When I first watched “The Snowman” as a child, I didn’t think there was anything sad about it. And the funny thing is, my children are the same way. They adore that movie and every time they watch it I watch their faces closely to see when they’ll finally get the ending. Surely, my very sensitive four-year-old, at least, understands. So why isn’t he sad?
First of all, I would recommend “The Snowman” to anyone who hasn’t seen it. It is an extremely calming and low-key cartoon with gorgeous music and gorgeous animation. There are no words. It’s almost like watching a ballet. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick summary: boy builds snowman, snowman comes to life, boy shows snowman his home, snowman takes him on a wondrous, beautiful flying adventure, snowman takes boy home, boy goes to bed, boy runs out excitedly in the morning to play again but discovers that his snowman has melted.
As a parent, it’s hard to watch “The Snowman”. I find myself going back and forth between feeling like the snowman represents me and my husband (especially my husband) and our mortal presence in our children’s lives and feeling like the snowman represents my children’s childhoods. Both will, apparently, “melt”. And both are indescribably beautiful.
At the end of “The Snowman” there’s one small ray of hope. After the snowman melts, the boy immediately reaches in his pocket. During his nighttime adventures he accompanied the snowman to The North Pole where Santa Claus gifted him with a scarf. To his and our relief, the scarf is still in his pocket. He was not just dreaming. And even if his snowman has melted, the Heaven-like Snowman World really does exist.
That moment reminds me of how Veronica might have felt when she walked away from her dying Savior, dejected and hopeless, only to open her cloth and find that sweet face imprinted upon it. What did the air feel like on Good Friday evening? Was it really entirely dark and horrible? Or did Jesus leave other little signs, little scarves in pockets? We only know about Veronica’s. What about the cup from which he drank, the sword that pierced his side, the feeling upon the hands that held him, the splinters in Simon’s hands? Did they radiate hope? Had Jesus left gifts in the weeks prior? Things to remember him by? Certainly he had given them words: do not be afraid. And in three days I will raise it up.
How is that my children don’t cry when the snowman melts? Well, I suppose it is for the same reason that they don’t cry when we walk through the Stations of the Cross. My oldest son refuses to watch any movie or read any book with a “scary part” but he loves the Stations of the Cross. Where there is so much horror and evil, he gathers some sort of profound sense of comfort and peace. The traditional Stations of the Cross do not include the Resurrection. They end with the worst possible ending one might imagine. Goodness has been killed and buried beneath the ground. The snowman has melted away.
Maybe children have a more innate sense of the eternal. Maybe children have a greater trust in goodness. Like, yes, the Savior has been killed, but goodness that good cannot really be killed. Maybe children assume resurrection. Maybe my children assume that the snowman goes back to Snowman Heaven only to reappear next winter. Perhaps a state of hope is the default for children. I wonder if they even need to see the boy’s scarf.
Now, I’m not saying that sad things don’t affect my children. Certainly not. But I think sometimes when there is just enough goodness amidst the sadness, the goodness has the potential to overwhelm. It might not overwhelm enough for adults in the same way that it overwhelms children. But I think sometimes it overwhelms children so much that they may miss the sadness entirely. We don’t have to miss the sadness. But we can learn to cling more desperately to the goodness. We will all have Good Friday moments in our lives. But we also have scarves in our pockets.