Suzanne Tobias

The Snow People warmed our hearts with their art

My daughter's voice startled me as it broke the silence of our morning drive. "Oh, no!"

I figured Hannah had forgotten her homework or her violin. I tried to decide if we had time to double back and still make it to school.

"The Snow People are moving!"

Then I saw it: a For Sale sign in front of the big white Colonial — the Snow People's House.

We've never met the family that lives there, but we've admired them from afar. It began after a huge snowstorm last winter, when we drove past the house and saw the family laughing and playing, working on what we assumed was a snowman.

When we passed the house the next day, our mouths dropped. The yard in front of the white house had not just one snowman but several snow sculptures, works of art.

An enormous sea monster erupted from the surface on one side of the yard, its scaled body rising and falling in arches behind its ferocious head. A smiling penguin stood in another spot, sporting a bow tie. A whale breached another corner, mouth stretched wide, tail peeking up behind.

We stopped the car and stared. After that, we always referred to the house as the Snow People's. We watched for weeks as the sculptures slowly melted, until just a smidgen of whale remained.

We considered knocking on the door and telling the Snow People how much we appreciated their work. We never did. All spring and summer we'd pass the house and remember the snow, then try to predict what fantastic creatures they might craft this winter.

The house had become a secret landmark. We felt like the privileged few — though sure there were hundreds, maybe thousands — who knew its delightful past.

There are places like that all over town, yards or houses the kids and I have labeled with our private shorthand:

The Crazy Brick House, a Crown Heights landmark, its bricks mortared together randomly, happily askew.

The Dr. Seuss House, with its Whoville-style trees and overgrown flower beds.

The 'Mater House, whose residents once decorated their rusty old truck with Christmas lights, then added eyes to the windshield and buck teeth to the grill.

We've embellished countless mansions with fictional accounts of the people inside, imagining such luxuries as hot tub rooms, video arcades and retractable moon roofs.

And the Snow People's House. How cool would it be, we often joked, if we found out the family's last name was Snow? That would be perfect. We wondered if their ears rang as we drove past.

Now they're moving, and we wish them well.

The Snow People artfully, unknowingly enriched our lives, and we'll remember them long after the sculptures melted.