It was Friday morning and the first snowstorm of the season was coming. The weather people on all the television stations began the alerts early. They told of the potential dangers, the damage already done in states to the West of us, and stood outside in their parkas, wind blowing, creating just the right amount of excitement to have folks rushing to the supermarket to buy the usual “emergency” items: bread, milk, water, snow salt and shovels. At noon, the shelves would be bare!
By a stroke of good luck, I had done my food shopping the day before and had my cold weather staples stocked: soup, chocolate, popcorn and wine. The wind chill was 8 degrees. The bird feeders were filled. Logs for the fireplace were stacked. I was ready. I went next door to visit a neighbor.
When I got home, the sky had turned the peculiar gray that signifies snow, and the first flakes began to fall. I checked the predictions and found my area was going to escape anything significant – just one to three inches. Good. Getting ready for bed, the ground looked like it was dusted with baby powder.
I woke up Saturday morning to a world of white. The snow was falling heavily now. The perfect kind; thick, fluffy flakes. They draped around the evergreens like delicate crocheted scarves around a woman’s neck. The branches of the dead trees seemed to be lined with cotton, cardinals perched on them, a winter picture postcard. I sighed contentedly. I had no need to venture outside. Instead, I would make my favorite lazy morning breakfast: French Toast with cinnamon and nutmeg, fruit and coffee.
The snow continued during the afternoon. Dressed in my comfy flannel pajamas and fleecy slippers, I snuggled in my armchair, a book on the table beside me. It was hard to read. I kept looking outside, the wall to wall window onto the balcony providing a view so lovely I lost all sense of time. The birds crowded the feeders providing endless entertainment as they jockeyed for position and tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the squirrels away. Later, I lit the first of the three logs I would burn, poured a glass of wine and selected just the right music.
At sunset, the snow glowed orange, matching the color of the flames in the fireplace. And when darkness descended, the icicles that had formed hanging from the balcony rafters looked like upside down candles.
It had been a spectacularly beautiful day. As I sat savoring the last of it, safe, warm, well fed and content, it occurred to me that there were so many others who had not had the same kind of day. People and animals who had no shelter or food. I prayed that they would find comfort. And as I climbed into my bed, aware of the hardships faced by so many, I was especially grateful that I had been blessed with the perfect snow day.
It was Sunday morning. I had slept well and later than usual, dreaming of a fairy tale-like white land where everything was gentle, soft and peaceful. I padded barefoot to the living room and opened the drapes, eager to see the winter landscape. It was still snowing, the paths around the apartment complex and the cars in the parking lot covered by tall drifts as the wind whipped the flakes even higher. What I saw was more than surprising. It was, for me, a nightmare! The 1 to 3 inches of snow predicted had been greatly underestimated. I turned on the weather station, watching as the various townships announced their statistics; the newscasters, dressed like Arctic explorers for added emphasis, holding rulers to dig into the ground. We had 8 inches, more coming.
So this was it. The first challenge to my independence since the onset of my spinal disease. What would have been no more than an annoying, tiring task with snow shovel and brush a year ago, was now a physical dilemma. Walking was difficult even on clear days and bending and lifting was painful. Cold and dampness were to be avoided. I decided to wait until early afternoon, hoping by then the snow would have stopped, the walkways would be cleared and the bright sun would have softened, if not melted, some of my enemy.
At 2 o’clock I began to dress in layers, the temperature only 22 degrees. Tights, sweater, sweatpants and sweatshirt. Heavy socks. And finally, boots, gloves and hooded jacket. I would do this. I had always done it before. Besides, there was no one else to do it and it had to be done! Years ago, teenagers would appear at the door, ready and willing to dispatch the snow for a reasonable fee. I would gladly pay them, admiring their work ethic, and sending them on their way with hot chocolate and a snack. But I had not seen this in a long time. So, armed with my shovel, I walked out the door, looking like Frosty the Snowman’s decrepit grandmother and filled with anxiety and dread.
I walked slowly, head down. The path had been cleared, but there were patches of ice and I was afraid of falling. It seemed to be taking forever to go a short distance.
The sight I saw when I finally looked up took my breath away. There was not a speck of snow on my car! It had been totally cleared along with a narrow area around it providing easy access. There was no note and no one nearby to ask. In the distance, three men were digging out, paying no attention to me, and a young girl was walking her dog who wore a red jacket and seemed to be having a great time. I opened the door, sat behind the wheel and put the key in the ignition. The engine started, and soon the defroster and heater were doing their jobs. I continued to sit there, numb, not with cold but astonishment. After a while, I stepped out, looking around and finding no explanation for my amazing good fortune. I walked slowly back home.
It was warm and inviting and contrary to my expectation, I was not in pain or exhausted.
I took off my boots and coat, sat down and thought about the kind of person who would have done this for me. There were a few candidates, younger neighbors who always had a smile and some easy conversation. We shared a love of animals and good food, travel and the outdoors. They had all noticed my physical changes and the new handicap parking spot and always asked how I was doing. But maybe it was someone else. Who? How could I ever thank them?
A few minutes later, I tore a piece of paper off my notepad in the kitchen and wrote this note: To The Person Who Cleared the Snow from My Car – Your Kindness Is Awesome! I can not begin to tell you how much I appreciate your help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I walked down the steps to the landing of my unit and taped the note to the staircase railing.
I never found out who the good Samaritan was. But I think I know something about him/her. The kind of person who does not need a thank you or recognition. The kind of person who took pleasure and satisfaction in knowing that they made my day better and my life easier. The kind of person who, given the state of the world lately, seemed to be almost extinct.
The snow has melted and the weather is bearable.
But the impact of the play remains. Perhaps that is because as I grow older, certain things become sweeter and more memorable.
The spectacular beauty of a perfect snow day.
The kindness of a stranger who required no thank you.
And the blessings of life.