The Extinction of the Snowperson

I have this fear that, by the time my children have children, the snowman will be extinct. And by snowman, I mean snowpersons and snow creatures of every type. I am realizing as I write this that there are some gender equality and inclusion issues around the term “snowman,” so just to clear it up, for myself, anyway, there is a certain symbolic Frosty-type, with a pipe and a jaunty hat, and when I say “snowman” that is who I’m thinking of, despite the fact that this Frosty-type “snowman” offers a poor representation of the diversity of snowpersons and snow creatures the human imagination can create. Nevertheless, this Frosty-type has become to me the poster child for the plight of the snowpeople, so when I say “snowman,” it is because I see his individual face melting sadly in my head, and not because I think he fully represents the snow population.

Back to the extinction. Since I generally avoid actualizing my fears, most of them are vague (Death! Destruction! Prolonged misery!), but the extinct snowman thing is pretty fleshed out. I imagine Christmastime some unspecified year in the future, and there are all the usual sorts of figures decorating trees and mantels and such—elves, angels, Santas, and of course, snowmen. But instead of being a cute representation of what one might actually create outside, the snowman is basically just a historical, or even fantastical, image. The kind of thing kids are unsure if they should take seriously. A child might look at a snow globe that has a scene of Santa and his reindeer flying over a cozy house with a stereotypical snowman in the yard (carrot nose and coal eyes, of course, though I am just now realizing the irony of the coal eyes—really, coal?) and say, “Mom, this this scenario seems plausible, except for this cold white stuff that you could sculpt creatures out of—was that ever real?”

Here in our corner of Virginia, my tame dystopian vision is not yet a looming reality. We have been lucky in snow this January, with two decent storms, each resulting in five inches or so—enough for multiple days of snow play sessions for my three children. I grew up playing in the snow, and for my kids to have the experience gives me a nice feeling, almost a feeling of accomplishment. We have performed the timeworn rituals of the parental lobbying for the need of snow pants, and the spending of 30 minutes looking for matching mittens, and the stuffing of rigid little feet into boots, and the first softly crunching step, and the sledding, and the creation of various snow figures. To watch the exhilaration on the faces of my children as they sled much too fast or freeze their little hands making snowballs is to experience time travel. To make then cocoa when they return inside is to invite the rare feeling of having done something right in life.

But a sense of heartbreak comes with it all. Because despite our luck this month, there have been in recent years winters where there was very little snow, or none at all. Even our snow this winter was slow to appear—December resembled a drab spring, and the daffodils, which bloom earlier every year, showed their yellow faces in an awkward attempt to brighten things up before the new year even began. Winter is transforming into something else, something uninhabitable for any creature of snow.

I realize that extinct snowpersons are very low on the list of things to worry about when it comes to the effects of climate change, and that the whole idea lacks any understanding of the complexity of its science. But I think it is the maximum of fear my brain can handle. My mind refuses to wrap itself around the reality of the droughts and flooding, the wildfires, and the extreme weather events, and focuses instead on the frivolity of the symbols, the myths, and the traditions. The snowman is the personification of all of the idealizations of winter—the beauty, the magic, the transience, but it is also a symbol of the dependability of the cycle of the seasons and of life. The snowman is a stand-in for all of the things whose disappearances are too painful to even imagine.

Cartoon Frosty, the ultimate snowman and my poster boy for the cause, encompasses all the snowman represents—from his naïve first words of “Happy Birthday!” to his gradual realization that his melting is inevitable, to his triumphant resurrection—we witness him experiencing an entire season, no, an entire life cycle, in a period of 25 minutes. Though there is much effort geared towards preventing Frosty from melting, he ultimately does so anyway, while escorting the child Karen to warmth in a greenhouse of poinsettias. This is sad for a moment—though she is but a cartoon depiction of a child, Karen’s grief is convincing—but in the end, Santa works some magic and Frosty is back just long enough to show everyone he’s okay before he flies off to the North Pole, promising to return next Christmas. There is no question that both the snow and Frosty will return the following winter. It is a given that they will.

Rewatching this recently, I found it creepily prescient that, after Frosty melts, the narrator says sadly, “It was too late.” Santa quickly jumps in to make it okay, though. “Too late? Why, nonsense!” he exclaims, and fixes everything with a monologue about the water cycle and the magic of Christmas snow. That was enough to save a snowman when Frosty first aired 1969. I don’t think monologues on soft science and vague references to the magic of Christmas are enough to save him anymore. It’s silly, but the Frosty song (which is heard frequently in our house, as it was one of the first songs my snow-loving daughter figured out how to play by ear on the piano) has taken on a wistful significance for me, especially the last line, Frosty’s farewell:

“But he waved good-bye, saying, ‘Don’t you cry, I’ll be back again one day!’”

Oh Frosty, let it always be so.

6 thoughts on “The Extinction of the Snowperson

  1. Beautifully written, as usual. It is always a sadness when a snowman melts away. I remember one winter making a huge snowball and putting it in my mom’s freezer hoping to save it until the next winter. Did it last until the following winter? I seriously doubt it, since Mom needed all the freezer space she could get in that household of six.

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  2. Love it. You’ve had more snow than we have so far this year Aunt J

    On Sat, Jan 22, 2022, 11:36 AM The Domestic Wilds wrote:

    > ashleycundiff posted: ” I have this fear that, by the time my children > have children, the snowman will be extinct. And by snowman, I mean > snowpersons and snow creatures of every type. I am realizing as I write > this that there are some gender equality and inclusion issues ar” >

    Like

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