Falling snow is infinitely soothing. Like a stream bouncing over rocks or wind rustling through leaves, it has its own sound - a serene, gentle swishing. As the snowflakes float sedately down and nestle in their chosen spot they bring calm to a hitherto lawless landscape. Dry leaves, dead twigs, bare bushes and empty beds find themselves sheathed in a pristine white.
That is until all the water drains out of moist, fluffy snow leaving behind crystals of ice that crunch under your feet, and are just waiting for that one wrong footstep from you. One misstep that will send you flying - leaving your feet in the air; your behind on the hard, cold ground; your ears a flaming red; your dignity shot to a million pieces.
So the idea is to get to the snow and get it off the ground before it gets you.
One dark night many years ago, when it had snowed all day and the temperature was down to freezing, I heard scraping noises outside our garage. Wondering who it could be at this hour, I slid C off my lap, got up from my desk and took a peek outside. It was two of my neighbors shoveling the snow off my driveway. They knew my husband was out of town, C was a baby, and they figured I had my hands full without needing to add shoveling to my to-do list. So they took it upon themselves to do it for me.
I have a feeling I've probably mentioned this story a couple of times already, but it's one of those things that stays with you a long time. You store it in your treasure chest of memories, take it out once in a while to marvel at and put it back in carefully for when you need it again.
Today, that simple but angelic deed took wing, reached across the years and landed on the suddenly very capable shoulders of one eight-year-old. He took out the shovel, nearly as tall as himself, cleared half the driveway, then played with D and kept her occupied (and bossed her around for good measure) while I cleared the rest and the sidewalks. Two hours later, we were all ready to come back in but the neighbor across the street had just started on her driveway and she was alone. C checked if it was all right to go help her, picked up our shovel and went off. Half-an-hour later I went out to check on them and could still hear them chatting away and working.
During these years, every time we had been the recipient of a neighbor's generosity and I had pictured us helping them in return, it had always been me or my husband in the images in my head. I had never factored our children into the equation. As I watched C, on someone else's front yard, his body bending and lifting, my treasure chest of memories acquired itself a new jewel today.