It’s -5° this morning, and I’m feeling warmer than one might imagine because I know what it’s like to live without central heating. The furnace quit working last Saturday, and repair parts weren’t available until Monday. As the temperatures plunged, Adventure Barbie was called up for active duty once again.
The task wasn’t merely to keep ourselves warm but to protect my husband’s extensive collection of tropical plants, or as I like to call them, “The Window Hogs.” We don’t need curtains; we have plants! We can’t even use one of the sliding glass doors, so surrounded is it with greenery.
The plants are varied, huge, and longstanding residents of our home; many have been with us for more than 30 years; some came from Nebraska. In freezing February 1978, we made the 1,000 mile move, navigating a 24′ U-Haul with all our worldly belongings except the plants. For the seasonally sensitive flora we found temporary homes and then drove all the way back in the spring, rented a trailer just for the plants, and brought them to West Virginia. Are you getting an idea of the status “houseplants” hold in our family?
So there we were, in plant preservation mode, setting up heaters and building a fire in the fireplace. We closed off three rooms, cleverly constructing a double-decker curtain reaching to the cathedral ceiling, and we used a fan to circulate warm air from the fireplace. Dannie chopped, split, and carried wood. He also regularly scooped ashes from the fireplace. I slept on the couch with the kitchen timer chirping every 90 minutes so I could add more wood to the fire. Laboring together, we kept the home fires burning and achieved a balmy 60° in our three-room botanical garden, while the rest of the house dipped below 40°.
As happened during the “water crisis,” I found myself appreciatively connected to those of another time and place. My mother never had central heat nor running water in the Indiana farmhouse where she grew up. Every morning, year round, the first order of business was to get the fire going–for heat, for cooking, for washing. Even in the summer when the heat was a problem, the fire was essential.
In those days every member of the family was engaged in the chores of keeping a home operating: pumping water, chopping wood, collecting eggs, feeding livestock, cooking, cleaning, farming. So much work! So much hard work! Yet through it all, each person had an opportunity to feel a deep sense of contribution and usefulness. I got a small taste of that as I lovingly stoked the fire throughout the long night.
Now, with our furnace restored, I settle back into my routine, employing my mind far more than my physical stamina and feeling just a little less essential to the operation of the household. Certainly each age has its challenges, not the least of which has always been to accept gratefully the challenges of life and to engage wholeheartedly in the Experience of Being Human.
Adventure Barbie Rides Again!