, she had a carrot and a couple of strawberries in her hand. Nick grinned as he realized why the face he'd drawn hadn't been good enough; snowmen's faces weren't drawn on, they were created from vegetables and such.
April dug the hole for the nose a little deeper, then thrust the carrot into the snowman's face, patting the snow around it so that it wouldn't fall off. "The carrot's a little long, don't you think?" Nick asked.
April agreed, but she didn't want to admit there was anything wrong with the nose. After all, she'd thought of using a carrot all by herself, and she wasn't about to admit she'd made a mistake to her brother. "I think the nose is exactly the right size," she declared.
Next, two of the strawberries became the snowman's eyes. "I wanted to use coal, but I couldn't find any," April confessed. She'd even dug through the bag of charcoal her father kept next to the barbecue, but she hadn't found any that were the right size.
Once the two eyes were in place, April still had an extra strawberry. "What's that for?" Nick asked.
"It's a snack," April answered, popping the strawberry into her mouth.
All that remained was the snowman's mouth, and that presented an unusual challenge. According to a song April had heard once, she thought the snowman needed a corncob pipe. Unfortunately, she didn't know anyone who smoked a pipe- had never even seen a pipe except for on television.
After a frantic search for a hidden pipe in all the drawers in the kitchen, April had concluded that no one in her family had a secret pipe addiction. She'd thought of bringing a banana outside in order to serve as the snowman's mouth, but had decided against it, ruling such action too silly.
Besides, April liked bananas. She wasn't going to waste one on a snowman, no matter how much fun she had building him.
Nick examined the snowman's face for a long while, then said, "I guess the smile I drew is all right. He really should have something be his mouth, though, since he has food for all his other parts."
"I think he looks fine," April declared, once more unwilling to confess that her idea had been less than perfect.
Nick and April then went inside to drink some cups of hot cocoa. April had already finished hers, and when Nick and April sat at the table, their mother exclaimed over how wet their coats and snowpants were.
After chicken soup for lunch, all three children went outside to play once more. Before they began their usual games involving snowball fights, each of the three stood before the snowman, admiring their handiwork.
Amanda hadn't seen the creation since she'd run inside with all the clothing, and so she spent extra long looking at the snowman's face. After a few minutes, she asked, "Why doesn't he have a mouth?"
"He does have a mouth!" Nick declared. "See that line right there? He's smiling."
"That's a stupid mouth," Amanda declared, and April was barely able to diffuse a fight.
If the children's mother had thought them wet and cold when they'd come inside for lunch, there was no definition for their condition at dinnertime. Everyone's face was cherry red after their snowball fight, which had involved several snowballs in the face, which were against the rules.
After dinner, Nick eagerly declared, "Last one outside's a rotten egg!"
"There will be no rotten eggs tonight," their father announced as all three bolted from the table. "It'll get dark soon. You'll just have to wait until tomorrow to go play outside."
"Tomorrow!" Nick protested. "But we have school tomorrow!"
"And you'll have plenty of time after school," their mother reminded them, and that was the end of the discussion.
After dinner, April trudged up into her room, and dug some hidden make-up from under her bed. Her mother had a rule that April wasn't allowed to wear make-up until she was in high school, but April knew things were different in the modern world than they had been in her mother's day.
All the cool girls at school wore make-up, and if April didn't as well, she would never live the shame down. No boy would ever talk to her, and she'd never have a boyfriend, and she would be marked for life as a loser.
April checked to make sure her door was locked and no one would disturb her, then she practiced putting on mascara before her mirror. She had some make-up hidden in her book bag, which April put on her face every day during her bus ride to school, but she still liked to examine her beauty in the mirror. She'd just have to make sure she remembered to take her make-up off before her mother came upstairs to tuck her in bed.
Meanwhile, Nick played games in his own bedroom with his action figures. "Rarrr!" he cried as his plastic dinosaur trekked over his bedspread. He then made the best sound of guns being fired he could manage, and smashed the dinosaur into a tiny plastic soldier. "Ka-boom!" he cried, throwing the action figures in opposite directions while he imagined a tiny explosion.
Amanda, meanwhile, dug through a closet in the hallway until she found her mother's sewing basket. Her mother didn't own a sewing machine, and she wasn't much with a needle and thread, but she new how to fix a ripped seam and how to sew on extra buttons when the originals had fallen off.
The sewing basket was full of needles and multi colored threads, but an abundance of buttons also rested in the basket. Any time her mom bought an outfit that came with an extra button, the button wound up in the sewing basket in the event that it would ever be needed.
Amanda considered her actions, then determined that her mother only very rarely lost buttons, and probably wouldn't mind if Amanda took a few handfuls for herself. She stuffed countless buttons in her pockets, then put the sewing basket back were she'd found it, leaving a mess of buttons and thread in her wake.
Amanda reached the living room, and looked both ways, but her parents were nowhere to be found. She little girl rarely disobeyed her mom and dad, but in her unusual situation, she felt a little bit of disobedience was warranted.
