I looked out Friday evening at Winter Storm Nemo dropping tons of snow on my driveway and I said to myself, “Gosh, that’s going to take my wife a long time to shovel.”
On Saturday I came to my senses, and headed out to do the honorable thing, leaving her inside to sweep, mop, dust, wash, iron, and paint the bedroom. The bedroom did not really need painting, but it’s irresistible to do those few things that the Town of Ipswich doesn’t require a permit for.
Of course I was well equipped for my snow removal chores. When I moved here from the Arizona desert, where we saw exactly 16 flakes of snow in two decades (and those 16 flakes came in two separate “snowstorms”), I knew I would need the proper equipment. So I bought a snowblower. Not just any snowblower. I bought a tiny electric snowblower. Essentially a large metal mosquito. Because I have no experience with snowblowers, and I wanted one I could handle. I could imagine nothing more embarrassing than running down Linebrook Road chasing my snowblower. I have seen big snowblowers in my neighborhood. Snowblowers bigger than the facial-hairy, barrel-chested lumberjack-types who drive them. Snowblowers bigger than the sheds they’re stored in. Snowblowers so big, they clear the average Linebrook driveway just by being powered up, and only need to be operated longer because their motors shake the earth and knock another ton of snow out of the trees. This kind of snowblower — the kind of snowblower the Old Testament Goliath would have owned, if he were from Gloucester instead of Gath, the gas hog snowblower, the snowblower you could pull a house trailer with — was not for me. I needed a starter-snowblower. A kindergartener’s snowblower. A snowblower as delicate and sweet-tempered and unobtrusive as its owner.
When the garage door went up, Nemo’s drifts remained in place, a solid wall of snow, significantly taller than my snowblower. At first I decided I would have to use my shovel. But within a minute or two, my thoracolumbar fascia muscle had conferred with my trapezius muscle and confirmed that my back had been too many weeks without anything remotely like exercise to take on something the size of Nemo.
So I took a deep breath, and pushed my little snow-sneezer into the mammoth mountain of white.
I was surprised to see how well the tiny Toro performed. It chewed up the bottom two or three inches of snow, leaving a two-and-a-half foot ledge of snow above it. I could keep pushing the machine into the snow bank, bit by bit, deeper and deeper, until the overhanging ledge got too heavy and weak, and crashed down, leaving me fresh snow to blow. In this way, a few inches at a time, I made my way from the door of my house toward Linebrook Road.
Visibility was an issue, however. I couldn’t really see where I was heading. When I finally climbed up from the depths to figure out my location, there was a sign that said Topsfield Town Line.
Returning along the trail I’d blazed with my marvelous little machine, I found that my very excellent neighbor, who owns a snowblower twice the size of his boat, had graciously cleared my entire property. The driveway, the yard, the garden, everything. Everything except the igloo.
Well, it looked like an igloo. It was actually my Honda. An Ipswich tax collector was standing nearby with a clipboard.
“We don’t seem to have a record of this dwelling,” he said peevishly. “Your property tax will be going up.”
“It’s my Honda!” I replied. “Honest!”
“Well, then, it’s a garage,” he snorted, jotting notes. “Did you get a permit to build this?”