Remember when people shoveled their driveways with shovels?
The only thing that could damper the ecstasy of a snow day was having to shovel the driveway. “I don’t understand,” I would say while pulling on my boots. “Why can’t they just invent a heated driveway that melts the snow?”
“Boy, you kids today have it so tough,” my mother would say. “When I was your age my father made me shovel the driveway with a dirt shovel. He would say, ‘What do we need another shovel for?’ I hope this puts things in perspective for you while you’re out there.”
And out I would go into the sunlight blazing off the snow I had to clear. Shoveling one shovel-full and then hoisting it over my back would quickly cause aches and pains in my young back. I always imagined that if I could just find the right technique the job would get done in seconds. So I would try putting the shovel down and plowing through, like the snow plow going down the street. I marveled at my ingenuity and pictured myself alongside the likes of the inventors of the steam engine and the cotton gin. Then the snow would build up and spill over the sides of the shovel and the driveway would look like a mess and my fantasy would be ruined. Sometimes I would try to get away with this.
“Mom,” I would shout up the stairs as I walked inside, stomping the snow off my boots, “I’m done! Is my oatmeal still warm?” But she would look out the window and see that I’d left a mess of the driveway, with my snow-plow imitation, and order me outside to clean it up.
I still shovel my driveway with a shovel today. And by “today” I really mean today, as in this morning. I still do my snow-plow imitation (complete with snow-plow noises), thinking I’ll save time and back pain. But when the snow spills over the sides of the shovel and makes a mess, I don’t just walk inside and pretend I’m done. I stay outside to finish the job. Just a part of growing up.
After I’ve been out there over an hour, and ice has formed from the sweat in the flaps of my bomber hat, I start to hear voices – voices telling me that if I’d bought a snowblower during that end-of-winter sale last July, I would be inside by now, in my Snuggie, eating warm oatmeal in front of the television, watching the real housewives of various U.S. regions, instead of outside in the cold. I should have listened, I say to myself.
And I look across the street to a driveway that still has an unblemished coverlet of snow on it, where my neighbor has been for over an hour, kneeling before his snowblower, trying to get it to work.