St. Stephen’s Day

Just before noon everyone begins heading home. Snow on the ground, wet roads, freezing conditions — perfect weather for sandals and a drive to the mountains. As some of our guests head off to the mountains of western North Carolina, L has other┬ápriorities: a snowman.

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We’re lucky: the snow is wet and heavy, easily rolled into balls. Indeed, we could roll up all the snow like a gigantic carpet: it picks up snow, leaves, grass, and all.

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When I was growing up in southwest Virginia, I rare saw snow, and even more rarely saw wet snow. It was most often dry, powdery snow good for skiing perhaps, but of little use to neighborhood kids wanting to create snow forts and have snow ball battles.

This snow is as easily rolled as insulation or blankets. In fact, it’s almost too easy.

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As K directs everyone to the front yard, we realize that carrying the growing snow balls is almost impossible.

“Roll them,” K instructs simply.

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Which means the snowman will be bigger than originally planned.

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By this time, L has lost interest and is more concerned about whether or not she’ll get to make a snow angel.

“We might be able to just before going in,” I tell her. “But it makes you very wet, so we’ll have to go in right after you’re finished.”

A tricky situation: L is sick (as seems to be the new Christmas break tradition — three years in a row), but snow is so rare, it seems a shame to herd her back inside so quickly.

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We finish up the snow man, snap a quick picture, then return to the warmth of tea and dry clothes.

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The theme of warmth and tea continues through the evening: a last dinner with friends to bring the 2010 Christmas season to a close.

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The familiar gender segregation returns, with the ladies in the living room, the gentlemen still at the dining table,

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and the kids watching Toy Story — probably for the tenth time for L.

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Things wind down: time for children to go to bed and K and others to prepare mentally for a return to work tomorrow.

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A bittersweet moment in the end: it could be the last Christmas we spend with one family, as they’re contemplating a return to Poland. Maybe we’ll get together next year; maybe we’ll only be able to share Christmas wishes over the phone. But for now, we depart, looking forward to Friday’s Polish New Year’s Eve party.