Turning yellow snow into lemon sorbet
This week caps off what was reportedly the worst blizzard in West Michigan and possibly the entire world, just shy of snowfall records set on distant Hoth and spurring talks of another Ice Age. And while Grand Rapids, Michigan-area schools enter their third straight snow day, I can’t help but wax nostalgic for those rare mornings as a kid back in Cleveland, being glued to the tube waiting for final confirmation that on that glorious day there would be no more classes, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.
Mostly, I was thinking of my old Nintendo 8-bit, though not to stay in all day and play. No, the eighth boss on “Blaster Master” would have to wait. All I was thinking about was how to bum a ride to Toys”R”Us later that evening to buy my next video game with the big wad of cash I’d make shoveling snow all day.
I’d down some cereal, suit up for the slush like the 10th Mountain Division readying for Riva Ridge, take my trusty snow shovel and tackle the frozen tundra that was my neighborhood. Hank, my childhood best friend, was already outside waiting for me. We’d make short work of our own driveways before embarking on our joint venture. We were the best door-to-door salesmen on our street. Ten bucks a driveway, done and done. We’d approach 20 jobs a day with a 12,000-calorie lunch in between. While other kids were pretending to toboggan down their pathetic, makeshift front-yard slopes, we were shoveling the white stuff and raking in the green.
Exhausting work for sure, but nothing two pre-teen boys couldn’t handle. By nightfall, we’d march on home, nearly $100 apiece richer and hungrier than hell:
“When Johnny comes marching home for lunch, it’s Mrs Weiss. He needs a hearty meal, so it’s Mrs Weiss. Mrs Weiss’s noodle soup will satisfy your hungry troops, ‘cuz you get more noodles with Mrs Weiss’s soup.”
Over the years, we began to loathe pickup trucks. You know, the ones with yellow snow plow blades on the front that could clear off a driveway in 30 seconds flat. Cost-wise, we were no match for this new and formidable competition. Having upped our fees to $15 to keep up with rising video-gaming prices, the snow plow drivers kept it to $10. Then hardware stores started selling snow blowers (called “snow throwers” here in the Mitten State, which I chalk up to a “soda versus pop” thing) for under $500, mostly to recent high-school grads making a mint off our established routes. Market forces bared down on us. Soon enough, girls and sports took our attention away from our Nintendos, so Hank and I hung up our shovels for good.
I am mildly proud of the ginormous Craftsman that adorns my garage these days, the one that can cut through 28-inch snow banks like butter. My first grader is a tad too young to operate it, and my preschooler is plain terrified by the awful racket. Still, I hope as they grow older that, snow day or no snow day, my girls see their dear ol’ dad pretending he can keep up with the neighbor boys, run to me with their little plastic shovels and yell, “Can we help, Daddy, can we help? Pretty please?” Knowing my girls’ entrepreneurial spirit—they love their lemonade stands in the summer—I’m certain they’ll brave the driveways of our subdivision, co-owners of their own snow-shoveling business, bosses of their own piggy banks, plenty of hot cocoa awaiting their return.
And not soon enough, or I’ll never get around the beating the end boss of that one game.