Joseph F. Berenato
On finding my passion for sweeping & shoveling snow
This year certainly started off as a winter wonderland, didn’t it? We had two snow days in one week, and my wife Robyn, for one, was very excited.
Robyn loves snow, completely and totally. If she sees a flurry, she gets as giddy as a schoolgirl. If they call for any kind of appreciable accumulation, she puts on fuzzy socks and makes hot tea in anticipation.
Once the snow begins to fall—assuming she’s fortunate enough to be home; I can’t account for her behavior at work, though I imagine it’s similar—she’ll take every opportunity to gaze out the window and watch the fluffy whiteness fall from the sky.
She is totally at peace when the snow is falling and takes full advantage of the cozy rest that snow days afford.
I can’t wait for it to end.
Don’t get me wrong; I, too, love snow. I love the freshness in the air, and I appreciate how everything looks clean and new under a blanket of fresh snow. I enjoy taking pictures in the snow, marveling at how it changes the aesthetic of everyday objects—particularly at night, when black-and-white photos take on a timeless quality.
Why, then, do I want it to end?
Because I love shoveling snow.
As much as Robyn enjoys sitting in the warmth and watching it fall from the sky, I love bundling up and starting the methodical process of cleaning every surface imaginable in and around my house.
My wife thinks I’m crazy—which, now that I think about it, is something of a running theme around these parts—but shoveling snow brings me a nearly indescribable amount of joy.
No matter what time, day or night, the snow stops falling, it’s the same process every time: I fill up my travel mug with hot coffee, lace up my boots and put on my coat, hat and gloves. I bring the bag of de-icer out of the basement and put it on my front porch, where my broom, car scraper and snow shovel are waiting.
I start with the porch, sweeping and shoveling as necessary until every walkable surface is clean.
Then, I move on to the cars; I always clean them off before I shovel the driveway so I don’t create twice the work for myself. A large broom takes care of the majority of the snow; then I use the car scraper to handle the rest, always being careful to push the snow to the front and passenger sides of each vehicle to allow for ease of entrance into the car and ease of egress from the driveway.
Then comes the front driveway. I take my time, working in a grid, removing the snow one shovelful at a time, until the entire thing is clear. My back driveway is a bit different; it’s unpaved and really long, so I shovel down to a manageable height—if necessary—and back down the driveway several times to ensure a clear path to the street.
I make sure to clean the aprons completely of any snow that plows may have pushed in front of it—and I also clean all along the curb and street, particularly on my corner, so no drivers-by hit an errant patch of ice at our four-way stop. When I’m done, there are large mounds of snow on my grass all along the property, but the streets are clean, the driveways are clean, the walkway and porch are clean—and everything gets covered in voluminous amounts of de-icer to prevent slips and spills.
Robyn thinks I go a tad overboard—particularly with the attention I pay to the street itself—but the finished product makes me smile, every single time.
See, I’ve always enjoyed shoveling snow. When I was in middle school, Jay Celona and I used to go around the neighborhood, shoveling driveways and sidewalks for $10 a pop. When I lived in an apartment complex, I used to do the same thing for my neighbors, cleaning their cars, shoveling the parking lot and clearing the apron so none of us would get stuck—only then, I did it for free, because it brought me such glee.
I find it soothing. It relaxes me, and gives me a chance to clear my mind while I focus on the task in front of me. I love being able to watch my progress as, bit by bit, I slowly but surely tame Mother Nature as best I can—or, at least, her aftermath.
And, as extra as Robyn thinks I’m being with my overzealous enthusiasm, she always appreciates the end result.
As I write this, there are rumblings in the forecast of more snow—perhaps a lot more, depending on the forecaster—but that’s fine by me. My wife has plenty of tea, and I’ve got plenty of coffee and de-icer.
Let it snow.
Joseph F. Berenato began as a mild-mannered reporter for The Hammonton Gazette in 1997, and returned to that position in 2019 after an 18-year sabbatical, during which he farmed, taught, became a grandfather, dug graves and wrote, but never so prolifically as he has since his return. You can email him at email@example.com or find him on social media at @JFBerenato and at www.jfberenato.com.