By Hannah Reich Berman
When I turned ten, my uncle gave me a special birthday gift: He took me and my closest friend to see the Ice Capades. I still remember the thrill of watching dozens of beautifully costumed performers glide across the ice and then skate in a long line with incredible precision. That ice show reminded me of the year before, when my parents and I traveled by train from our home in Providence to New York City to see the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall. Then too, I was struck by the beauty, pageantry, costumes, and precision.
Growing up, I was familiar with activities such as ice hockey, ice-skating, and ice dancing. Years later, I learned that there was something known as ice fishing. Until then, I had been unaware that some people would cut holes in the ice in order to fish during cold winter months. Ice fishing, ice hockey, ice-skating, and ice dancing all come under the heading of winter sports. But there is a new one in town. It is known as ice walking!
It is not actually a sport, since sports participation is supposed to be pleasurable for the person who engages in it and beautiful for others to watch. Walking on ice is neither! I cringe at the thought of anybody watching me as I do my ice walk. It is not a pretty sight as I make my way across an ice-covered parking lot or down a street dotted with patches of hardened snow. The good news is that I will never know if anybody is watching me, since I am unable to look up. With my head down and my eyes focused on where I am placing my feet, I am unable to see anything else. I would not know if my own sister were walking next to me.
Winters are unpredictable. Over the years, we have had some that were mild and with little snow accumulation. The winter of 2013–2014 was not among them. It was a pure horror; we had major snowfalls every few days. This winter is shaping up to be a repeat. The only difference is that this year the snowfalls began much later. Although not all of them have been major storms, some have been bad enough. By the beginning of February, I was reasonably certain that Elder, the man who appears after every snowfall to shovel for me, was going to be a millionaire by spring. It also occurred to me that most of his wealth accumulation was coming from me. The wealthier he becomes, the poorer I get. After the first big snowfall, I made sure to always have cash on hand for snow-shoveling, as paying by check is not an option. Elder may be close to becoming a millionaire, but to the best of my knowledge he does not have a bank account.
Snowfalls are pretty, and many love the look of a winter wonderland when snow and ice glisten on tree branches. But that love is, at best, fleeting. It lasts only until the snowing stops and we need to deal with the reality of what is left behind. As soon as the flakes stop falling, people get antsy and decide that they must get out of their homes and into their cars or their SUVs. The vehicles make a gray, slushy mess of the streets, and gone is the winter-wonderland look! In its place is trouble. After sidewalks have been shoveled and streets have been plowed, mounds of snow appear everywhere. And the number of icy patches is too high to count. There is ice as far as the eye can see and, despite most parking lots having been plowed, it will, for many weeks, remain a challenge to navigate them on foot.
The story never changes from one year to the next. Town sanitation men plow parking lots, and streets and storeowners shovel sidewalks in front of their front doors, but nobody gives any thought to shoveling a small path between the street and the sidewalk. This makes it next to impossible to get onto that sidewalk.
Each winter, after the first snowfall, I make a She’hecheyanu, as it is the only time during the entire year when I am happy to see a parking meter! The meters become my friends because I can grab on to them to help myself climb over hardened snow and get onto the sidewalk.
From April through November, I consider parking meters a nuisance that do nothing but deplete my quarters. And the larger nuisance is when, after finding a vacant spot and getting out of my car, I shove a quarter into the meter and learn that it is broken. At that point I look around, and if I discover that there is not another parking spot in sight, it then becomes decision time: Do I get back in my car and drive around again or do I take my chances and hope that no eagle-eyed meter maid will catch me during the few minutes that I am in the store? That is always a tough call. On one occasion, out of sheer frustration, larceny crept into my heart and I seriously considered taking a handful of snow and shmearing it over the head of the meter so that the red EXPIRED flag would not be visible. I might have done it, but the fates kept me honest: There was no snow soft enough to grab!
During the winter, parking and walking both present major challenges. I am unsure exactly when the change took place, but I did turn into that senior citizen who is terrified of falling. Then, common sense kicked in and I realized that penguins spend their lives walking on ice. So I knew what I had to do. I learned to take tiny little baby steps to ambulate. The difference between me and penguins is that those beautiful black-and-white creatures, who live in a world of ice, keep their heads upright with their bright orange beaks clearly visible in the frosty air, while my head is down and my proboscis is, at all times, pointed due south. No doubt I must present a truly attractive sight as I make my way along the landscape these days doing my ice walk. But I don’t fret over that, because chances are that nobody is looking at me. Everyone else is also looking down. Following several snowfalls, that’s just the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.