58. The Sinister Snowman

58. The Sinister Snowman

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

The Sinister Snowman

The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.

~Ashley Montagu

“Hey Max, the snowfall from last night is perfect for building a snowman!” I said, perhaps a little too eagerly. Each year we spent Christmas in Sun Valley with my wife’s family, and each year I had to try a little harder to convince my twelve-year-old son to put down his iPhone or Xbox and play outdoors with me. As the beloved youngest of eight cousins at Grandma’s house, Max always had many readily available playmates. Still, I knew Max was my best hope for a snowman-building buddy, so I was selling hard. “All right, I guess,” Max finally mumbled. Not the excitement I hoped for, but good enough. We bundled up and went out into the snow.

“Let’s build a huge one!” I offered, trying to appeal to the boy’s natural enthusiasm for larger-than-life things. Max began to show a little more interest, and we used all of our combined strength to roll what turned out to be a massive snowball for the bottom of the snowman. By the time we finished, it was well over four feet tall, almost as tall as Max. “How the heck are we going to lift the body and head to put on top of this?” my son inquired. “We’ll figure it out,” I said confidently, despite not having the foggiest idea.

Next, we rolled the middle ball. Easily three feet tall, and heavier than we could possibly lift. “Now what?” asked Max, looking crestfallen and glancing at the imposing snowball. He was beginning to eye the window to the warm indoors. “Uh… hmm… let’s see…” I said, clearly befuddled. “Well I guess we could break it in half and put it back together after we lift it up,” Max offered logically. “Of course. Brilliant!” I said, revealing both relief and fatherly admiration.

After finishing the middle part of the snowman, we set to work on the head. We quickly rolled a sizeable but still lift-able snowball, and I was able to reach up and set it on top of the snowman’s body. We found rocks nearby for eyes and buttons. A quick holler to Grandma inside the house resulted in the perfect carrot for the nose. We grabbed some long sticks for arms, and a bendable stick for the mouth.

Finally, the snowman had all the standard snowman features, but there was one problem: He looked kind of creepy. Something about the misshapen black rocks for eyes and wide stick smile made him look a little less like Frosty and a little more like The Joker from Batman.

Me: “Whaddaya think?”

Max: “I think I’m cold.”

Me: “Well he’s awesome and huge, right?”

Max: “Definitely awesome.”

Me: “Uh, do you think maybe we might want to take another shot at making him a little cuter, maybe a little less creepy?”

Max: “I’m good.”

Me: “You sure?”

Max: “Yeah, I think he looks cool like this. I’m heading inside.”

We went inside and found Max’s older cousin Connor sitting at the breakfast table. “How do you like the snowman?” I asked.

Connor replied with intense enthusiasm. “It’s amazing! Huge, and just a little bit sinister! I get this strong feeling that this snowman is going to move a bit closer to the window every day until his carrot nose is pressed right up against the window and he is poised to attack us. Simply awesome!” I looked at Max’s face to read his reaction. He was on cloud nine, smiling ear-to-ear and shaking his head slowly up and down as though he had planned the sinister effect the whole time. Enthusiastic approval from his older cousin. Life was good!

Over the course of the next few hours the rest of the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents cycled through the kitchen.

“Oh my God, who built the monster snowman?”

“It’s enormous! We have had a lot of snowmen up here at Christmastime, but that is by far the biggest.”

“Is that thing going to come eat us for breakfast?”

Max’s snowman stood guard peacefully and uneventfully for the next few mornings as the family viewed him from the breakfast window. Then came Christmas morning. Every year at Grandma’s house, the cousins sleep in while aunts, uncles, and grandparents finalize presents and prepare Christmas breakfast. As the older generations busied themselves with Christmas Day duties, nobody noticed that the window shade next to the kitchen table was mysteriously closed.

Eventually one of Max’s uncles lifted the window shade. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents were all shocked to see that the creepy snowman had moved toward the house during the night. His carrot nose and stick arm hands were now pressed tightly against the window. His mouth and one of his eyes appeared to be bleeding. Two signs, written on cardboard and taped to the window, used eerily familiar holiday lyrics to announce:

He sees you when

you’re sleeping!

He knows when

you’re awake!

Aunts, uncles, grandma, and grandpa began laughing hysterically. Who had done this? Whose idea was it? Clearly the younger generation had decided on a Christmas prank.

As it turned out, all of the cousins had been plotting for days. Once the idea struck them, they couldn’t resist. They simply had to pull off this prank. It took all of the cousins working together late on Christmas Eve to pull apart Max’s snowman, move and rebuild it where it would have the maximum impact. Max was right in the thick of it all, cheered on by his older cousins who suggested ketchup as fake blood and the signs using familiar, but in this context, creepy, lyrics.

Surprises are a delightful part of the Christmas tradition. For our family, this year will always be remembered as the year that Max and his cousins brought a fresh element of surprise to Christmas. This year, it was the older generations’ turn to be surprised and to laugh wholeheartedly. It was the year of the giant sinister snowman.

~Vince Monical

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