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Looks Like The Circle Is Being Completed...

This is going to be one of those circle of life stories, only more like “circle of snow.”

Last week I was concerned about weather forecasts saying if everything worked out right, we could be getting one of those 12-inches-or-more snows that seem to come along the mid-Atlantic every 5 years or more. Those concerns were heightened in December when we got a little nuisance snow of a couple of inches, and I discovered my snowblower would not start.

In the cul de sac I live in, snow is the one thing that brings everybody together. In this day and age of automatic garage door openers, it’s not unusual to not see any of your neighbors unless we’re all headed out to the mailbox to get the mail at the same time. People pull in their garages, hit the button, close the door behind them, then go into their homes.

But when it snows, we’re all out there taking care of our driveways and usually helping each other. The three of us who are out there the most are myself, my neighbor Joe, and my other neighbor Kevin. When I first moved here, I was out shoveling when I noticed my neighbor Frank was also out trying to shovel. I was a 40-something person at the time, and Frank was 60-something, so I walked over to him and said “would you mind if I started doing your driveway?”

I explained I didn’t want to see him get hurt over-exerting himself, and quite honestly, he didn’t seem to like it. But I explained how people showed my Dad similar kindness in his later years when I was nowhere around, and it was something I really wanted to do. He understood, and from that point on, I always got his driveway and sidewalk as if it were my own. He’d come out in the first few years and offer to help, but I’d always say no thanks and ask him to go back inside and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. In the spring, he and his wife would always take me and my wife out to dinner to thank us for doing it, but it wasn’t necessary.

It was a simple matter of courtesy and respect.

A few years later in 2003, I had bought my first snowblower, one that would easily accommodate up to an 8-inch snow. But none of us expected the 24 inches of snow that fell (as you can see from the yardstick in the picture above), and the only way to deal with it was to chop some of the snow up so it dropped to a more manageable level, then run over it with the snowblower.

Back then everybody didn’t have their own snowblower like they do now, as our neighborhood currently possesses what seems like a fleet of much bigger machines that can handle a New England blizzard. Also back then, there was an issue that required our snow-clearing attention immediately: Joe’s wife was expecting their second child any day then, and while the main roads had been taken care of, it was going to be a few days until they got to our cul de sac.

So about a dozen of us did what needed to be done. We went out with shovels and that snowblower and snaked a pathway through the cul de sac. It was well past 2 AM when we finally called it quits, but we all went to bed knowing if that baby arrived before VDOT’s road crews, there was a plan.

That baby, incidentally, heads off for college this fall.

These sorts of things continued over the years, particularly when there was heavy snow. My wife thinks it’s all because Kevin, Joe and I like to play in the snow, and she wouldn’t be wrong. Plus Kevin and I have had an arms race when it comes to snowblowers, as when he buys a bigger one than mine, I end up finding a reason to upgrade. Joe scoffs at us both, believing real men remove snow with a shovel, not heavy equipment.

A funny thing, however, happened over the years as we did this. I became as old as Frank was the day I told him I thought he was getting to be a little too old to be out here shoveling, and I will acknowledge it has been getting a bit tougher every year. When the snowblower I had wouldn’t start (because I hadn’t started it in two years like a knucklehead and the carburetor was clogged) I didn’t really know what to do. I’m good with computers, but not so good with engines and moving parts.

So Saturday, about 12 hours before all this snow was suppose to hit, Joe came by. For four hours, he wrestled that carburetor, taking it apart, cleaning it, putting it back on, dealing with gas leaks and the disappointment of hitting the electric starter and the engine not turning over. Finally, about an hour before dark, he got one last idea, we tried it, and the snowblower started.

Turns out that wasn’t even necessary because Kevin saw our struggles and rightfully assumed we never got it fixed. Or rightfully assumed I had become an old man and was doing to me what I did to Frank 21 years ago. Sunday night, I heard a roar outside and it was Kevin doing my driveway. It snowed all through Monday, and Monday night I heard the roar of the snowblower again.

At noon Tuesday, the sun came out. What little snow that was left melted in two hours. My driveway was clear, and I did nothing.

So call it what you will, as I now seem to be that old guy younger people are willing to help. Call it circle of life, circle of snow, or a circle of anything you like.

I just call it being blessed with wonderful neighbors.



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