The memory of “that snow storm” isn’t as clear now as it was, but the storm on Saturday recalled some moments of it, as do the photographs of me dressed up in Harry’s hat and coat, a snow-covered hobbit braving the elements.
Although the photo of the 1957 storm shows me standing on the front walk of my grandfather’s house in Clifton, most of my memories recall the rear yard where the snow drifted so high we built a snow fort for what became a historic memory battle between me and my two neighbors, snowballs flying this way and that, most of which zipped over my head without affect.
This idea of being snowbound as we were this week did not exist for me back then, when each drift was an adventure, and a landscape upon which I needed to leave my mark.
My uncles may have felt trapped by the weather as they struggled to dig out their cars from the drifts in the boat store driveway or on the street in front of the house, but I felt free.
On Saturday, I chose not to shovel the walk until the storm was over. Since the blizzard like conditions extended late into the night, I got up early on Sunday to start the process. Heeding warnings against over doing the digging, I started with clearing the front porch and steps, not even bothering to go beyond the gate to a sidewalk three feet deep in the white mess.
On my second round, I tackled the gate, and at this point, a physical memory of that snow storm long ago hit me, and for a moment, I envisioned myself in my uncle’s overly-large coat and a tilted hat with ear flaps – and felt my mouth for the missing front tooth that gave me a “Dennis the Menace” look I have since lost with the advent of adult teeth and loss of innocence.
The wind had created a gap in the depth of snow in the sidewalk beneath our tree in front, although the length of it made it a chore my wife handled while I rested again for the dubious task of dealing with the driveway and car, which the snow had wrapped in a drift nearly, has high as my chest.
When I came into this, I was again that small, inappropriately dressed boy confronted by elements beyond my comprehension to face. Though my back ached during the relocating the mass of white, I felt connected again, almost as if I could hear my uncle’s laughing from somewhere beyond view, and could see their shapes moving through out drifts – if not of snow – then time.
Being the last survivor of that old house on that hill back then, I often feel abandoned, as if life had stolen something very valuable in allowing me to outlive them.
While nearly all of them died early (some prior to the age of 60, none made it beyond 67 except my mother), they would not have lived to see this new historic storm anyway. So I would have stood here in the snow alone despite my best efforts to keep them alive.
But that thought didn’t strike me until later.
With each shovel full of snow I sent onto the pile in the front yard, I lived again with their ghosts, pale figures keeping me company on this sunny Sunday in January, they sharing my labors and I sharing their laughter. They shared their love and I accepted it, one shovelful at a time.