Okay, so let me just admit it right up front. I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to having a clean driveway in the winter. I’m not sure what that’s all about, though I like to tell people it’s because I want to be able to get out if I have to. You know, be prepared and all that. The truth is probably a bit more complicated and a bit less practical. I just like the thought of my driveway being clean and clear, even after — no, especially after — the biggest and messiest snowstorms. It’s like my small and pitiful stand against the elements, a sign of industriousness and purpose in the face of adversity.
So around 5:00 or so last Saturday, when the snow had finally stopped falling, topping off at about a foot or so, I couldn’t resist it any longer. My wife, my son, and I had spent the whole day in the house, a welcome respite from our normally demanding schedules. But as the credits rolled on the last movie of the day, I knew it was time.
It probably won’t surprise you that my teenage son, Simon, doesn’t share my compulsion for a clean driveway, but those of you who have the good fortune to know him will also not be surprised that after some brief perfunctory grumbling, he went upstairs to suit up to come out and help.
We tackled the hard part first, the only sensible thing to do. The driveway is about three cars wide at the base, great for shooting hoops in warmer weather, but not so great when you have to clear it of snow. There’s no easy way. You have to pick up a shovelful, walk to the edge, toss it, then walk back. Shovel. Walk. Toss. Repeat. It’s laborious, and for a time, we muttered under our breath, complained about our cold hands, yanked our hats down even further.
But after 20 minutes or so, we began working in rhythm, not speaking, not complaining — just working. We had formed a kind of silent pact — man to man — that we were bigger than the challenge before us. Even our movements were synchronized, the man with the empty shovel circling behind the man filling one up. We went on like this, without stopping, for some time until the driveway was nearly cleared. Then Simon spoke up.
“Dad, look at the sky.”
I looked up, and over the houses on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac, the sky was a deep rich purple, almost iridescent, a color I don’t think I’ve ever seen. We took a breather for a few minutes, just looking, as the chill crept under our jackets and clutched at our damp shirts. Two partners really, leaning on their shovels with a clear blacktop driveway behind them and an impossibly beautiful sky overhead.