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Three Women by Christine Kesara Dennett

Snow Blower or Snow Shovel

Stacy Gittleman

We actually do have a snow blower. A Toro Powerlite snow blower that our brother-in-law gave to us as a housewarming gift when my husband and I moved to Rochester from New Jersey with our two small children nearly a decade ago. It is nestled on the left side of our Tudor’s tiny one-car garage – a garage that was built to fit 1920’s model cars, not today’s SUVs or minivans. Over the years, it has certainly served us well. My husband uses the snow blower on mornings when he has to get out early. I often wake to the sound of him repeatedly pulling on its cord to get it whirring to a shuddering start, the smell of the gasoline seeping upward from the garage directly overhead to our bedroom.

But I left the snow blower in the garage today and opted for my ergonomic snow shovel. If I used the snow blower, I wouldn’t have delighted in the soundlessness that a snowstorm creates, the snow’s ability to absorb noise in our motorized world. I wouldn’t have had the chance to watch the snow change from white to the slightest tinge of blue when it is pushed aside by the shovel’s blade. Or hear the chickadees chirping in the backyard and think about how I may at some point want to train them to feed out of my hand.

The snowy weather does get a bit old here in Rochester, here at January’s end when at least two more months of snow await us and with the knowledge that we could not afford plane tickets to Florida for this year’s February break.

You cannot stir a sleepy Rochesterian child out of bed at January’s end with the exclamation of, “Look! It snowed last night.”

Maybe you can get away with that in November, or even mid-December, when snow is still a novelty. But when one’s alarm has been buzzing before dawn since November, and grass and brick and garden beds have not been seen for over a month, the child looks at you as if to say, “big freaking deal, MOM,” and rolls over in a vain attempt for one more minute of sleep.

We are not bears. And we cannot sleep all winter. So out we go into it. Whether it is to school, work, food shopping, we must.

And you know something? If you are wearing enough layers, and there is no bitter wind to bite your face, shoveling snow by hand, and then taking a walk in it can be very invigorating, just about as invigorating as the Zumba class that I decided to blow off today. As I walk, I turn my feet outwards, and then in, just like that boy in Ezra Jack Keats’s beloved children’s book. (Need I tell you the name?) I am thankful for the fluffy white snow under my boots that is cushioning my steps from the slippery ice just below winter’s latest offering.

I think about diverting my children from the television and getting them into the snow to play as they get off the school bus. I feel the gentleness of the flakes hit against my hat. And when the one other person out walking today in my neighborhood passes me, we smile at each other knowingly, as if we are privy to a very well kept secret.

As I turn home, an enormous truck with an eight-foot high snowplow turns the corner and packs the snow bank blocking our driveway even higher. Okay, there is no romanticizing anymore, and I head to my garage to start up the noisy, smelly snow blower.

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