“He should have eyes. Here.”
“I can’t give him rocks for eyes.”
“Sure you can.”
“I won’t. Wait here.”
Wait here, that is.
I think all I’ve ever done is wait—not that I’ve been at it long.
I wasn’t, and then I was. And then I waited, and finally you came. You and your sister, tumbling and slipping and stumbling, working very hard to roll and shape and stack me.
You’ve given me a good, sturdy body, just so. And long straight arms—though they don’t seem to do much—and a scarf around my neck so I “won’t catch a cold,” which I don’t really think is going to be a problem, but I appreciate the kindness anyway.
“What’ve you brought?”
“Buttons,” you say.
“You’re right—that’s better.”
Then all at once I have eyes, and I can see. How perfect that the first thing I should see is you, red-cheeked and beaming up at me.
“Happy?” asks your sister. And of course I am.
“Yeah,” you tell her. “He’s perfect.”
“And I’m freezing. I’m going inside.”
Your sister stamps off through the white that goes up to her knees, but you stay, which I’m glad of, because you are my favourite anyhow.
“You’re just completely perfect,” you tell me, but your mittened hands find things to fix just the same. My edges need smoothing, it would seem, and my head is maybe just a bit crooked, and my scarf is draped in not quite the most flattering way. And perhaps I’m apt to topple over, and so I should be stronger around the bottom. You pack and press and better me until you grow so warm that you shuck your mittens.
Now that I’m sturdier I’m just right for sitting with. I’m glad to have you lean your head against me. If your head were crooked, I’d fix it for you in a jiffy. I’ll watch over you while you poke your fingers through the icy crust on the snow. Should anyone think to topple you, let them go through me first.
When you’ve crunched through all that you can reach and your fingers go red, you shake your hands wildly and tell me that they sting.
Then—“Oh!” you gasp, and all at once you’re charging off, taking the path your sister forged for you right to the front door.
I was alone before you made me, so I know how to be alone now, I think.
Someone goes by, picking her way along the icy edge of your street. She’s much taller than you—whoever made her stacked her good and high—but she moves slowly, like she’s sure she’ll fall. She could use your help. She’s not very sturdy, and I’d hate to see her fall. Her hands—on arms that bend, unlike mine—are shoved down deep in her pockets.
My head doesn’t turn, so I couldn’t look away if I wanted to, but that’s all right because I want to watch and see her go by safely.
She’s made more reliably than I though, because she doesn’t slide even once in all the time I observe her. She disappears beyond my sight, and I wish her well on her way.
Shortly after this, you return, flying out in a whirl of colours and clutching something in your hands. You’ve put on new mittens, I see. The other ones soaked through.
“I brought these for you,” you say. “So we can match.”
And onto the ends of my long, straight arms, you place mittens of my own, blue like yours and striped like my scarf.
“Dad says it’s going to get colder tonight. I hope you’ll be warm enough.”
It’s all right—I don’t need to be. Cold is my nature. But your gifts are wonderful, and I like them very much.
“And I hope you like your nose. I picked out the orangest one instead of the straightest one.”
That was kind of you. My nose is very fine.
You look me over once again, and I try my best to look right for you. I’d like you to see that I’m complete and proper, because you’ve made me well and I know that I am.
You must agree, because after some time, when your sister sticks her head out the door and hollers “Hot chocolate!” you give me a pat and race off again.
You made me so I could live my first day, and after a while when things turn blue I get to live my first night. Your dad was right, and it does get colder, but that only means I get to spend more time with you. A fearsome wind blows, but lucky for me I’m very sturdy around the bottom. My scarf is wound tight, and half-frozen to my body, so it’s safe too. All in all I make it very well through the night, but by the bright white morning I’m crushed to realize that one of my mittens is gone and blown away.
When the front door opens I long to be melted so you won’t have to see that I’ve lost your gift.
But—oh—it’s your sister who marches out as fresh flakes start to float down. She’s on her way somewhere, I can tell from her walk and the bag that she carries.
She passes me by at first, then doubles back.
She frowns at me.
“I said the mittens were foolish,” she grumps.
My bare twig-hand reaches out to her when she stomps away again.
Are you awake yet? Have you looked out the window to see me?
Your sister turns around a second time and approaches me.
She plucks her own mitten right off her hand and jams it over mine.
“This isn’t for you,” she tells me. “You’re snow. I need it more than you do.”
But she leaves it with me anyway as she goes, because we both know this gift is to you.