Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shoveling through Tears

Back in the day, our five boys were the best team of snow shovelers a New England family could ever hope for.  My husband made sure that they knew the most efficient way to get the job done, and he got them out there when they were quite young to teach them how to do it properly. He did the same thing when it came to lawn mowing, starting out by assigning a small rectangle of grass and gradually having them move on to more challenging sizes and shapes.

We have a large front yard and a large back yard, and our driveway isn't quite airport runway-length, but it's pretty long.  And the thing that was so great about the way our boys worked is that as they got older and were able to take over the responsibility for the outside work from their dad almost entirely, they developed a system for dividing the work area--whether the yard or the driveway--into defined sections and going to town in the most efficient manner.  It was a thing of beauty to watch, I tell you--better than any synchronized swimming routine you've ever seen.  And they took turns being stuck with the least desirable sections, but they worked it all out on their own, without any input from dear old mom and dad.

I've blogged before about my boys and how much we miss their big strong arms and backs, now that they've all grown up and left us.  [Sniff, sniff.]  I mean, we miss them, too; but boy, we really miss their muscles.  We miss having them as our live-in work detail, our dependable team of laborers (who might have been underpaid, but were definitely not underappreciated).  Here's an old post on the subject, written not long after our youngest took off for college in South Bend, IN in 2011.  I was new at being an empty-nester back then, and trying my darndest to adjust to all the changes that were taking place around here.

We have "guys" now (something our boys could only dream about in the good old days when they were the ones keeping our grass trimmed and our driveway cleared off): we have a yard guy and we have a plow guy.  These guys are necessary for us now.  My husband goes away for days at a time for his airline job, and that would leave me to dig out when we get dumped on by winter Nor'easters.  Sorry, Charlie--I just don't have the upper body strength to handle that kind of thing on my own.  I can push a lawnmower when my hubby's not here to do it; but we travel so much these days to visit our kids and grandkids that if we didn't have a lawn service to keep things under control in our absences, we would get ourselves kicked out of our nice cul-de-sac neighborhood.  So we have guys.  I love our guys.

Anyhoo, we got some snow on Sunday night, but the plow guy doesn't come unless we get three inches, and it was just under that.  When I talked to my husband (who Face-timed me from his layover hotel in Moscow), he told me not to worry about shoveling it, but on Monday I decided to do it anyway.  It was fluffy and light, and I knew that if I didn't clear it off soon, it would continue to get packed down every time we drove on it until it would be impossible to shovel.  So I was out there, on a gloriously sunny but ridiculously cold afternoon, thinking about this and that as I rhythmically scraped the shovel from one side of the driveway to the other, and suddenly I stopped and stood there, shovel in hand, while the tears coursed down my face.  I miss my boys, I thought.  I was hit completely out of the blue with the most painful longing to watch them troop outside as a team to divide and conquer the driveway together--just one more time.  To see them young again, sometimes laughing and pelting each other with snow, and sometimes bickering because one or the other wasn't pulling his weight.  Yes, I was even feeling nostalgic about the bickering.
I never would have thought that just the simple act of shoveling a few inches of snow off the driveway would make me so nostalgic and sad.

When my funny second oldest son got home from work and I told him about my weird little crying spell in the driveway, he assured me that he and his brothers don't miss those slave labor days one bit.  They do not get nostalgic about them, he assured me; they do not cry, and they do not sit around thinking, If only we could all go and shovel Mom and Dad's driveway together again.  So I ended up laughing, and all was good.

The end.


  1. Sometimes it does just hit you like that. It was my birthday last week and was travelling to town with all my other children, one boy is back in the city and it just hit me, I so nearly burst into tears, it was an effort I managed not too. Oh your oldest lad, he is a hoot and that just puts it all into perspective.

    1. My boys are all so funny and make me laugh regularly--that's one of the many reasons I miss having them around all the time (not just for the shoveling and mowing!).

  2. Replies
    1. I am completely mushy when it comes to my boys. :)