Neighbor ro Neighbor: Winter fun accumulates as snow covers borough

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According to the groundhog, spring is just around the corner. I can hardly wait. During the winter of 2001/2002, every time the temperature went up the sweet alyssum in the front yard bloomed. It looked like dainty lace, very white against the brown earth, interspersed with the velvety purple faces of a few brave little violets.

When garden cleanup time arrived last autumn, I left the sweet alyssum plants in the ground, anticipating a similar extended season of blossoms. That was not the first of my failed plans. The substitute white blanket of snow that took its place was accompanied by such harsh cold that all the plants that had borne those pretty white flowers now look like straw, flattened and forlorn, hugging the soil that has kept them locked in its frozen clutches.

As soon as possible, they will “graduate” to the compost pile, to be replaced by a new generation from the seeds sown during the last growing season. This repeated annual process always amazes me, especially since we never planted any of the sweet alyssum plants.

They were a “gift of the wind,” after our friend and former good neighbor, Lenny White, bought and planted hundreds of those little plants in his front yard across the street from our house. Before he and his family moved to Florida he said, “Don’t forget us.” We wouldn’t have forgotten them anyway, but this was a very special way to leave a remembrance of good neighbors.

Of course, the snow itself was a gift (gripe though I did about it). The water situation last summer was horrendous. This year’s snow probably corrected that problem, in spite of the loss of water due to broken pipes caused by the extreme cold this season. One friend whose water main had broken called and asked me to tell people that they are responsible for the expensive repairs when their water main breaks — even in the street.

I had done that some time ago — when that change took place, when those who fought to have the Department of Environmental Protection replace the Jamaica Water Supply Co., and won.

A reminder might still be helpful because once a breakage occurs you must arrange promptly and properly for the repair or the city will charge an additional fine.

This winter will be one many of us will probably remember as outstanding. I still remember another winter many years ago, when I had been waiting to take a spring vacation. I had planned it for April and was shocked to spend a good portion of it shoveling snow. It was some freak storm that blew in and dumped the most snow I have ever seen in this area, with drifts well above our windowsills.

It didn’t ruin any of my set plans, but it did change them a bit. As I shoveled, I built a myriad of snow sculptures and had a great time doing it. A couple of years ago, some of my young neighbors helped me build a snow chicken that was fun to have “setting” in our front yard until she turned to soup. I planned to do the same this year when the blizzard began to make the weatherman anticipate a record fall.

The Saturday before the snow started I shopped a lot and had only a couple of dollars left going into the long holiday weekend. By Monday night, as the storm had dumped snow well above my knees and was just about stopping, there was a knock at our front door. It was about 9:30 p.m. and certainly not the kind of night we expected anyone to be out, let alone plodding through the snow to climb our front steps.

I called out the side door since I had been working in the kitchen, “Who is it?”

A young man’s voice answered, “Shoveling?”

I answered, “No, thank you.”

There were two reasons for my response. I had no decent tip money, and the snow was the kind that could be shoveled up in blocks that could be turned into an impressive igloo.

I began to shovel up the beginning blocks at about 1 a.m. By the time I reached the comparatively short distance to our front gate I noticed, not unhappily, that that plan also had been thwarted. Our front sidewalk and path had been shoveled already. Maybe that young man had shoveled before he knocked, I don’t know, but I appreciate it. Sometimes life’s surprises are pleasant indeed.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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