Snowmageddon. That’s what I thought looking out the window from the safety of my living room that late-January morning. Up and down the street, trees were toppled over, and several power lines were hanging dangerously low to the ground, trying to support the heavy branches that had fallen atop them. A vast sea of white, stretching as far as the eye could see, blinded me. In a rage, Mother Nature had battered the city overnight with nearly two feet of snow. A Nor’easter – the second one in two weeks. With all the smaller storms we had that month – it was just too much snow.
With my supersized coffee mug in hand, I listened to the continuous weather coverage on the news. “A new record snowfall has been set,” the weatherman said. “Since the start of the new year – only twenty-five days ago – more than fifty-eight inches of snow has fallen throughout the state of Connecticut. And, folks, I hate to tell you this, but we’re looking at another potential nor’easter for early next week. And it could be a big one.”
Great, I though. Just what we need – another blizzard. The snow was already above the window sills of my small Cape Cod home. If the next storm is any bigger than this one, my house will be completely devoured. Although picturesque and reminiscent of some of my favorite Currier and Ives prints, with nearly five feet of snow on the ground, it was overwhelming.
Kept awake all night by the loud diesel trucks and the sound of their blades scraping against the pavement, they tried in vain to keep up with the three-inch-per-hour onding. The storm had outfoxed them. I don’t know why, but they stopped plowing sometime before dawn, and the road quickly became impassable. A blitzkrieg of slush and ice had been pushed up against my white picket fence, toppling over it, and into my front lawn, adding several more feet to the enormous snowbank that was created by the snowplows during previous storms. The gate was all that was visible. I hoped my poor fence had survived the relentless beating it had taken, but if it didn’t stop snowing, I might not learn its fate till spring.
I opened the front door to let the dogs out but the screen door wouldn’t budge. The only way out was through the garage. But Zoey, my black lab, was terrified of the stairs and wouldn’t go down to the basement. Not that it mattered. When I opened the garage door, the snow was up to my thighs and my other lab couldn’t jump over it. Wolfy paced back and forth, whimpering. Shoveling was out of the question – it would take too long. I grabbed my coat, stood at the edge of the garage, and plunged backward. Packing the white powder down, I flapped my arms up and down, creating a snow angel. I then rolled around and made a large pen. It was less laborious than shoveling and faster too. Better still, it worked. Getting the screen door open upstairs required more effort. Putting all my weight into it, I kept pushing at the door until the ice buckled and Zoey and I could squeeze through. She walked off the porch, climbed up to the peak of the frozen mound, went down the other side, and onto the street. Hopping through the drifts like a deer, she went down the hill and disappeared.
I tried running after her. But in a thundering protest, the ice beneath me gave way. I sank into the freezing snow and ice. Clawing and crawling my way back to the porch, I grabbed the shovel and got to work. An hour later, frustrated and exhausted, I stopped and said, “Dear Lord, please help. I must find Zoey before it’s too late.” She was a wanderer. She also wasn’t the smartest dog in town. If she ran more than a block or two away, she wouldn’t be able to find her way home. Every minute that ticked by, the situation became more dire. I felt helpless – there was still so much work ahead of me and the guy that usually shoveled me out, couldn’t get to me for several more hours. I was on my own, and once out to the street, I then had to dig out my car. Where is my car? I thought. I can’t tell which one is mine.
By the time I reached the front gate, my chest hurt. I had overdone it, but I couldn’t rest. Zoey was gone a long time. With a vengeance, I attacked the car that I believed was mine. “Hey, slow down. You want to give yourself a heart attack?” I looked up to see my neighbor standing alongside me, shovel in hand.
I wasn’t too happy to see John at that moment. He was a nuisance. He was always parking his car in my driveway – or across it – so I had to park in the street. He’d ring my doorbell at all hours of the day and night. It was annoying and sometimes frightening. I tried to avoid him as much as possible. “My dog is missing, John. I’ve got to get my car out so I can go find her.”
“First of all, until a snowplow comes through, you’re not driving anywhere. So what’s the big rush? And second, if we do it together, it’ll get done that much faster.” Shocked – none of my neighbors had ever offered to help me before. Living in a big city, it’s just how it was – everybody kept to themselves – including me. “You sure this one’s yours?” He asked. “I could have sworn it was mine.”
“I don’t know, John. I can’t tell one from the other. Right now, they all look the same to me. But what does it matter? They both need to be dug out.” It was quite a while before I recognized the bronze hue of my Toyota. We were making headway. Or so I thought. When we took a break and examined our hard work, we saw we had barely made a dent. “I wonder when a snowplow is going to come through here. Soon, I hope.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young boy coming over the top of the hill. A black dog was walking by his side. Without my glasses, I couldn’t tell what kind it was, but its tail was sticking straight up in the air, whishing back and forth. I couldn’t take my eyes off it – I knew that whishing tail.
“This your dog, ma’am?” The boy yelled.
“Yes, where did you find her?”
“She wandered into our yard a while ago and my brother and I were playing with her.”
That’s odd, I thought. Zoey doesn’t play with kids. She doesn’t like them. “Do you live near nearby?” I asked. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.”
“Yup, I live only a few blocks from here,” he said. “My mom was afraid she was gonna get hit by a plow, so we tied her to tree in the front yard.”
“I was afraid of that too. Thank you for taking such good care of her. But how did you know where she lived?”
“The mailman told us.” Of course. The mailman. He knew everyone on his route, including their pets.
“My guardian angel was sure looking out for me today,” I said.
“Yeah, and Zoey too,” John said.
After a long rest and a hot lunch, John and I got back to work. While we were gone, a plow had heaped a fresh pile of slushy crud up against our cars. Gee thanks, I thought. It took us several more hours, but by the time we were done shoveling, John and I had become good friends.
When I saw the mailman the next day, I thanked him for his part in Zoey’s return. He looked at me puzzled and asked, “What are you talking about? I didn’t deliver the mail yesterday. I couldn’t get my truck down the back roads. The snow was too deep.”
Whoever that postman was that delivered a message instead of the mail, and the young boy who I never saw again, they will always be near and dear to my heart – my snow angels.
As published in Lightposts online magazine.