I almost didn’t take that road home this morning. Its twists and curves in and out, down and around the hills and forest might not bode well for a commute through the fresh covering of snow left last night.
I didn’t want to stop when I saw the woman chipping away at the chunks of ice barricading her house from the rest of civilization. It was cold, my house was warm, my writing beckoned.
I knew I would think of her all morning if I didn’t.
I slipped and slid my way through a sloppy three point turn and peered into the unfamiliar driveways until I found the beacon of her yellow jacket.
“Would you like some help?” I called.
In the time it had taken me to circle back, she’d started back up her driveway. She had paused when she saw me pull over and now made her way back to my car.
“I was just headed inside for a break,” she said. “I go in for about 45 minutes to warm up, then come back out. It’s a lot easier today than it was yesterday, I’ll tell you.”
I noticed now that three-quarters of the driveway had already been cleared, presumably by the metal shovel and approximation of a turf spade she held in her hands.
“Are you a neighbor?”
I explained where I lived in relation to her house. Not exactly neighbors, but I passed by her house quite frequently en route to mine.
“Let me ask you, have you had any problems with your mailbox?”
She pointed out the naked post next to her driveway and explained that in the five and a half years since her husband died, she’d had three mailboxes knocked over by plows. Her granddaughter and husband reinstalled one one spring; her son shored up another. She’d called town hall. A plowman who came out to her house told her in brusque tones it was the snow, not him, that was responsible. When she objected to his tone of voice, saying that town hall never would have spoken to its residents that way in her old town, he said she’d paid more taxes in that town.
“But I worked in that town hall,” she said. “I was the voice of town hall.”
I discovered her motivation to clear the driveway: so she could haul her mangled mailbox to town hall.
She asked my name and introduced herself, telling me to beep and wave the next time I went by and then she’d know who it was. When I turned around a few houses down from her house in the other direction and passed back by on my way home, I saw her yellow jacket at the top of the driveway, heading into the open bay of her garage.
I’d still think of Peggy all morning, but not with guilt for not helping her; in gratitude for having met her.