Snow forces creative use of shovels, blowers

With a real snow day comes real snow. That means, as prepared as we think we are, we probably are not prepared for a storm system that packs such a punch as the one Monday and Tuesday did.

What a glorious surprise to wake up Monday morning to a 6-inch-thick blanket of pristine white snow! It made our house and the streets of our neighborhood beautifully unrecognizable.

My son had gotten up at 3 a.m. to see how accurate the weather forecast had been. As the snow fell in the early hours of the morning, he was delighted to go back to bed after turning off his alarm in anticipation that school would surely be canceled Monday.

My husband's office also was closed for the day, so he spent his day like many of the rest of us did, clearing the driveway of snow. Though I hail from Wisconsin, spent 11 years living in Chicago and seven in New York City, I now live in the Carolinas, without a snow shovel. We almost gave away our sled, but for whatever reason - and it seemed logical at the time - we kept the sled but ditched the shovels.

In the almost six years we have lived here, we have not ever truly needed a snow shovel. Each year we have been here there has been a snow day that has ended up being more of a slush-and-mud day. The forecast would be for 2 to 4 inches of snow expected, and only a half-inch would actually accumulate.

By the time the kids actually got all their layers of outerwear on, the snow would have already melted and turned to slush, which made for mud sledding rather than snow sledding.

Imagine how the joy and wonderment of waking up to a real snow day turned into a fretful problem-solving issue for my husband, when he realized the driveway was buried under 6 inches of snow and he did not have a snow shovel. It was disappointing, to say the least.

Scoping out the tools in the garage, he found a garden shovel we had borrowed from some friends last summer. He thought that would suffice. After all, a shovel is a shovel is a shovel.

Au contraire. Note to self: A garden shovel does not make an effective snow shovel. Under normal conditions, our driveway seems about an average size compared to most. But in this situation, the driveway seemed magnificently longer, wider and bigger.

Then my husband had a somewhat brilliant idea. He decided to sweep the driveway. Using the only utility broom we had in the house, he began to sweep away the snow, inch by inch, pile by pile. After a couple of hours of sweeping, progress was visible, as were the blisters on my husband's hands.

Finally, after the laborious task was completed, he said he would take out the snow blower. At first I could not believe he would spend all that time sweeping the snow if we still had our snow blower.

Then I saw him emerge from the garage like a warrior toting his leaf blower. He pulled the ignition cord and the leaf blower roared, and my husband took his "snow blower" and removed the final layer of snow that remained on the concrete.

Standing at the end of the clean, snow-free driveway, he gripped his "snow blower" and strutted back to the garage for the final chapter of the snow-day snow removal challenge. Grabbing a bag of salt, he sprinkled the crystals liberally, and any remaining snow or ice began to melt.

He meticulously returned the borrowed garden shovel, utility broom, leaf blower and bag of salt to the garage. I watched as he closed the garage door with a smile of great satisfaction. He came inside and removed his boots, like a soldier returning from battle, and proudly looked out the window at what he had accomplished.

Then it started to snow again.