Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Bruce Levine

Photo by mali maeder on

The snow had fallen steadily for an hour, already completely coating the lawn behind their house.

            The three little girls, Jane (age nine), Ellen (age seven) and Barbara (age five-and-a-half) stood at the long adjacent living room windows and watched. It was a perfect place because all three could stand there and see over the sill, even Barbara.

            “If it keeps up like this we’ll be able to finally build our snow family,” Jane announced.

            It was a tradition that the girls had kept up yearly starting just with Jane and then as Ellen and Barbara each got old enough they joined until now they were a real team. So far this year there hadn’t been a sufficient snowfall, but they hoped that, this time, would be the time.

            The three girls had annually produced a trio of snowmen, their “family” and, consistent with their own sizes, the snowmen ranged in size like the three bears – the papa, mamma and baby – only the snow trio looked more like a haphazard triumvirate of miss-matched friends than any “family” group. And no one was quite sure of their gender since the clothes chosen at random from the garage box saved by their mother for these occasions could never be considered outfits to be worn by any self-respecting person let alone snowmen.

            As the day progressed and turned into evening the girls remained at their vigil. It almost seemed that they were willing the snowfall to continue.

            By bedtime there was already a foot and a half of snow and it didn’t appear that it would let up any time soon so, the girls hoped, by morning there would be enough for them to get to work immediately after breakfast – they knew that their mother would never allow them out until then no matter how they begged. Better, they all thought, to give in, eat and then make a dash for it.

            They had barely slept because the anticipation had been so overwhelming. Several times they had, individually or as a group, sneaked into the living room to check on the snow’s progress and, each time, were rewarded by seeing the white flakes continuing to fall.

            By morning, when they awoke, there was three feet covering the ground and drifts as deep as five feet. Even they had to admit that their mother was right when she warned them to watch out for Barbara who was shorter than the drifts.

            It didn’t take three minutes after their mother had managed to force them to eat what she called a good breakfast before the work had begun.

            The hardest part was simply to get far enough through the three feet of snow to begin work. It was actually a good thing that the basement door opened inward or they would have been trapped inside and now they faced a wall of snow.

            Ellen suggested that they simply use the snow as they went along as the beginnings, but even the slightest excavation seemed almost impossible.

            They were not going to be deterred they agreed by a silent covenant and quickly went off to find the appropriate equipment.

            By the time they got back, shovels and pales in hand, they discovered a trench driven through the mound – their St. Bernard, Henry, had come to their rescue by diving straight ahead and creating a cavern for them to walk through. Henry was now romping around and through the entire back yard, in total bliss at the freedom and abandon he was having as he leapt up and over the drifts until it was hard to determine which was more covered in snow, the ground or Henry.

            The girls now quickly went to work, rolling the huge balls to pile up to create each of their snow family. Several times Henry, who had saved the day earlier, now pounced on one of their creations causing total destruction of their efforts.

            Under normal circumstances the cold would have gotten to them and they’d have returned inside to get a cup of hot chocolate, but today they felt warmed simply by the fun they were having.

            It took nearly five hours of intense work, but, as it started to turn to dusk, the three girls were back inside, standing at the living room windows, looking out at their creations. They proudly showed their mother and told her the name of each, which they had pre-determined last summer in anticipation of this momentous day, and basked in the glory of the fulfillment of their dream.

            Now all they needed to do was to wait until their father arrived home from work to complete the nonet – father, mother, three girls, three snowmen and Henry.

            It had been a good day and everyone was happy.

            As the girls looked out the windows it started to snow again.

            “Maybe,” Jane said, “we can build another three tomorrow. How about one like Mom, Dad and Henry?”

            The girls laughed at the idea, but they knew that they’d be out there tomorrow doing exactly that.

            They tiredly waited for their father to get home to have dinner, but they also knew that nothing could take away their joy as they looked out the windows at their achievement.


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