It was Christmas Day 2009. My husband pushed the garage door button. As the door creaked and groaned in protest, it slowly raised to reveal a Midwestern winter at its finest. Forty-five-mile-an-hour wind gusts whipped around our faces and blew snow into our mouths, nostrils, and other orifices we had forgotten to cover. An overnight blizzard had blanketed our city in a foot or more of snow and now it was our job to clear our driveway.
I looked down at the small garden shovel I held in one hand. I stared at the slightly larger shovel in my husband’s hand. He was leaning on it, looking exhausted already as he viewed the monumental drifts that blocked our way like playground bullies determined to not let us get back in school after recess. I did some calculating in my head which, if you know me my math skills, took quite a while. “By my estimations,” I said to my husband, “I figure we’ll be done clearing the driveway by December 28, 2010.”
He sighed as he pulled his gloves on. “No sense in delaying the inevitable,” he replied as he began slowly scooping the snow off the top of the drifts. I stared down the driveway which had never looked as long as an airplane runway … until now. I began to scoop. I scooped and I scooped some more. Thirty minutes elapsed. I wiped the sweat off my brow and leaned on my tiny shovel. “Look honey,” I boasted, “I got the two front steps cleared!”
Suddenly, I smelled gas, oil, and the sweat of a man who had the foresight to plan ahead. As I watched our next door neighbor thrust his snow blower through the drifts, carving a path to freedom, I didn’t even care that his auger was pointed in the direction of our driveway. I didn’t think it was humanly possible to feel what I was feeling. Just between you and me, I had fallen in love not with the man, but his glorious machine. “Look at that baby work its magic,” I breathlessly murmured to my husband who was now buried in two feet of snow. “I mean seriously,” I gasped, “Have you ever seen anything so magnificent in your life?” My husband shook his head at me as he shoveled his way out of the small mountain our neighbor’s auger had created.
While our neighbor plowed meticulous little rows up and down his driveway, my husband and I worked on the same snow drift, clanking our shovels together like champagne glasses at our wedding, except this clanking wasn’t nearly as happy as that clanking. “Could you go over to the other side of the driveway and work on that spot in front of the trash cans?” he asked in a not-very-nice tone.
As I wondered whatever happened to family togetherness on Christmas, I noticed my neighbor pointing his snow blower in the direction of our driveway. Is he …? Could it be …? Is it possible …? I thought to myself as I choked on the fumes that poured out of his powerful machine. “Here he comes!” I shouted to my husband as I jumped up and down with excitement. My husband stepped aside like a Christmas Eve worshipper in the Vatican who was watching the Pope and his procession make their way down the aisle.
As we both stood arm-in-arm and watched our neighbor work, we knew we were witnessing a true Christmas miracle. While I admired the chains on his snow blower’s wheels, my husband was quietly considering nominating our neighbor for sainthood. An hour later, after our driveway was snow-free and neighbor had parked his snow blower in his shed, my husband and I sat across from each other at the kitchen table, enjoying cups of hot cocoa. I looked out the window. “You know, the snow is kind of pretty,” I commented.
He glanced outside and smiled, “It’s a true winter wonderland.”
Just then, we heard the roar of an engine much louder than our neighbor’s snow blower. We turned to look at each other in horror. Is it …? Could it be the …? Don’t even tell me … I thought to myself as we ran to the front door.
Just then the plow drove by and hurled three feet of snow onto the end of our driveway. And that was the moment we both realized that sometimes Christmas miracles are short-lived.