We make up stories about who we are, and then we buy into those stories. We believe them. That's how culture and even identity get formed. Here in New England, a popular story is that we're a hardy stock, descended from the Puritans. We take pride in all the hardships we face and overcome. Adversity builds character. That's how we can endure an 86-year drought for the Red Sox. And that's how we rationalize putting up with New England winters year after year. We're tough enough. Only wimps live in California and Florida, or root for the Yankees.
But I'm a transplant. I've only been here three decades, and that makes me a newcomer. My ancestors were anything but Puritans, and I grew up in comparative ease and comfort. And yet I, too, have bought into the whole stalwart Yankee myth. I think of myself as one of those tough individualists, perhaps leaning on a hoe silhouetted against the sunset, who doesn't run away from foul weather. That why, at the end of January of one of the snowiest winters on record, I'm still without a snowblower. (Actually, I don't own a hoe either.)
But enough is enough. Facing another foot or so on top of the fathom of snow we've already had this winter, I'm ready to cave. I'm ready to trade my stalwart Yankee yarn in for a gasoline-powered, blast-my-way-through-anything, kick-the-snow's-ass kind of guy story, probably sporting a red plaid jacket and John Deere cap. I'd look good. There's just one problem ... there are no snowblowers to be had.
I guess my fellow New Englanders have already given in, for the retailers exhibit large open spaces with snowblower-shaped indentations in the floor. An on-line purchase will not arrive in time for tomorrow's squall, so I'm frantically combing the "for sale" ads and neighborhood email lists to find a working used blower. I'm sure I'll find one eventually ... some ancient machine whose best snowstorms are behind it. Then each storm, you'll see me out coaxing it to start, and trying to cajole it through one more snow bank ... one more icy ridge from the wake of the street plows.
Then, of course, I won't be either the indestructible New England farmer or the John Deere-clad nature-conquerer. I'll just be Charlie Brown, nursing along his pathetic little Christmas tree of a snowblower.