Thanks to a recent warm spell, I had the pleasure of getting my fingernails filthy. My holiday decorations had to stay out a bit longer this year because I was outside during much of the weekend we typically reserve for un-decking our halls.
It didn’t seem like January while Hubby and I were raking, mowing, tilling and mulching. The vegetable garden practically sighed in relief as we hauled away the dead tomato and green pepper stalks. At one point, I thought our flowerbeds were going to spontaneously burst into full bloom.
Before long, we were uncomfortably warm and thirsty. By sundown, we were covered in sweat, mud and leaf grime. However, after two days of yard work, everything looked 100 percent better. Everything, that is, except us. We looked 100 years older—bent, stiff and sore from the exertion.
Typically, much of the yard work we finally got to last weekend would be taken care of prior to the onset of winter. But even when the freezing temperatures finally reached us, our south-facing garden wouldn’t give up. We were picking tomatoes, jalapeño peppers and various herbs well into November.
And then there were the leaves. As cliché as it is to say, timing is everything. Hubby was thrilled when some warm, dry, less-than-breezy weather coincided with a morning off of work. He spent hours clearing the fallen leaves from our property.
By the time he returned home that night, the winds had picked up. Every leaf left on any branch within a mile of our house blew down and landed in our yard. The next day, it appeared as if he hadn’t raked all season. That was the first week of December and the last day he had time to spend on intense leaf removal.
The leaves simply glistened beneath the glow of hundreds of miniature white bulbs. They actually added to the holiday spirit. I grew up associating snow crunching under my feet with the magic of Christmas. If I kept my eyes closed while I walked across the yard, I was able to imagine the crunching leaves to be cold, hard snow.
Part of the benefit of living in the South is having unseasonably warm windows of opportunity to catch up on the yard work. It can also be a curse if too many of those warm windows coax your bulbs into sprouting. With snow in the forecast, those plants are going to suffer. In April, if the flowers pop up at all this year, they will be tiny.
Now that the leaves are cleaned up, though, I want it to snow. Even if we get just an inch of wet sticky precipitation, I can make a snowman. It might take all the snow on our property to roll up a 36-inch Frosty, but that’s fine as long as we’re not rolling up a bunch of muddy, wet, half-decayed leaves.
And now that the yard looks presentable, I don’t mind drawing attention to it by having a snowperson or two erected for all to enjoy. We have carrots in the bin and an old hat in the attic. The hat might even be of the magic sort so as to bring our snow creation to life.
Of course, in the South, even if he did come to life, our snow guy’s life expectancy would be a bit short. Typically we don’t have to shovel our sidewalks after a storm, as the frozen stuff melts by noon. By suppertime, our winter creation would most likely be reduced to a wet hat dangling off of a muddy carrot.
Luckily, our kids are grown. This means we had nothing else to do with all the bikes they rode and we collected over the years. From trikes on up to their middle school dirt bikes, we had a pile of outgrown metal taking up storage space.
What does this have to do with our prettied up yard and snowmen? I’m glad you inquired. Hubby and I hauled the old bikes to our neighbor. This particular neighbor, Mike Durham, who was recently featured on a television spot regarding his talents, transformed the bikes into yard art.
So now, rather than owning a collection of rusting memories, we have a snow family. There’s a mom, a dad and a baby. All three were created from the scraps of my children’s bikes. Once again we can pull out their bikes each year and enjoy them.
Nobody is falling off and scraping a knee. No one is jumping over a makeshift ramp and hearing, “Stop that! You’ll break your neck!” But when we look at the family of non-meltable snow people, those memories flood back.
Snow or no snow, I’m glad it was warm enough for us to clean up the yard so we can proudly display our snow folks — real or recycled. Actually, I do hope we get a bunch of snow. A snow day is exactly what we need to put the Christmas decorations away.
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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of “Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville.” She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org