Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

A Southerner moves north and tries to master the art of snow


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"I don’t know,” I said. “He doesn’t really look like a snowman, more like Jabba the Hutt. Or maybe, it could be Jabba the Hutt’s girlfriend — it is wearing a purple scarf and black beret.” They agreed.

I was 36 and it was the first time I’d ever built a snowman. Growing up in New Orleans, I played outside during the eye of every hurricane, loved to “sled” down our bumpy levee in a cardboard box and ate sno-balls in the summer. I never caught a snowflake on my tongue, rode down a snow-covered hill, or made a snow angel. I didn’t even own a sweater until I attended college in Georgia.

When I moved to Manhattan, my winters were nothing to write home about. Snowfall in the city is only magical for the first hour. Then it becomes a slushy, gray mess that ruins every pair of pants you own. My friends knew I spent the winter months in hibernation, frequently stating that my body wasn’t built for the cold.

I moved to the Hudson Valley on the cusp of spring, when my children were 3 and almost 1, and the first snowstorm that autumn changed everything. I marveled at how the snow landed perfectly on every bare branch. I reveled in the complete still of a cold, white day. I watched kids drag their sleds up hills and ice skate on local ponds. It was just like the movies, and it was beautiful.

I bought my first snow pants and boots that year, and my kids and I experienced that first winter together. Every time the snow fell, we suited up. We didn’t last long in the cold, but we had fun crashing into the snow and making snow angels.

The next year, I fully embraced winter in the Hudson Valley — I bought a sled! Our first sledding experience was filled with squeals of excitement as we sped down the smooth hills in our backyard. Everyone had a blast! I sledded just as much as my children that winter, and I’m not sure who enjoyed it more.

My daughter was 6 that next winter and declared it was time for our first snowball fight. I quickly texted a friend, “How do I make a snowball?” 

Last winter was a new request: a snowman. Clueless again, I decided that we would build a small hill and then carve out each layer. The result was a wide, oval-shaped blob. We used large blue buttons as eyes, a carrot for the nose and sticks for the mouth and arms. My son placed one arm higher than the other. The kids chose to decorate the snowman with a purple scarf and black beret. Jabba the Hutt’s girlfriend stuck around for weeks, and we embraced her — often telling her hello and laughing at our below-average snowman-building skills.

This year, I’m better prepared. I’ve Googled how to build a snowman.


Gia Miller is a writer living in Katonah. She is still learning how to make a proper snowball.


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