The winter rain here turned to snow for one day not too long ago, which happens maybe once a year in Portland. The kids and I capitalized on the opportunity with a celebratory snowman. Oscar suggested building a dog, too—snowman’s best friend.
Though the creation was perfect, as in Genesis, it didn’t last long before the fall. Precisely ten minutes after heading in for the night we heard giggling and a series of thumps. When I broke the blinds to peek behind, a hoard of kids—roughly middle school aged—flew into full retreat.
“Do you think that is funny!” is all I could manage yelling out the door in defense, but the words hit their backs and fell into their tracks where the snow had been peeled away from the grass.
The we-knew-that-someone-would-probably-knock-it-down-and-it-was-making-it-with-you-that-was-so-much-fun routine didn’t stop our children’s tears of disappointment.
I was not about to let the perpetrators get away without understanding that their actions had consequences. I marched over to where they ran off—they had re-grouped at a safe distance and were throwing snowballs and flirting—and told them about the tears streaming down the children’s faces.
In my report, I told our children that they were embarrassed and did not want to admit that they did it, but that they knew that they made us sad. The only question the kids asked: “Did they say they were sorry?” How could I explain that they hadn’t?
I wanted to go outside and stomp down the broken limbs and cracked boulders of our snowman. I did not want to see body parts on our lawn every time I glanced out the window. I resolved that next time we build a snowman, we’ll just wreck it ourselves—save them the trouble.
This stuck in my craw until the idea came to me that I could transform the broken snow into something else. Even better, I could turn the G-rated snowman into an R-rated monster.
My imagination pictured the reactions of the kids who had trashed our masterpiece. I hoped that they would stop short on the walk to school, confusion turning to wonder turning to shame on their faces. I wanted to show them that we would not tolerate their prank, that we would resist their anarchy. It would be a resurrection of judgment. We would fight. We would prevail.
So there I was, kids long asleep—even Stacey was in bed—furiously working to pack the wreckage together before everything melted. Slowly, a grand carnivorous dinosaur emerged, a Godzilla of shame, with spikes on the tail, hollow eyes and misshapen lumps. I wanted three-year olds to move to the street side of their mother when they walked by in the morning.
This monster would lay waste the stony hearts of those criminals, I thought. It would stomp their foolish pride with its terrible claws. Its teeth would rip into their hearts when they saw our resistance. It would execute judgment with vengeance until the crocuses and daffodils pushed up between its clawed toes.
And then I came to shaping the teeth. Suddenly, I remembered.
In my fuming anger, the world looked to me like a misshapen monster stomping middle schoolers. I remembered, though, praise the Lord, that the world is actually more like this neighborhood. I looked around and realized that these streets and homes and trees—this community—could be shaped just like the snow in my hands. What kind of neighborhood is shaped by anger and revenge? My storming anger melted in an instant and assumed the soft tone of prayer.
I finished Godzilla, but I was acting the part of an artist more than the mad scientist. I decided to let myself be consumed by the monster, to let its path of destruction pass through my stony heart of vengeance and lay waste my pride.
In our hands rests the decision to give our monsters teeth.