Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Neighborliness Comes Full Circle

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.


Sands said...

That is so precious. Especially when the kids feel the urge to help without being prompted. Makes you extra proud of them.

Altoid said...

What a warm fuzzy story, perfect for this snow day!

Heartwarming, I say!

Praba Ram said...

Kind boy, C and what a heartwarming story - gentle as the snow falling outside!

And indeed a fuzzy comforting feeling to know I have a neighbor in VA sharing the same weather with me each and every day! :-)

Did you hear me echo the same "snow is soothing sentiment"? :-))

karrvakarela said...

This is beautiful, Sujatha. Thank you very much for sharing.

Living alone, It's one of the things I miss here. My neighbours are all married, some with children, and I don't think we even know each other's names. It feels like an opportunity for friendship lost.

Anusha said...

such a feel-good story, S! what a thoughtful kid you have - you must be so proud of him!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the day years ago when my sister and I went with my mother who was handicapped to the Marina Beach in Chennai.All of a sudden the sky darkened and there was pelting rain.Try as we could we couldn't find a taxi.Seeing our plight a passing motorist stopped and offered us a lift.We asked him to drop us at a place where we could find a taxi but he insisted on dropping us home which was miles away and way off his destination.Even though this happened about 35 years ago this act of kindness is something I'll never forget.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Anon, that is an unforgettable kindness. Something to be savored for sure. Thanks for sharing that story.

Sands, thank you! I'm crossing my fingers and hoping those urges do keep coming back.

Alt, :)

Praba, yay! Great to have you close by too. :)

KK, thank you. :) You know, when we first moved here we felt the same way. So I banded together with a couple of neighbors and organized a block party for our entire street. We gathered in an empty lot, each of us brought a dish to share and someone brought over their grill and we ate the evening away. It was a lot of fun. A long time ago, but people still have fond memories of it here.

Kodi's Mom, thank you! We are very proud of him. He's a good kid, touch wood! :)

Anonymous said...

you have a nice writing style. Love it! =)

DotThoughts said...

Warmed my heart like a nice cup of hot chocolate!

Sujatha said...

Lucky you, Sujatha. At 8 years, my son was more of a hindrance while clearing snow than a help, making snowballs and tossing them around. That brings back memories of my wearing the baby monitor receiver as I attempted to clear snow while the baby napped, because I was the one with balding tires on my car and couldn't just waltz up and down the driveway like my husband did.
Anyway, 8 years later, I'm still stuck shovelling the snow (as you probably know from my blog rants;)

Anonymous said...

C is wonderfully thoughtful little boy. He's dissipated the unpleasantness of another 8 year old who ruined my
visit with his mother by his obnoxious behaviour.

Your beautifully crafted post made me ache for New England winters. I love the seasons there,
particularly Fall and then snowy winters which give way to a verdant Spring. And I love shovelling.
Yes, really! There's something deeply serene about stepping out after a snowstorm to a world blanketed
in snow. There's a simple pleasure in toiling to carve out a path, the cold air losing its nip as you
work up a sweat. And then stepping back into a warm house, shedding boots, gloves, socks and cap,
mopping up a runny nose and settling down with a hot mug and a feeling of virtuous satisifaction.


Choxbox said...

you didn't mean to make me teary right?! god bless him.

Sujatha Bagal said...

LM, thank you.

Dot, :)

Sujatha, the snowball thing happened too, when he was taking care of D. Your comment reminded me about one year when C was about 3. He was napping and I thought I'd sneak out for a few minutes and clear the sidewalk. The poor thing had woken up within a few minutes, couldn't find me in the house. He looked so lost when I came back in. :( And yes, familiar with the snow shoveling story on your blog. :)

DS, I totally love this area because of the stark differences in weather - you can actually tell the difference between each season. Not as much as NE, but still enough to enjoy each one for its beauty. Love the "virtuous satisfaction" phrase! :)

Chox, awww, will pass on the wishes. :)

Bong Mom said...

What a kind and thoughtful Kid you have. Bless that child

Sujatha Bagal said...

Thanks Sandeepa. Wishes conveyed. :)

Nino's Mum said...

A lot of aunties he'll probably never meet will remember this jewel too.
Raising a good person - a hope that is sometimes so difficult, and sometimes so generously easy.

Sujatha Bagal said...

C loves his blog aunties. He laughs at their names sometimes - Chox? What's that!? - but he loves them because they all sound like they would spoil him silly if given half a chance. :)

Choxbox said...

Go on Suj, give him the gyaan - why Chox etc!
When are you guys in B'lore next?!

Doli said...

Oh my God! so sweet of your son :)

Sujatha Bagal said...

Doli, thank you for visiting my blog. Welcome! Appreciate the comment!