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.