Like many New Yorkers, I use a red four-wheeled metal cart to take my laundry to and from the laundromat. In anticipation of my mother-in-law’s visit this week, I was doing an especially impressive load yesterday, and the weight of three rugs in addition to my usual load of grime proved too much for the right front wheel. The rubber rim snapped free of the hub, requiring me to tip the cart backwards in order to make it move, using only the back wheels.
It’s about six blocks from my apartment to the laundromat, and I’m sure I looked extremely cool and sexy with my cart tipped backwards, broken wheel stuck upwards and swinging in the breeze.
It was in such a context that I walked past an apartment building and noticed a child-sized plastic snow shovel laying in the yard. The blade and handle were made of red plastic, and the wooden stick connecting them was maybe two and a half feet long.
It was identical to a shovel I had when I was a child, battling the suffocating winters of Appalachian Maryland. I don’t remember when my parents bought it for me. It was one of those artifacts that I’d just always had, up to and including after I’d gone away to college.
I hope it wasn’t purchased in the deluded notion that I would enjoy doing a “big boy” task like shoveling the walk. I never did. I cultivated laziness from a very young age like a vintner. Knowing my parents, it’s more likely they simply wanted to outsource some of their labor to me, and a full-sized shovel being too large for a six-year-old to effectively yield, they provided me with a scale model.
My mother has many pictures of me as an enwoolened child standing amongst the drifts that collected on our front walk, leaning on that little red shovel like Fred Astaire on his cane. The proportions of the shovel were so exactly child-sized, so perfectly scaled, that one could almost believe that the shovel was of a normal size and I was some bizarre troll baby who would eventually grow into a giant.
Seeing the shovel again in Brooklyn more than twenty years later allowed me to have my own little “rosebud” moment. I drew abreast of it, lying in the pool of muddy salt gunk that’s all that remains of last week’s storms, me balancing my cart on two wheels because of the broken wheel.
And I thought, well this will make a nice blog.