It's Sunday morning - Christmas morning - and outside the little house the sun's rays dance with a million gleaming sparkles on last night's snowfall. Nearly a foot down, in fact, in fewer than eight hours. Peering through the frosty window as she tugs on her boots, Nancy scans the fresh snowfall with a sigh of resignation. There's just enough wind to make her shiver and tug her hat down a little more snugly over her ears, and glance longingly back over her shoulder to the cozy little kitchen she's leaving behind. A scramble of townails on the linoleum triggers a hint of a smile on Nancy's face as she pauses to let Axl, her six-month-old collie pup, hustle out to keep her company. No time to waste, though. Back to the task at hand.
Axl launches himself from the top stair, sinking nearly out of sight in the snowbank next to the front steps. Buried one moment, then a flurry of activity as a pair of furry ears and that curious nose burst forth joyously. Oh, to be able to move like that again, Nancy thinks, watching the carefree pup frolic. Her previous dog, Sammie, had passed on late last summer after nineteen magnificent years together, and though she loves Axl dearly the sting of missing her longtime companion is still fresh enough to raise a tiny lump in her throat. Still, it's nice to have a bit of company while shovelling snow, and Nancy figures she could do worse than the ball of energy currently dashing around the yard.
She picks her way gingerly down the stairs, ever mindful of hidden patches of ice that sweep your feet out from under you without warning, and steps calf-deep into fresh powder. At least it's the light fluffy stuff today, she thinks, none of that wet, heavy snow that sticks to the shovel with every scoop. Plus it's so pretty, with the sun shining like this. And it's only fifty feet to the edge of the driveway. Sure it's cold, but it's not so bad. No pain in the joints or anything yet. It's not so bad. With these thoughts in mind and a determined look on her face, Nancy plunges her shovel into the snow with the crunch of metal on concrete and tosses the first of many loads onto the lawn. Axl pauses in mid romp, head cocked to the side, one ear perked up, then returns to enjoying his first ever snowfall. Nancy has seen seventy two years' worth of snowfalls, each one more and more difficult, and is a lot less excited than her boisterous little friend.
An hour passes, then two. The wind has picked up along the way, and a grimace marks her chillblained features. Her hands are starting to give way to the familiar aches the cold always brings along with it. Her pace slows and she winces each time the shovel bites into snow, but she doesn't allow herself to stop. She knows if she stops to rest she won't be able to get started again, and there's far too much driveway left ahead of her to think of stopping. But oh, what she wouldn't give to have one of those lovely Jensen boys from next door come along and offer to help out. They're all grown up now, of course - the oldest, Jimmy, would be in his twenties by now, she supposes - off to their own lives and driveways of their own to keep cleared. Still, today it would have been nice to just sit indoors and enjoy the day. Christmas only comes once a year, after all.
That wind has really picked up now; it sure is cold. It's starting to get dark, too. Nancy's hands feel like ice inside her sopping wet mittens, with a dull ache that makes her sob. Even Axl had decided it was too cold for playing and scratched at the door until she had gone to let him inside. That was almost an hour ago, with so much left to do still. I'm getting too old for this, she whimpered to herself. When George was alive he never would have allowed her to suffer like this, not for anything in the world. Sweet George, her hero, her knight in shining armor... but that was so long ago. Now I've got nobody to do things for me, or who needs me to do things for them for that matter. Enough is enough; Nancy turns and painfully shuffles back toward the front door. The rest will have to wait, and hopefully it won't snow any more today, or worse yet rain, and make this even harder later on.
Reaching for the door handle she hears the crunch of tires on the snow and turns to see headlights swim across the front of the house as a car turns into her driveway. Now who could this be? she wonders, and pauses at the door. Even in the dark, momentarily blinded by headlights, any grandmother would recognize the form of her grandson outlined against the haze. Tears tinge her eyes, not from the wind this time, as he hustles toward her and gently plucks the shovel from her trembling hands then, gently for such a large man, scoops her into a huge hug. He urges her inside the house with strict orders to sit and rest while he finishes up the driveway. She turns once more and marvels at the speed at which the snow disappears to the sides, then goes inside. The warmth emitting from the stove is almost shocking as comared to outdoors, and it takes a moment before the feeling begins to return to her fingers. The pain intensifies, but she knows it will pass soon. She pushes it aside and manages to get her boots pulled off and her coat unbuttoned. Axl dances circles around her feet, excitedly waiting for their company to come in and play with him. Nancy smiles at him and gives him a little scratch behind the ears. She's excited about their company too.