Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Each With Our Own Name

Inspired by this post by Shauna over at Pickles and Dimes, I decided to delve into my dark, dark past and share with you why I am a Shovelling Pain In the Ass.

Yes, yes I am.

When my father re-married, my family moved into my step-mom's house. She'd been in this house since her first marriage, and my step-siblings knew this as their only home. Since my family was moving 75 miles in this marital deal, it was a no-brainer.

My family adopted many of the daily routines and rituals that came with that house. It provided my sisters and I with some unfailing structure which we desperately needed after losing our mother, and it kept the household in smooth running condition after it had more than doubled in size. We were all happy.

Until that first winter.*

The neighbors on our block were almost all elderly and couldn't shovel their sidewalks and driveways. If they couldn't, then they shouldn't be shovelling. The neighbor next to us wasn't elderly, but she'd adopted two parapaligic children and didn't have time to shovel. She also had a MASSIVE driveway and sidewalk to accommodate all the wheelchair-loading and unloading in her vans.

So, the no-nonsense thoughtful and generous woman that she is, my step-mom decided early on that she and the kids -- who now included my sisters and I -- would shovel everyone's sidewalks, driveways and stairs. EVERYONE ON THE ENTiRE BLOCK.

It gets better. Stay with me.

Not only did we have to shovel the entire block's worth of sidewalks, driveways and steps, we had to do this at 5:00 a.m. Why? Because. The paperboy delivered the paper at 6:00 a.m. and we couldn't let him make any stubborn footprints in the snow that could turn to ice.


We had to shovel the street. Yes. I am not shitting you. You read that correctly. We had to shovel all of the snow from the sidewalks, driveways, steps, and the street at least three feet into the center of the street so that when the plow came down the middle the snow was actually moved instead of just piled up in everyone's gutters and in their driveways. Once reasonable progress was being made and snow was starting to show up in the street, my parents followed up with snowblowers and blew it even further into the street.

At one point -- I swear I remember this but T. and A., do let me know if I am only hallucinating and creating an alternate reality for myself -- we each had our own shovel with our name on it.

Needless to say, I have very little patience and no capacity for understanding when folks won't shovel their 20 feet of sidewalk in front of their house. It is a character flaw I share with all of my siblings. And I get lit up and all sorts of crazy-ass PISSY when I see some little old lady shoveling her own walk. Hello? Neighbors? Where the hell are you?


* To be fair, I was a freshman in college with my family moved into the new house an so my sisters shoveled far more than I. But I did do my fair share of shoveling, especially because the bulk of time I spent visiting my family was during the winter months.


  1. The street? THE STREET? Oh, I would have felt SO SORRY for myself.

    This is so, so nice though.

  2. Oh sweet lord, I guess I had it good. In my house, Dad was always the one out there with the snowblower. I can just imagine a little troop of kids dividing and conquering the whole street, labeled shovels in hand. Things like that make you a stronger person, right?

  3. You guys are nice, at least! Still, I would have been GRUMPY. I guess there were some perks to growing up in North Carolina, after all.

  4. Tessie - Oh, there was self-pity going on. At least on my end. My siblings were much nicer people and also smarter - they realized that none of us were ever getting out of this deal. They didn't complain as much as I did.

    Stephanie - WE HAD OUR OWN AREAS and the whole process was COORDINATED.


  5. oh. my god. my parents were pretty insane about putting us kids to work, but never shoveling the STREET. or the NEIGHBORHOOD. my god. i'm in awe. really.

  6. Holy crap. It kind of sounds like you had it hard. I have never lived in or owned a house and hence have no experience with shoveling or not shoveling on a regular basis, but lo I am dreading the initiation next winter, when I will be a proud home-and-sidewalk owner.

  7. Omigod, I am barfing over here just at the possibility of shoveling the ice-encrusted, rock-solid street. Gah.

    We have a fairly long, extra wide driveway and I was getting crabby during the extra wide part of it. Ugh. Usually I'm OK, but that combined with that stupid wet, heavy snow that sticks to the shovel was pissing me off and making me whiny. I shouldn't shovel when I have PMS, I guess.

    We have an elderly neighbor whose husband recently passed away, and we've offered to both clear her driveway and mow her lawn, but she politely declines because she likes to "do it herself."

    P.S. Thanks for the link love!

  8. OH MY. Am totally speechless... that is some SERIOUS shoveling.

  9. Jess - grumpy INDEED.

    Penny - I am sure there is a happy medium in there somewhere when it comes to sidewalk shoveling. Perhaps, no street shoveling?

    P&D - the wet snow is THE WORST. Aarrrgghhh!! Also, that is awesome you asked your neighbor, and it is awesome that she still likes to be active. Hopefully she knows she can call on you if it gets to be too much.

    Whimsy - I don't visit in the winter so much anymore. I learned my lesson!

  10. Can you send your family over to Madison? Because folks around here are LAZY about properly shoveling the sidewalks around their homes. Admittedly, I'm spoiled---I don't have to shovel (but I also made a conscious choice to buy a condo instead of a house so I wouldn't have to shovel). But I'm still sporting a nasty bruise on my knee from where I fell on the sidewalk last week because it hadn't been shoveled and then the snow melted just enough for it to refreeze into ice. And this morning I had to walk in the middle of a busy road to get to my bus stop because the sidewalks were so treacherous. (Madison seems to be stuck in a pattern this winter of snow, slight thaw, rain, refreeze. Joy.)

    I am so ready for winter to be over.

  11. oh my! That is a lot of shoveling.

    I am a very lazy shoveler, but I contribute to the local economy of jobless guys who come around with their shovels on the snowiest of days.

    Lucky for us, there are some winters where no shoveling is needed. So far, this year, anyway, we haven't had a single coating that stuck long enough to even find the rock salt.

  12. oh hey! I just noticed your SIL's ticker! Any day now, right?!

  13. We used to have to shovel the street too - our street always seemed to be plowed last, so it was the only way people could get in an out of their driveways!

    People on my street are pretty good about clearing their snow. The only house the isn't has 2 teenagers in it, which just floors me.


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