Monday, December 21, 2009

Dig We Must

Years ago, there was a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Yosemite Sam was stranded on a desert island. It showed him feasting on a wide range dishes, all consisting of coconuts prepared every way you could imagine. Eventually he pushed them all aside and said, in a snarling drawl, "I...hates...coconuts." (

Yesterday morning the snow stopped. We were lucky here, about 10". A lot of places along the east coast got much more. Pretty, white snow everywhere you looked, the stuff of snowmen and strong forts for blissful snowball fights. And with my shovel and ice scraper, I felt a great kinship to the image of Yosemite Sam with his knife and fork. I...hates...snow.

It was important to get the shoveling done right, and on-time. My wife was coming home from the rehab center by ambulette around mid-morning, a few days earlier than we'd thought at first, and to ensure her safety as she was brought in, the driveway, sidewalk, and porch stairs needed to be more than shoveled the usual way; they needed to be pristine. (Fortunately - and unlike her transfer from the hospital - we actually had a couple of days advance notice of her release. This made it possible for me to make sure I was home, and that she wouldn't have to be left in the yard or delivered to a neighbor's house till I got back.)

My first task was making sure I wasn't awakened at 5 am by some shovel-toting local youth, looking to ring my doorbell before all the other shovel-toting local youths. (Initiative is a fine thing, just not when it involves ringing my doorbell while I'm in a deep sleep.) With the snow still falling the night before, I'd put a big marker-on-poster-board sign on my front door: "Please do not ring bell. We'll shovel ourselves. Thanks." It worked better than the small, cute snowman signs I'd printed on the computer for other snowfalls. Subtlety, which I was not in the mood for anyway, is not the language of Jersey City youth.

Dividing the project into tasks, ordered by priority, I fortified myself with a cup of hot coffee and began. My thoughts wandered - that torch-is-passed-to-a-new-generation thing of shoveling the same driveway my father shoveled; feeling grateful to have a driveway to shovel in the first place, and the strength to do it; suddenly seeing a possible ulterior motive in my sons' decision to dorm at school instead of living at home. A few thoughts about feeling ready for the task despite having recently turned 50, and about all the people each year who feel ready for the task despite having recently turned 50 and end up keeling over next to their shovels anyway. Eventually the shoveling was done, and after a little clean-up work with the mysterious dark brown ice-melt chemical stuff, we were ambulette-ready.

Much of the living room is currently taken up by the pull-out sofa we're camping out on while my wife completes her recovery, so there was no room for the tree and no time for other decorating this year. Still, fashioning a make-shift table-top tree from the top section of our artificial tree - selecting only ornaments than won't break if (and, by "if," I mean "when") they're knocked off by Willie and Lilly - and putting up a couple of representative decorations, I managed to get something up as a nice surprise for her arrival. Christmas albums (nothing like some Clancy Brothers followed by Motown) on the cd-player - and finding out the cd player doesn't play cd's very well anymore - completed the setting.

Waiting at the front door, sipping a hot chocolate while watching my neighbors still shoveling, was pure, smug wonderfulness.

Happy to say, everything went according to plan, which is something of a rarity around here. Normalcy is never possible this time of year anyway, but at least we can start the process of getting a little back.

My sincere good wishes to all for a fine Christmas and a good, healthy New Year.

Unrelated Item: Just wanted to say...

A quick note on the sudden passing of Brittany Murphy. A few years ago, I was walking past the Ed Sullivan Theater as she was leaving after taping an appearance on David Letterman. I had never heard of her, but the crowd she drew caught my attention, and out of curiosity I watched a while as she interacted with them. There was the usual celebrity-in-a-hurry thing, and her handlers were trying to get her into the waiting Escalade. What I still remember is how, in spite of the pressure to rush away, she patiently made it a point to take time for the children who were there: posing for some pictures, smiling and talking for a moment with them, etc. It was easy to see it meant the world to these kids, and her warmth struck me as genuine. It was very classy, and totally charming.

No doubt we'll be hearing and reading a lot about her death. When a 32 year old woman suddenly dies of apparent cardiac arrest, there's a good chance some of that will not be kind. For whatever it's worth, I thought what I saw was worth a mention.


oldhousegal said...

I'm so glad your wife got home before the holidays. It's bad enough to be disabled by an accident, but to compound it by being away from home at this time of year seems especially cruel. Have a great holiday and greetings from The Great White... umm... I mean... Great Green North!

Washer Mom Val said...

Enjoyed this post. Glad your wife will be home for Christmas - try not to trip her anymore!

Funny stuff on the shoveling snow. Looks like we might "luck" out and have a white one here in lonely KS too.

Nice reflections on a lady past. Merry Christmas!

Angie said...

I wondered who Ms Murphy was. Her passing was announced on the news here in England but they only said she was an actress.

Glad your missus got home in time for Christmas. Now Ben, once she's back on her feet it's your job to make sure she stays there. You know how old trams used to take their power from overhead cables? Could you maybe rig up a system of o erhead cables in your house so she could safety-harness herself upright. Like Peter Pan?

DB said...

I lived in northern New Hampshire for 7 years. The Winter up there is about snow, that's it. When people learned I had moved there they said "Oh, do you ski?" I replied "No, I shovel."

Now at 70 in eastern PA we get some but I let the younger folks do it.

By the way, I did two shows with Tom Clancy of the Clancy Brothers. An interesting fellow.