Winter is the grain of sand in an hourglass falling from one end into the other, but not at either. Winter is the dark god dressed in black coming to clasp his tight, choking hands on a blade of grass or a maple leaf. Winter, in Michigan, is snow.
And thus it snowed.
Blinding whiteness stretched as far as the eye could see. Sunlight reflected off the many facets of these crystals of ice, each snowflake like a work of art. Indeed, it seemed like a winter wonderland, the realm of every child's dreams.
I sat cross-legged next to the porch window that provided a view of the landscape around me. I had long since become used to snow such as this, but it never failed to take my breath away.
I heard my mother groan as she saw the driveway covered in two feet of snow. By now, all the roads from here to Kalamazoo would be completely submerged under the same whiteness. It would not be a fun day for driving.
She sat there quietly, the annoyance on her face suddenly turning to a mixture of regret and serenity. Her eyes looked at everything yet saw nothing, as if drifting off to a world of her own or remembering long-lost memories.
"I wonder if there are snowmen out there today," she mused.
"What?" I asked. What on earth was she talking about? Of course there were snowmen. All little kids built snowmen. But it was uncharacteristic of my mother to care about things like that.
"Snowmen," she replied quietly. She seemed to go into a trance. "I remember the first time I met the snowmen . . ."
I raised my eyebrows. She met snowmen? This was something that I wanted to hear. "Go on," I coaxed, interested. "You met snowmen, and then . . ." I gestured for her to continue.
It turned out that she was more than eager to tell her story. Sipping a cup of hot chocolate, she began.
"It was a winter just like this one. As far as the eye could see, there was only snow. Miles and miles of endless whiteness that engulfed everything. The traffic on the roads was so terrible that it practically drove me nuts. Back then, your father went on business trips often. One day, a phone call came from the airport. It was your father calling for me to pick him up.
"There had been a blizzard, and everyone had been locked up in their houses for practically a week. Since then, it had been snowing continuously. Though the snow-plowers worked twenty-four hours a day, the road conditions were far from good. The worst part was that I could not see clearly. The wind howled and brought whirling snowflakes onto the windshield, hitting the glass at fifty miles an hour. Though I knew that there were a couple of cars in front and behind me, it was as if I was separated from them and in my own little realm of nightmares.
"Suddenly, the car stopped moving. The engine was still wheezing, but the vehicle just would not budge. It had just gotten stuck on a slope, wheels unable to move through two feet of snow. I felt a terrible frustration well up inside of me. I had to get to the airport soon! How was I supposed to do that when I couldn't even drive?
"I heard a sound. Looking, I saw someone knocking on my window. It was a couple dressed in heavy overcoats and wrapped in scarves. They had obviously been out in the snow for a long time, for they were covered in white. Moving clumsily due to their heavy clothing, they truly seemed to be snowmen.
"The woman who had knocked smiled warmly. Her husband, a middle-aged man with black-framed glasses, asked if I needed help. I nodded fervently. +
"The two went to the rear of the car and began to push with all their might. Despite the harsh weather, they did not pause. In a matter of minutes, my car was functioning again. I wanted to thank them, but they were nowhere to be seen.
"Remembering your father waiting for me at the airport, I rushed to the center of the city. Once there, I excitedly blurted the whole story to him. I also expressed the fact that I was eternally grateful, but that I regretted not being able to tell them thanks. When he heard this, he smiled. 'I know exactly how to thank them,' he said.
"The next Saturday, we walked up to a snowy mountain slope through which a single narrow road winded. It was freezing cold, but the warmth in our hearts was enough to keep us sustained for a lifetime.
"By and by, a car drove by and got stuck in the snow. I knocked on the window and asked the woman inside if she needed help. She nodded. We went to the back of the car and pushed her out of snow. "Once she had left, I turned excitedly to your father. 'She was one of the snowmen,' I told him, proud of my discovery.
"He looked skeptical. 'How would you know that?' he asked.
"Because of her warm smile,' I replied. Seeing that there was another car that needed help, he did not reply.
"He had glasses; he was a snowman too!' he exclaimed, teasing. I did not find it a bit funny.
"That day, we helped many people get across the rough path so they could go to where others needed them. And I knew that this was the best way of all I could repay the snowmen that rescued me." My mother stopped talking, the story having ended.
An hour had gone by since she started, and the main roads were miraculously cleared of snow.
"Did you ever find the original snowmen?" I asked, curious.
"No, but they're still somewhere out there, having brought spring to people on a bleak winter day."
I paused, wondering. This story was almost too wonderful, like a fairy tale. I propped my hands under my chin and stared out the window wistfully. "I wonder if there are still snowmen now . . ."
My mother smiled, her attention drawn to something outside the window. "I'm sure there are," she said, a mysterious tone to her voice.
Following her gaze, I saw a red minivan stuck in the small road inside our subdivision. Suddenly, I understood what she meant. Grabbing a coat, I rushed outside. My mother followed.
I knocked on the window to ask them if they needed help. Inside were a smiling woman and a man with black-framed glasses.