Here’s one thing you might already know about me: I don’t like wasting time. Here’s something else you might not know: For the first 39 years and 363 days of my life, I had never built a snowman.
You spend an hour or more trying to fashion a few oversized bowling bowls out of frozen water and then figure out a way to stack them. Your reward is that the whole project literally melts down in a few days, or even faster in North Carolina. Better to save yourself the trouble and peg somebody in the face with a snowball instead. Plus, I can’t build anything that requires more than scissors and tape.
When the heavens sent a few inches of great packing snow during a holiday trip last week to Pennsylvania, my kids, who hardly ever see snow, couldn’t wait to play in it. We chased each other around my parents’ yard, and, in a rather unexpected turn of events, I was the one who got pegged in the face with a snowball.
Then the kids hit on a genius plan: Let’s make a snowman!
Before I could encourage them to shovel the driveway instead, my 5-year-old daughter had already marched the length of the yard, rolling a giant ball that roughly equaled her body weight.
“How do you know how to do that?” I asked in astonishment.
“I saw it on Max and Ruby,” she explained.
Not to be out-parented, at least this time, by a television show, I rolled two more balls to make the mid-section and the head. And here was the strange thing: I kind of enjoyed it. So much so that when we had the body assembled I devised a plan for making a face out of holly berries and hair from pine tree limbs.
Then we built a second one that, in my humble opinion, was even better than the first. The kids were proud of our work but not prouder than their dad. For the next couple days, I regarded these masterpieces from an upstairs window, and this thought bubbled up. Perhaps my resistance all those years to building a snowman was not actually about wasting time. Maybe it was really about my own inability to simply live in the present moment.
I rarely do anything just for the sake of doing it. I like my activities to have a larger purpose and meaning. When it seems they don’t, my patience melts faster than a snowman in July. And yet, of course, our lives are nothing but a succession of present moments, many of which are lost as we anticipate future moments that will also be lost to inattention.
Somehow this cycle needs to be broken.
When we left my parents’ place yesterday, it was nearing 40 degrees and one of the snowmen had vanished almost entirely. The other was tilted sideways in a funky limbo pose, destined for collapse by lunchtime.
For me, however, the lesson learned from making them was fully intact.