Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saga of the Snowmen

Winter is officially upon us! Last year it didn't snow here until very late in the season and even then it was just a dusting. I was very surprised when it began snowing last week! I was even more surprised when the snow stayed on the ground and piled up enough to build a snowman!

My husband grew up in the Midwest so he's an expert at skiing, shoveling, and snowmen. I spent all of my life (before Germany) in the South where I became an expert at swatting mosquitoes, driving Four Wheelers, and eating boiled peanuts. To make up for lost time, I was determined to build my first snowman on my own. My husband stood back on the sidewalk and shouted helpful instructions and encouraging words. We even had carrots and coal handy for the nose, eyes, and mouth. I named him Maxwell.

Maxwell, My First Snowman
I was very proud of the finished product and I posed beside it in a photo shoot in front of the house. I patted myself on the back for a job well done and went inside to warm up and email all of my family and friends back home to brag about my accomplishment.

Less than ten minutes later, my husband opened the curtains facing the front yard to look out at Maxwell. He gasped and said in a low voice, "Someone knocked him over."

I thought he was joking and I was still smiling when I reached the window. Then I saw it: a crumpled, snowy mass with the imprint of the perpetrators' boots. Luckily his face was still mostly intact. I was able to identify Maxwell by his carrot.

Maxwell's Crumpled Face
We stood at the window, our shocked faces reflecting back at us. Ridiculously, I felt the urge to cry since I'd waited so long to build my first snowman and it had been viciously murdered in a few moments. My husband comfortingly put his arm around me and said, "Let's rebuild it."

"No," I almost sobbed. "I've already gotten warm and my toes almost fell off the first time because it's so cold. I can't... I don't have the strength."

He nodded sympathetically and turned back to the sight of the massacre. Suddenly his gaze turned from solemnity to anger and he raised one fist in the air and yelled, "WE SHALL REBUILD HIM!!!" Okay, those weren't his exact words but it was definitely a rallying cry.

He bolted from the room, threw on his coat and gloves, and marched outside to begin Maxwell 2.0. It all happened so fast and I was still standing at the window when I saw him emerge from a corner of the house, pushing a huge pile of snow that was quickly becoming the size of a boulder. I got dressed and stepped outside gingerly as he passed me again, the base growing larger and larger. After another push he turned to me and said gravely, "Get another carrot."

I chose the best carrot we had. By the time I made it back outside, the base was up and it was mighty. He was already working on the middle and colorfully narrating.
"Those little punks will learn not to mess with us! They're amateurs! They don't know I grew up in Chicago!!"

We were huffing and puffing with such gusto that several of our neighbors slowed their cars to watch the spectacle. As each car passed, we eyed them suspiciously and wondered if they (or their punk kids) were the culprits.

I cheered and clapped when Maxwell 2.0 was finally finished. My husband wiped a snowy, gloved hand across his sweating brow and said, "I'm not done yet."

Maxwell 2.0

He erected a "pedestal" beside the new snowman and placed Maxwell's head on top of it. As he hoisted the head on top, he said, "When they walk by, I want to make sure they see what they've done!"

As a final touch, he sprinkled everything with water and declared, "I want this to be here when everything else has melted. It will be a testament to our perseverance in this neighborhood!"

We kept vigil for the remainder of the evening. My husband had his running shoes ready at the door and he was prepared to chase down anyone who attempted to sabotage our snowmen. The night passed uneventfully, except for all of the cars slowing down so the passengers could stare.

After living here for over a year, most of our neighbors will acknowledge us. I wouldn't say they're particularly friendly but at least most of them nod as we pass each other while walking or driving. It took over half a year to even reach this point. Everyone keeps their yards meticulously trimmed and landscaped, and we really do try our best. I don't sweep the sidewalks or wash the windows like a good German hausfrau but our little corner of the neighborhood is presentable.

Oftentimes, people allow their dogs to relieve themselves in our yard and we also discover trash tossed into our yard and on the pathway leading to our door. We try to tell ourselves that it isn't because we're American but sometimes it's hard to think of any other reason  because no one else's yard is disrespected in those ways.

I treasure the experience we have in this country and I feel very fortunate to call Germany my host home. But  I know that even if we lived here forever, we would always be "the Americans" in the neighborhood. I must admit that it felt amazing to finally have a way to say, "You can let your dogs poop in our yard and you can even throw your candy wrappers in front of our door, but you WILL NOT tear down our snowman!"

The spirit of America is alive and well within us!

Incidentally, the original Maxwell fell off the pedestal on his own the next day. All of the snow melted a few days later but Maxwell 2.0 lorded over the yard, tall and white... in a blanket of verdant grass.

Perhaps this little stand will put an end to the dogs and litter in our yard. At the very least, the rest of the neighborhood now thinks we're crazy and that kind of thinking can inspire a kind of fear of its own. All I know is that there will now be a dark spot on that grass and it will forever remind us of December 7, 2012: The day the Americans took back their yard.

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