Unnoticed, Amanda slipped out the front door. The night was dark, and for a few minutes, the little girl was frightened, but a street light illuminated the snowman, and that made Amanda feel a little bit better.
With the exacting standards of a toddler, Amanda completed her task quickly but well, then slipped back into her house just in time for bedtime.
April scrubbed her face frantically. Her cheeks were red, but she wasn't sure if it was from the blush she'd put on, or just because she'd just scrubbed them so hard with her washcloth. She reminded herself that her room would be dark, and was certain she wouldn't get caught.
Nick grumbled to himself as he put his toys away. His mom always complained that she was going to break an ankle stepping on one of his action figures, and had recently declared she wouldn't come into Nick's room to tuck him in unless the floor was clean. Despite his tough-guy image, Nick knew he could never sleep without a goodnight kiss from his mother, and so every evening, he cleaned his floor.
Amanda rubbed her eyes as she climbed into bed. Her face was slightly red from her excursion outdoors, but her mother, who didn't know how Amanda had spent her evening, simply brushed a strand of hair off her daughter's face, then exclaimed, "Amanda! Your skin is as cold as ice!"
Amanda pulled her bedspread up around her chin and proclaimed, "It's cold outside. Now I have nice, warm blankets."
Amanda's mother smiled at her daughter's antics, but really, she feared that the girl might have a fever. She unfolded the quilt at the foot of Amanda's bed and tucked it around the little girl's small frame before leaving the room.
When morning came, the three children woke up to learn that school was in session that day. April smiled to herself as she checked to make sure her lipstick and eyeshadow were still in her book bag, and Nick groaned about the pains of his grade. Amanda smiled slyly as if she had some sort of secret that she was just waiting to reveal.
When the three trudged out to the corner to await their bus, Nick was the first to notice the change.
"Hey, April!" he cried. "Look at the snowman."
Sure enough, a miraculous change had come over the snowman. Where once his mouth had only been a line drawn on his face, now a half-circle of buttons traced a smile across the bottom half of the snowman's face.
In wonder, Nick looked to April, who gaped back at him. All of the children had been forced to stay inside the night before, and none of their neighbors would have dared touch their creation. So, where had this mouth come from? Had their yard been invaded by elves or fairies?
When the bus pulled up to the curb, a change came over the children, who momentarily forgot their reservations and their attempts to be cool. When they loaded the bus, they did so with their heads held high, for a proud snowman stood in their front yard.
The snowman had a long life, so far as snowmen go. For nearly a full month, he stood proud and tall, his button grin demonstrating his happiness and cheer to anyone who passed his constant watch.
However, all good things had to come to an end, and death reached all creatures. As winter drew to a close, the cruel sun grew warmer, and the snow that had once held the snowman up became slush, and would someday become water.
The first visible sign that the snowman might have been ending his life was in the droop of his stick-arms. His nose fell to the ground, the weight of the carrot too much for the melting snow, and his smile morphed into a wry line, seeming to suggest that the snowman was no longer happy with his deterioration.
When the children realized their snowman wouldn't be with them much longer, they tearfully gathered around the lump that had once filled their hearts with joy. Children from all over the neighborhood walked to that once magical yard to pay their respects to their silent friend.
There was more to the snowman's passing than grief, however. The sun continued to shine, promising new birth with spring, and the snow became water, which mixed with the frozen earth to become mud.
The trees and the grass and the flowers and the weeds and all the plants in the yard slowly began their annual rebirth, and they sent forth roots, which drank up the water on the ground, providing the new plants with nourishment.
Flowers opened, attracting bees and butterflies with their bright colors and heavenly scent. New branches sprouted from old trees, and the grass provided a cushion for Nick and Amanda, who ran through their yard barefoot. April lazily picked blooming weeds, and imagining them to be daisies, pulled the petals off one by one in an effort to determine if certain boys at her school loved her.
The leaves of all the new plants breathed clean, fresh air, and released the evaporated water up into the air.
The humidity rose, embracing April and Nick and Amanda as well as all the children in town. Of course, even the most romantic of the children forgot where this water had come from originally, and no one ever realized that the heavy, hot air may have been a hug from the long gone snowman.
The hot and humid air rose high and higher into the sky, condensing high above the earth, and eventually falling to the ground as rain. Once more, the plants and animals drank up the rain, only to release it into the air again. The cycle repeated countless times, until the air grew chilly again, and finally, the water fell not as rain, but as snow.
Each individualized flake danced in the air until it reached the ground. Sometimes, the ground wasn't cool enough and the snow melted, but one day, the blanket of snow remained on the frozen earth.
If water were able think, it would surely have remembered its home, and would have recognized its rebirth for the ordinary miracle that it was. Because snow fell every year, few people ever stopped to reflect in amazement that winter was as much a symbol for rebirth and new life as spring could ever be.
After the first truly hard snowfall, all the children of a familiar neighborhood, aged another year, remembered their happy days of old again as they burst out their doors to play in the snow.
Amanda, Nick, and April grinned as they emerged into the chill. The snowman would live once more.