A Sleet Day

(Written January 2011: The winter of 70+ inches of snow in Boston.)

I’m awake early this morning after a heavy snow dream: We drove up to our house and our roof had collapsed. When we went inside, we saw that only the attic had collapsed, but we watched as the plaster slowly peeled away from all the walls on the second floor. I left the dream having called a roofer and wondering if we should call the construction company.

In real life, we have had 70 inches of snow – I’m not sure if that includes the two inches of ice from last Thursday. There have been enough snow days that Will wakes up assuming it’s a snow day until told otherwise. For days we have been watching six to eight inches of ice on the narrow overhang above the deck, just over the door to our house. Last weekend, from the driveway I looked up concerned that it would collapse, but Bill was unsure that anything could be done.

On Monday, Bill went away on business for the week. Tuesday we had twelve more inches of snow. Wednesday we woke up to sleet and another snow day. That morning the boys were in their pj’s playing and I decided to take a quick shower – until I opened the curtain to look out my bedroom window. Eight inches of snow rested on the window pane. Aha! This is the roof of the overhang! Right outside my bedroom window! I can shovel this roof from my bedroom window!

Armed with a baby snow shovel and a full-size snow shovel, I opened the window. Unfortunately, this particular window is one that when the lock is released the top window falls down a bit. But I was still able to reach out and push a lot of snow off. If I leaned my upper body out of the window, I could reach right to the edge of the ice. Looking at the amount of ice built up, I hoped that if the wall gave and took me with it, that someone would find the little orange snow shovel so they would know I hadn’t jumped due to another snow day. The amount of ice under the snow was shocking: Six inches thick up to a small boulder in a corner where the sun rarely glanced. Still I had done what I could – as the morning news had suggested – in removing snow behind the ice to avoid an ice jam.

I was ready to move on to window #2. I started the usual dance with the funky window: push the top one up that had fallen and hold it in place while pushing the other one down. We’ve done it a million times. But today, the top window pops out of the frame and thuds onto the ice roof I had just shoveled from my bedroom window. Moments of silence… then under my breath… “Nooo!”

My neighbor had told me to call if I needed anything while Bill was away. “My bedroom window fell out while I was shoveling my roof.” I scrapped that scenario and lunged out the open hole to grab the window – wet but no broken glass. Forty-five minutes later, I had learned a lot about window design, including how the little pulley system should work if the window is installed properly. I gave up on proper installation and managed to wedge it into the slides, delicately push it up, and snap the lock.

I shoveled from window #2 without incident then went downstairs to check on the boys. “I thought you were going to shower, Mom.” My straight hair had been sleeted on while I was clearing snow, so the curls were wet and crazy. “No, I decided to shovel snow. I’m going out to do the steps now.” Two feet of roof snow was on the steps.

As long as I was out, I thought it would be a good idea to clear a path to the mailbox from the drive before all of the sleet froze on top of the snow banks. The box itself was the only thing visible, gulping for air under a muddy snow mound. Slowly, I cleared a shovel’s width of snow and ice, three feet high. I moved to the street side, thinking I would help out the mailman as well. Then a snow plow came over the hill. So I stepped back into my drive. And as he left the ridge in the drive, I smiled pointed to my shovel and to him. He backed up and cleared the ridge he had just left in the drive. I gave him a thumb’s up as he went on his way.

I returned to the box. My three feet of snow had returned: the ridge across my drive was now another three-foot high muddy, icy, slushy mound filling my little path to the box. I cleared it again from my drive and left the street-side mound for the government to deal with. My shower was long over due.