My three grandsons looked out the window at the falling snow. It had been snowing all day. The boys were driving us crazy. “GinGin! GinGin! Can we go outside?” five-year-old Seth asked my wife.
“When the snow stops.” Ginny replied.
“Poppa-Mike, can we go outside?” four-year-old Josh asked me.
“When the snow stops, Josh.”
When they couldn’t convince us, they turned to their mom. “Mom, can we go outside?” They asked Heather in unison.
“Josh! Seth!” Heather scolded them. “Only when Poppa-Mike and GinGin say you can. Go play in your room until then. You’re not going to make it happen any faster by pestering everyone.”
Two-year-old Benny was oblivious to it all. Blues Clues played on the television. He was content to watch Dora and her friends yell at Swiper, the evil fiend of the show. “Swiper! Swiper! No swiping!”
We expected company that day. Ginny and I were owners of an online support group for widows and widowers. Every year we hosted a Christmas party for the local members of our group. We did it for the children who lost a mother or father.
Ginny was adamant, the party could wait. She wasn’t going to miss her grand-children’s first experience playing in the snow. If things weren’t ready when our guests arrived, they could wait. The boys were more important.
The snow stopped. It was time. “Come on, boys. Get dressed! Let’s go out and play.” Ginny clapped her hands. “Let’s go!”
It took thirty minutes, three adults, and lots of patience to stuff three moving targets into their bulky snow suits. Seth and Josh had the strength to move their arms and legs. Benny? He was another matter. His arms, encased in synthetic restraints, stuck out from his sides, unable to move. The same restraints held his legs stiff. He walked with the gait of a young Frankenstein character.
“Is Poppa-Mike coming?” Josh asked.
“He’s going to get dressed and join us in a minute.” Ginny told him. “Let’s go!”
“What are we going to do, Poppa Mike?” Seth asked me.
“Make a snowman, Seth.”
“A snowman, Poppa-Mike?” He looked at me. “We don’t know how to make a snowman.”
“How do we make a snowman, Poppa-Mike?” Josh chimed in.
“Mmph?” Benny said from behind the two layers of scarf covering his mouth.
“When I come out, I’ll show you.” I said.
I opened the door and stepped into our backyard—a private winter wonderland. The boys struggled through the deep snow in the center of the yard. “Ok, boys,” I said. “Grab a ball of snow and roll it forward.” I demonstrated by rolling my own snowball through the snow. “See how it gets bigger.” They began to roll their own. I put the bottom of the snowman in place and started on the second ball. I lifted it into place. A snowball struck the back of my neck. Ice crystals melted and trickled down my back. I turned. Josh and Seth stared at me with silly grins on their faces. They’d obviously grown bored with their own snowman. To their right, Benny lay face down in the snow, struggling to get up. I got him on his feet, cleaned snow from his face, and turned to the older two. “Alright, you …” Before I could finish, a snowball hit me in the chin and melted down the inside of my shirt. “That’s it! You’re going to get it now!” I grabbed a handful of snow and returned fire on them. The fight was on. A snowball hit me in the head.
“I got you, Poppa-Mike.” Josh giggled. I grabbed them up and rolled them in the snow. “Take that!” I laughed.
When the battle was over, we put the final touches on their first snowman. I added the head, as the boys collected sticks for arms and pinecones for the eyes, mouth, and buttons. I found an old cap and put it on the head. From the deck, Ginny threw us a carrot for the nose. In the garage, I found an old broom and scarf to complete our creation.
“They’re you go, boys. You now know how to make a snowman.”
“Thank you, Poppa-Mike.” Josh said.
Benny said, “Humpff!” from behind his scarf and fell over again.
Later that night, after the boys were put to bed, I sat up thinking about Seth’s comment. “We don’t know how to make a snowman, Poppa-Mike,” he’d said. It was true. The boys grew up in the south. They rarely saw snow and never enough to make a snowman.
I’d made a mistake. I assumed my grandsons experienced the same childhood I did at their age. I knew how to make a snowman. Why didn’t they? It made me question myself. How many times have I done the same with other people I knew or met?
Everyone is different. We experience different things, and each of us has many things we can teach.