City Girl In The (Cold) Country

wood-stoveWe’ve had the coldest and snowiest winter in recent memory which brings the threat of higher heating bills and the motivation to implement supplementary measures.  Visions of thousand dollar bills flying out the door every time we opened it scared husband and I into some long overdue changes.

Thus, we set about on our mission to cold-proof ourselves and our home; each of us trying to out-do the other in heat-saving measures.  To start, every family member, minus the dog, was gifted with a set of wool socks, a fluffy blanket, and a thick sweatshirt.  In lieu of warm clothing, the dog – who has his own natural fur coat – did benefit from an upgrade in sleeping quarters.  At the request of my son, he happily surrendered his place on the cozy wool rug for a previously restricted spot on the foot of my son’s bed.  A “two-for-one”, son declared.   “The dog is warmer and so are my feet!”  Who am I to argue?

A family trip to the hardware store was productive and satisfying.  We discovered sweeps for the doors, plastic to cover windows, and caulking to fill cracks around both.  We filled up our cart with abandon, convinced that spending a little now saves a lot later.  Not a flinch could be detected as the total of our purchases soared through triple digits.   Chalk it up for the heat miser.

Our self-satisfaction seemed to grow with every step.  But the real peak was reached when we fired up the wood-burning stove, and hauled in some wood from trees that were felled in our own backyard.  “Free heat!” husband exclaimed.  We were positively giddy about our dominance over Old Man Winter.

Day and night, husband can be found holding vigil at the woodstove.  He’s got it down to a science: position of the flue vent, configuration of wood, placement of fans for heat circulation.  So many details, but oh, so much heat.  Like a spoiled cat, I curl up in front of the stove, basking in the 74 degree temperature; a luxury never afforded by traditional heating.

And then it happened.  Husband left for 3 of the coldest days this season.  And I was left to tend the fire.  It was time for this cat to get off the rug and learn a thing or two.  My crash course was brief, but adequate I thought.  How hard could it be?  Humans have been tending fires for millions of years.  If un-evolved cave people could do it, surely a seasoned city girl-turned-country could too!

Within just a few hours of husband’s departure, my lofty assumptions crumbled.    Facing a rapidly dwindling heat source, and equally diminished confidence, I knelt before the wood stove, praying to the god of fire to save me from disaster.  Then I cried aloud, as if the stove had a life of its own, “I raked the coals; I gave you wood; I even smiled at you!  What more do you need?”   And why is my house filling with smoke instead of heat?  Somebody help me.  I need heat!”

Suddenly, through  smoke-induced tears, I saw a light.  Not the light of a fire, but the light of awareness.  I DO have heat.  Without hesitation, I rose from my knees and walked  defiantly  across the room to the thermostat.  Pushing guilt aside, I raised my finger and pressed the button.  Hearing the familiar click of the furnace as it turned on brought a smile to my face.  I leaned in a little closer, and whispered, “I love you.”

I might have relished that moment longer, had I not spotted my children staring at me, wide-eyed and incredulous.  Realizing that excuses would not suffice, I gave one simple instruction that would be repeated many times in the next few days, “Don’t tell Dad I turned on the heat.”

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