When snow falls, the driveway beckons to be cleaned; and no matter what the weather, dogs must be walked, even on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is not celebrated in the states. Traditionally, this was the day when gifts were given by the British upper classes to their servants and to the poor. Servants were free to spend the day with their families, and cold cuts were the order of the day on the tables of the rich.
I awoke in the early morning darkness to the sound of a snowplow skirting the street, then drifted off again until the alarm sounded. In the darkness I dressed, pulling my clothes from the bedside chair. Outside, a wet white frosting lay on the driveway, not quite frozen. I started the car and let it warm up while I scraped off the coating of snow.
Mid morning I set out with the dog under a still grey sky. No one else had ventured out in the slushy snow. Coming back, I passed the remnants of a snowman standing in someone’s front yard. The head was no where to be found—only a torso and belly remained, draped with a long flowing multicolored scarf. One black branch stuck out precariously from the side of the torso—an arm previously raised in greeting now bade farewell.
I imagined the mind of the maker when catching the first morning glimpse of this creation, and reflected on Richard Wilbur’s poem, Boy at the Window, in which a 5-year-old child finds himself in a similar situation. In an ironic twist, the poet turns the tables in the second stanza:
Seeing the snowman standing all alone
In dusk and cold is more than he can bear.
The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare
A night of gnashings and enormous moan.
His tearful sight can hardly reach to where
The pale-faced figure with bitumen eyes
Returns him such a god-forsaken stare
As outcast Adam gave to Paradise.
The man of snow is, nonetheless, content,
Having no wish to go inside and die.
Still, he is moved to see the youngster cry.
Though frozen water is his element,
He melts enough to drop from one soft eye
A trickle of the purest rain, a tear
For the child at the bright pane surrounded by
Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.
And so I received my Boxing Day gift. The dog seemed quite content as well.