Hi everyone. I’m so sorry for how long it’s been since I’ve posted– I’ve been busy with school and all kinds of stuff that I may write about at some point, hopefully.
This most recent semester of college, I took a creative writing class in which I wrote a few good pieces, so I was thinking that I might post them here. I’m also hoping to write some other pieces soon, too, but last time I thought I was going to post with regularity, it didn’t end up panning out, so… we’ll see. Anyway, below is a creative nonfiction essay that I wrote for my class. Enjoy!
I didn’t build my first snowman until I was in college.
I grew up in a part of New Jersey where schools close at the sight of a single snowflake for fear of being sued by some litigious parent with too much time on their hands. Where I lived, we got snow relatively frequently, but it was a rare treat to get enough snow to really play in. The winter that I was in seventh grade (2009-2010), however, was a winter that just didn’t seem to quit. We had multiple storms that dumped lots of snow on my front lawn, and of course, my school had many snow days.
One of these particular days, in February, I had been waiting for my bus at the bus stop for around half an hour before I finally decided to just walk home, thinking I’d somehow missed the bus. My parents, disgruntled that they were now going to have to drive me to school, began to clean up breakfast. Suddenly, as the plates clattered and dishes scraped against each other, the sound of the phone ringing pierced through the commotion like a lighthouse through fog. Time seemed to slow down for a moment as my dad wordlessly answered the phone. A good sign, surely, since the call that school is cancelled would be a robocall. Finally, he hung up the phone.
“No school,” my dad informed me.
I cheered, and prepared to settle in to watch the snow fall. Ever since I can remember, whenever enough snow fell to cancel school, I’d go outside to play in the snow by myself. My two half siblings were much older than I and lived with their mom, and my neighborhood was fairly small and didn’t have many kids my age, so it was usually up to me to create my own sort of fun– especially on snow days, when no parents would drive their kids over for a playdate. Unsurprisingly, this meant that I couldn’t do many of the things most kids remember being the most fun on snow days– snowball fights, building a big snowman, or really anything that required the effort of more than one person.
I spent most of the day sitting in front of the window like it was my job, watching as each large snowflake followed its own path through the air and eventually to the ground, where it would join its companions. When the snow finally stopped falling, I ran to the hall closet to prepare to venture out into the snow. I found my snow pants that were just barely still big enough for me, my coat that was still somehow too big for me, my gloves that had been mismatched over the years, and one of the many knit hats that I had acquired throughout my life. Finally, I slipped on my snow boots and ventured out into the white wonderland that awaited me.
On this particular day, I sat down in the snow for awhile, deciding what I wanted to do. The shrieks of my younger neighbors starting up a snowball fight a few houses over startled me out of my daze, and I realized that the daylight was fading fast– I had to get to work. Normally, I would attempt to build something out of snow, fail, become frustrated, and go inside for some hot chocolate and TV. But this time, this time, I was going to do it. I decided to try to build a snowman.
Of course, growing up without siblings or parents that played in the snow much as children, I had no idea how to even begin building a snowman. On TV, it seemed like they just sort of started to roll some snow together. It looked so easy, but everytime I tried, the snow would just disintegrate, as if the snowman just couldn’t keep it together long enough to let me feel like I could do this simple thing. I remember hoping that my neighbors weren’t paying too close attention to what I was doing, because it must’ve seemed strange to see a preteen frustratedly digging shallow holes in the snow and becoming more and more flustered. I tried starting with an ice chunk created by the plow piling snow by our mailbox, but nothing seemed to work, and finally I went inside in a huff.
One night seven years later, in college in upstate New York, my boyfriend Aidan and I ventured out to build a snowman. As I slowly put on my coat, hat, and gloves, I couldn’t help but hope that this would be it– this would be my first snowman. I tried to keep my excitement to a minimum as Aidan and I made our way through the pristine white field toward the privacy of the woods– I didn’t want anyone to see how terrible I was probably going to be at building a snowman. On the bright side, the snow was the perfect consistency for snowman construction; the temperature had gotten warmer since the snow fell, but stayed cold enough for the snow to have melted just enough so that it packed together extremely easily.
“Okay, so first, create a small ball, and then just start rolling it along. It might break up, but that’s ok, just keep trying,” Aidan said, beginning to roll up some snow. I watched, amazed at how easy he made it look.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever made a snowman before,” I mused, attempting to follow Aidan’s lead. I began gathering up enough snow for a small ball, and attempted to roll it along.
Aidan, coming from a large family with three siblings, raised his eyebrows and his voice in amazement. “Never? You’ve never built a snowman? That’s so… sad!”
We both laughed, and as I turned my ball of snow a few times, I was surprised by the fact that the small snowball I had started with was rapidly becoming a snow boulder. I pushed, turned, flipped, and struggled with the cold mass until I had a ball that almost reached waist height and that neither Aidan nor I could push any further. I couldn’t believe how heavy that ball of snow was.
Aidan and I both struggled to lift the ball that he had rolled onto my giant one, and even with both of us lifting, we couldn’t even get it off the ground. As a physics major, I understood why; the snow was extremely dense, especially since it was packed so tightly. However, in that moment, I was just a child, astonished by the fact that snow could be so heavy and compact just from rolling it along. Before my eyes, this form was beginning to take shape, and I realized that there would have been no way for me to construct this by myself, especially when I was younger and weaker. But mixed in with the thrill of creating something tangible, I felt a sort of quiet remorse. In a way, as a child, by not going and joining the neighborhood kids in the snow– by not looking for and meeting new friends in my neighborhood– I had insisted on being alone. And I suppose, in a way, I allowed myself to miss out on some really fun experiences.
After multiple attempts to lift the midsection onto the base of the snowman, Aidan and I decided to break up Aidan’s ball into two (one for the torso and one for the head), and finally, the body of the snowman was constructed. Overjoyed, we packed snow on and around our creation, found him some stick arms, and made a face from some twigs.
“What should we call him?” Aidan asked.
“Edward Snowden?” I laughed, amused by my own pun.
“No, I feel like he needs a real name…”
“For some reason, I feel like he’s a Dewey,” I replied.
And with that, I had participated in making my first snowman: Dewey.