By Lynda A. Archer
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published March 8, 2021
Illustration by Chelsea Charles
It wasn’t easy making the decision to take her down. But it was the end of February and she’d been with us far longer than I’d imagined. Standing beside her that last night, giving her the news of her upcoming hibernation, I had a genuine sense of sadness. I wasgoing to miss her.
A few weeks before Christmas, when I knew my son and daughter-in-law would not be joining us for the holiday, I was feeling sad. I live in British Columbia, they are in Ontario and it had been over a year since we’d been together. I’m not sure if my disappointment propelled the inclination, but I noticed the Christmas inflatable toys in the village and remarked to my partner that one of those might be fun. A few days later she came home with an inflatable snowman. Very quickly, being a long-time feminist, I renamed her Sally rather than sticking with Frosty the Snowman.
Sally is eight feet tall and is made up of three white rounds. The bottom is about five feet across and the head about two feet across. She’s a good size. She’s not a sheer nylon, but a fuzzy inflatable. She sports a tall black hat with red ribbon at the rim and a green holly leaf with red berries. There’s a red and green scarf around her neck and two round, soft, black buttons on her belly. She smiles with seven black dots and an orange, carrot-like nose about a foot long. Her branch-like arms are uplifted in a wonderful, welcoming expression, rather like a preacher about to give the congregation a blessing. At night she flashes red and green lights.
For three months she stood in front of our house. She didn’t lose an inch of her height and remained very cheery. By late December, the store where she was purchased had long since taken down the half-dozen inflatables they’d had on display over Christmas.
Every morning around 8 o’clock I plugged Sally in. The fan would come on and her two lower rounds expanded first with her head still bowed, but as her head and hat filled with air, she rose. Her arms were the last to inflate. She is secured to the ground with three black cords, so she won’t fly away when the winds get up, which they do from time to time. Every night around 8 I unplugged her and watched as the air shot out from the vents at her bottom and she slowly flopped flat to the ground. I’d pat her head and wish her a good night.
On the day we installed her, we invited the neighbour’s children to join us. It’s a lovely memory recalling how the six-year-old immediately leaned his cheek against Sally’s girth and hugged her bottom round.
In mid-December I posted photos of Sally on Facebook. Most neighbours and friends were delighted and came to meet her. A few – there are always those who are less adventurous – couldn’t seem to understand the appeal of Sally since I don’t live in the city and the likelihood of people driving by, day or night, is pretty slim. A couple of friends, unbeknownst to my partner and me, stopped by after dark; they sent selfies of their grinning faces as they snuggled up to Sally. It was a great surprise.
I’ve told people what a good listener Sally is, and how you’re always assured of a smile. I suppose she became a bit of a pet. As one does with a pet, I had my daily routines with Sally. Plug her in, say good morning at the start of the day; unplug her in the evening, wish her a good and safe night. In the afternoons, I’d stop by to have a chat, pat her belly and have a moment of joy. On the morning of Jan. 20, I told Sally that Kamala Harris had been inaugurated as the U.S. Vice-President. She was excited to hear that.
Perhaps it’s no surprise when I say I got rather, maybe overly, attached to Sally. In my 73 years, I’ve never done anything quite like this Sally thing. Is it COVID craziness? Or is Sally a needed antidote to my COVID worry and despair? I am in the high-risk group for contracting COVID-19 and may not fare too well should I get infected. But Sally cheered me up. She was so consistently cheery and bright.
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Sally never complained about the people who don’t wear masks. She never wanted to talk American or Canadian politics. She was a wonderful distraction from the overcast and grey days of this B.C. Gulf Island where I live. It’s not that there are no delights on this island. From my office window I can watch flickers and downy woodpeckers stab away at the suet block. Some days even the large prehistoric-looking pileated woodpecker with its brilliant red head shows up.
The thing is I wasn’t sure when I’d be ready to have Sally hibernate. First, I thought it would be after Christmas, but that day has been and gone. Then I thought maybe early January, but that came and went. Hibernating meant a permanent deflation, followed by a careful folding and fitting of Sally into her box for next year. Eleven months to be stored away seems cruel. On the other hand, Easter is only a few months away. Maybe there will be inflatable Easter bunnies and chicks. I might have to check into that. I’m sure Sally would like some friends.