It’s nice to be greeted with a sunny yet brisk January day after several evenly-lit gray days. We’re lucky here to be in the Southeast where the sunny days prevent most of us from seasonal depression. I vaguely recall feeling a bit blue from a lack of light in my youth when growing up on Ohio’s north coast.
Back in my youth, issues like “light” and “sunshine” didn’t matter to me. Of course during most of the winters, it was all about sledding and building snow figures. In heavier winters, my friends and I were into constructing igloos and/or going down huge snow piles on our behinds or stomachs.
The magic of winter grew old to me through the years. Starting in second grade through the time I left Ohio in my early 20s, it was my duty to remove snow from the driveway. In the early days of my “snow shoveling career,” I took the job seriously because I had a snow-shoveling mentor in my neighbor Sam across the street. Sam was serious about his snow removal tasks, for his first love was his driveway. To this day, I jest that Sam protected that driveway as if it was his third child.
As time grew, I wished to be as serious with my family driveway as Sam was with his, but I would learn that it would be impossible for me to ever match my mentor’s skills. Sam had several advantages. Chief amongst those advantages was the fact that Sam did not answer to anyone, including his family at the time. Sam got to go out and shovel that driveway any time, day or night. One time, I spied Sam clearing the driveway at 4 a.m.
“Why, that son of a _____!” I screamed to myself, as I overheard Sam scraping the snow and ice off of his golden path in suburban Cleveland’s wee hours.
Why didn’t either of us use modern technology to remove the snow? I believe that both of our households had snowblowers. Obviously, Sam being the adult would be able to use piece of snow removal machinery. I remember Sam using the snowblower, but not often in those days. My father sparingly used his Toro snowblower on the driveway which gave me a brief respite from my snow removal duties. I’m not sure if my dad or the Toro conked out on those rare occasions. I think Sam ditched the snow blower most of the time because Sam was snow-removal purist.
Still, through most of the years, there was Sam, shoveling, scraping and even using a broom to dust off his gem of a driveway. I kid you not. Sam used a broom and to this day, he cannot deny that fact.
I recall during the summer of 1976, Sam had a layer of blacktop applied to his driveway. Oh, how jealous was I at the sight of that shiny, smooth blacktop driveway – the only one in the neighborhood at that time. I’m sure Sam even had more of the edge when he was removed snow since his shovel never hit uneven concrete or cracks.
My sisters teased me about my dedication to proper driveway snow removal. I would be angered if any other family member attempted to go out and shovel. One time my mother decided to shovel because I was either sick or tired that day. I looked out my bedroom window through the frost upon the storm window glass and couldn’t believe my eyes!
“She’s not getting the whole apron! What is she doing?” I caterwauled.
My sister enjoyed witnessing my youthful frustration.
“You’re much too serious about this driveway,” she reasoned. “It’s like you’re in psycho warfare with Sam.”
I couldn’t deny my sister’s observation, but at the same time I couldn’t give up my obsession. There are times our family would go out to the store or dinner and when we would arrive back home, our driveway was covered in powdery snow while Sam’s would be spotless with the blacktop glistening as if it was begging to be driven upon by a luxury automobile.
“What’s wrong, Bobby?” my mother would query.
“No!” I replied, somewhat in tears. “He shoveled again.”
“You mean, Sam?” my father guessed.
“Yes, he shoveled again! We can’t have that!” I said.
As soon as I could, I grabbed the shovel and hit the driveway, clearing the snow that the family car just compacted onto the driveway’s concrete surface.
I eased up over the years with my snow-shoveling obsession, especially when I entered the workforce the day I turned 16. Perhaps I was in psycho warfare with Sam, but most likely, without his knowledge. Still, there is a part me of that believes that Sam honestly loves his driveway to this very day. I’m sure if I were to visit one wintry afternoon, there would be Sam in tow with his prized shovel, clearing the heavy street snow from the apron of his beloved driveway.