More Than Snowmen

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snowman - Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr user, Mark Drago

The year was 1983, the holiday season was in full force, and my younger sister, Julia, was in bed with pneumonia. At the time, our family was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, situated right in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Needless to say, snowfall is rare in that area, but in the winter of ’83, we had the joy of experiencing the beauty of a white Christmas.
I remember Julia looking so pitiful in my parents’ bed, looking out of the window at the falling snowflakes but not being able to go outside to catch one on her tongue or scoop up a handful to launch at her sisters. That pill was even harder for a 6-year-old to swallow than any of the medications at her bedside.

While at Edwards AFB, my dad served as the Hospital Commander. As a Flight Surgeon, he worked long hours at the hospital mingled with the occasional temporary duty assignment at another military base. On the day of the snow, my dad came home from work early and built Julia a snowman outside of the sliding glass door in my parents’ bedroom. I think it must have been the most wonderful thing she had ever seen. She sat up in the bed, laughed and clapped her hands. The snowman that my dad built watched over her for the next couple of days. We still have the picture of Dad, in his flight suit, standing next to the snowman and smiling at his youngest daughter through the glass.

Funny how a little snowman could bring so much joy to a little girl. But, I’m really not so sure that it was the snowman. I think, even more, it was that her dad came home, worked right outside her window, and built something special for her because he knew that it would make her happy. It’s a sweet and treasured memory.

In my mind, this began as an article about building snowmen, but it’s become an article about something even better. In remembering the story of Julia and my dad, I fell headfirst into the beautiful reminder that memories are made in sometimes the smallest of moments or the simplest of gestures. Those moments and gestures are character shaping and love growing. Collectively, they build us into the people we ultimately become.

In this season, look for opportunities to create memories in moments. Whether it’s baking something in the kitchen, decorating a Christmas tree, singing in the car, playing games or driving around looking at lights, opportunities present themselves in many unique ways, grab onto those moments and share them with the people you love.

I think about playing in the snow with my children and all of the times we’ve rolled, stacked, and patted icy crystals into a three sectioned snow-body. I think about how we’ve laughed picking out stick arms, and how we’ve searched for big round buttons and the perfect carrot for a nose. I think about the laughter, the snowball fights, the storytelling, the teamwork and every single thing that plays a part in that traditional snow day activity. It all comes down to a very simple but profound truth. When I look out of the front window at our slightly lop-sided frozen creation, with my children in the next room, warm and dry on the couch sipping hot chocolate, I realize that we’ve built so much more than just a snowman – we’ve built memories.

Happy memories are like little vitamins for the soul. Children change physically from year to year, and that’s always quite obvious as their jeans become too short and their shoes become too tight. But we shouldn’t forget about the growth that is occurring behind the scenes – the growth that happens inside. Not to be measured with pencil marks on a wooden door frame, this growth is quantified in the very essence of who they are and who they are becoming. Creating memories in moments cultivates hearts for a lifetime.

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