Unfortunately, we also received some rain and have had freezing temps, so we have a couple inches of ice underneath the snow. My attempt to shovel my sidewalk today was mostly for naught. Thanks to my laziness regarding the sweeping and removal of fallen pine needles from the sidewalk leading to my house, that stretch is actually clear! The pine needles made an excellent barrier between the sidewalk and ice and clean up was a breeze! The public walk beyond my fence is a disaster however and I’ll be embracing Norfolk’s snow removal philosophy until ordered by someone to chop the ice away.
All of this brings me to Daddy’s shovel, for that’s what I used earlier today. I don’t often think of its significance, but did so just a few minutes ago. I may never get my father’s beloved music as I requested the day of his funeral, but at least I have his shovel. I’m sure he’d find it a little ridiculous if he knew. I’m not even sure how it became a “thing” for me, but it’s one of a handful of items that I intend to have with me until the day I die.
I’m not sure when Dad picked this thing up. I think I must have been around 10 or so – at least that’s my earliest memory of it. The thing was HUGE the first time I saw it and I could barely lift it. I believe it was taller than me or my height at the time of its arrival. It stands about 5 feet tall and the handle itself makes up 90% of the length. I’m pretty sure I remember crying the first time I had to use it. It has a simple wooden handle and a square blue shovel. The bottom edge of the shovel is curled up now from 3 decades of use and a decent amount of the blue coloring has worn off, but the thing is still functional.
I’m not sure why Daddy didn’t take the shovel with him when he left. I guess since my mother and I were staying in the house, he thought he should leave it behind. Then again, he left in May so maybe he hadn’t even given it a thought. Not much call for snow shovels in May – even in New Jersey. I’m fairly certain I probably cursed him and that shovel the first winter without him when I became the ‘man of the house.’ I do remember resenting that shovel for several winters.
I don’t know if I kidnapped it for sentimental reasons or pure function when I moved to Richmond a week after the blizzard of ’96. I seem to remember thinking shovels might be hard to come by in the South and since the roads were still treacherous I had gotten in the habit of keeping the shovel in my car in case I got stuck. Regardless of my reasons, bringing it to Richmond was a good call on my part since there were approximately 5 shovels in Richmond in January of 1996.
I haven’t had to use it down here very often at all. In fact, I’ve been in this house for almost 5 years and this is the first snowfall of any significance we’ve had since I’ve been here. The last storm was in December 2004 and I was still living with the Dark Lord – and used Daddy’s shovel to clear our sidewalks and driveway at the time. There was a storm in the early Aughts when I was living in Norfolk and I remember another doozy of one while in Richmond in 2000, but outside of that, the shovel’s been pretty idle. And yet, I can’t imagine my life without it now. I know it’s silly, but it’s a part of my past. It reminds me of a time so long ago that I sometimes think I dreamt it. It reminds me of my father – the love, anger, frustration, and humor. I can hear him when I use it. I’m so thankful for that. And so, I’ll keep carting this thing along for years to come. Even if I wind up somewhere without snow, I’ll still have Daddy’s shovel – and I know that would make him weirdly proud and make him laugh – two things I miss deeply.