I woke up with a plan this morning: Coffee, shoveling, novel, in that order.
My plans to shovel were thwarted the instant I got out the door. I loaned the snow shovel to one of the neighbors, who is from a warmer clime and who looked like he needed to dig out his car in order to go to work. He accepted the shovel and took off down the street with it. That was an hour or so ago. Possibly he’s digging out a friend. Maybe he’s just running around, yelling “Whee, I stole a shovel.” Whatever he’s doing with the shovel, I haven’t seen him in a while.
I’m a little irked about this, because I enjoy shoveling. There are a lot of reasons to like it: It’s cheap exercise, I get to interact with the neighbors, I get to be outside and there’s the instant gratification of physical labor.
But those aren’t the reasons I like shoveling.
I like shoveling because I can shovel any way I want to. I can shovel in a diagonal line. I can shovel in a circle. I can shovel half the steps and then decide to stop and go inside. I can shovel my name into the snow in front of our house.
I never do any of those things, but I can.
Why? Because of my childhood, of course.
My father is an exacting man when it comes to shoveling, and when I was a kid, he masterminded snow removal. We had a longer-than usual driveway, with a parking area for the cars, and a longer-than-usual front walk and a couple of dogs who needed runs shoveled out. My dad had some definite ideas about how each area should be shoveled, and he had equally definite ideas about where the snow being shoveled should go. He was like a general, planning for war: Before the troops got outside, he was out there, strategizing. He’d shovel one long line down the center of the driveway. That was the corridor for the driveway shovelers. It would take two of them, one working each side of the driveway, from the center out to the sides.
Of the 18 years I lived at home, I got this monumental task only twice. Usually I’d dawdle in the house until my parents realized I was missing.
Because I was the last one out of the house, I shoveled the parking area for the cars. My father also had a plan for that. The snow couldn’t be piled against the house, or it would melt into the basement, so the snow had to be carried to the other side of the parking area, away from the house. And the pavement should be bare as possible. No ice should be able to form. We didn’t want anyone to fall and kill themselves.
I wasn’t as big a fan of shoveling then.
Oh. Shovel’s back. Gotta go.