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By Brent Davis
I stood outside in the cold. Waiting. The sun had slipped behind the mountains and the wind blew through the valley, taking with it what little warmth remained. The snow that fell the day before had melted slightly and was now a frozen winter blanket on the concrete outside the theater. It was Christmas and we had come to see the Nativity Story.
The crowd grew. People walked back and forth, huddling in groups to talk and stay warm. The line for the show wound through the trees along the walkway and the last person in line was no longer in view. It seems we were not the only ones to make the journey this night.
I tried thinking of warm things, of tropical beaches and hot equatorial breezes. These things were too far away and my imagination was not up to the task. I began to sniffle and I thought to myself "Why won't they open the theater so we could go inside and warm up?" and "We knew it was going to snow and be cold. Why did we come up here?" There were no good answers to these questions.
I looked for a place to sit. If I couldn't get warm and I couldn't go home, at least I could sit down and sulk into my own little world, avoiding all those around me who were cheerful despite the miserable conditions.
Behind me was a small wall. I lowered myself down to sit, scrunched up my shoulders and buried my hands into my armpits for warmth.
From where I sat, all I could see were the long coats, warm boots and the tasseled ends of countless scarves. An occasional pair of gloved hands would be holding other gloved hands. The conversations around me were all about family reunions, holiday specials on television and new regarding loved ones. They were oblivious to the cold and I smirked at them in contempt.
I tried blocking all this out by watching the fog roll from my mouth as I exhaled. Bored and uncomfortable, I sat outside in the cold, waiting.
Across from me was a flower bed bordered with landscape timber and raised about 2 feet high. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small foot wearing a black dress shoe push its way between and beyond two adults standing nearby. I watched as a little girl about 4-years-old emerged in the open area next to the flower bed. She was dressed warmly in a black coat, a red dress with white leggings. A brown braided ponytail dangled from underneath the knit cap tied upon her head, red mittens on her hands.
Good, I thought. Children don't like to wait. It won't be long before she starts to fuss and there would be someone else unhappy besides me out here in the dark.
A layer of snow in the flower bed had been protected from melting by the shrubbery planted nearby. With both hands, the little girl pushed her red mittens into the snow and, in short notice, she produced a snowball about the size of a peach. She patted and smoothed the snow until it was solid and compact.
I watched her as she scooped another handful between her mittens which were now very wet. Her fingers must be getting cold, I thought. My breath froze again as I exhaled.
I could hear her sniffle, but she kept on without a hint of discomfort. The second snowball was now done - smooth and small, contained completely between her two tinny hands.
She placed the second snowball atop the first. Both were now perched on the landscape timber rail. She ran her hand along the ground inside the flower bed until her hand closed around a small object. It was a leaf that had turned brown and hard in the cold. It was curled into a round snap and she placed her find on top of her snow tower.
Next, she found two small peebles and pushed them into the top snowball. She is making a snowman, I thought to myself.
She pushed her hands around underneath the shrub and pulled out a stick. Dropping it to the ground, she search again. Nothing. Then she turned her eyes downward. She searched the frozen ground. I watched her eyes stop in their glance, my feet in her view. I saw my breath freeze again as I looked down at my shoes. Sticking out from underneath my right heel was a small twig. I looked back at her.
I knew what she wanted. I lifted my foot. She carefully approached me and picked up the twig.
She quickly moved back to her task. She strained until the twig snapped in half in her mittens. She now had arms for her snowman.
In her excitement, she turned around and smiled at me. Her button nose was redder than ever and her lips were chapped in a wide grin. Her blue eyes widened and the joy shining from them warmed my soul. I exhaled. No frozen mist this time.
She returned to her snowman, making sure everything was in place. I stood and smiled down at her. She smiled back. I gazed at my surrounding with new eyes. I had forgotten how cold it was, how busy things had become and how crowded everything seemed.
Here in the middle of the Ozarks on a cold December night, a child reminded me of the blessings this season brings.