“Did you name it?” he asks me.
We’re taking about the snowman I made the day before when it snowed down in the ski village where I’m staying, and the front yard of the lodge was covered in a cold, fluffy, magical white blanket.
“You know, I didn’t think of that,” I say. “I should have named it.”
“You’ll have to next time you make one,” he says, and I’m pleased that he has assumed I will make another at some point. “And did yours have a nose?”
“It did,” I say. “I made it out of a stone. But I didn’t give him eyes or a mouth because I couldn’t find enough stones.”
“Next time you should poke a hole for the eyes and draw a mouth on with your finger. And use a carrot for the nose. What about arms?”
“Yes, I used two small sticks,” I say.
He is about five. I have just met him because he’s doing a group skiing lesson on the slope I’m also skiing, and the instructors send some of the kids up with other adults on the chair lift. This little boy happened to come into the line next to me. He has on a giant helmet, and the chin strap is between his lips and his nose, rather than under his chin. He’s playing with it with his lips and little mittened hands as we talk. He’s swinging his legs and tiny skis as we roll along, many metres above the slope.
“Did you give him gloves?”
“No, I didn’t think of that. Next time I’ll have to.”
“Yes, in case it gets cold,” he says, and grins at me.
“And maybe a scarf and hat,” I say. He smiles.
I’ve spent a lot of time having conversations with children this week. Answering the questions they seem to have about everything; talking about the important things in their lives, like puppies and finding animals in the snow and playing tricks on ski instructors and whether or not they like their teacher and what the book “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is about. They’ve asked me a little about mine—about whether I live with my parents, have a dog, am allowed to drink beer. These conversations have been quiet and patient and curious. Full of questions. From both parties. And each time it’s struck me how wonderful it is to be this open to another person without trying to prove anything about yourself or an issue you have an opinion about; curious about them and their experience of life, willing to share something of yourself with them, even if just for a few minutes.
We reach the top of the chairlift and ski off, him to the left to join his group, me to the right to join my family.
“Bye!” he yells out to me, waving.
“Have fun,” I yell, and wave back.
And he is gone, disappearing into his group lesson, a sea of little skis and big helmets.