It’s that time of year when wood smoke abounds. When I smell it, I’m in the time machine, heading back to those happy days at Grandma’s house. I remember Christmases, when the living room was transformed by decorations and the house was full of warm cooking and tables full of family. I smile to think of my house being headquarters for those sorts of activities someday, if we have grandchildren.
Our stove has been hard at work now that we’re officially in the cold, cranking out enough heat to make the dog sweat. Through the warm seasons, it sits in the corner of our big room, blonde and quiet. Hubby cleans it out, when the air starts hinting at chill. He makes sure the chimney’s swept, the ashes are cleared, all the pieces and parts are in working order. Then he makes the first fire.
We don’t always need that first fire, though we’ve gotten good at putting it off until we do. That first fire is usually as much about mental warmth as it is anything to do with our physical needs. The stove becomes bigger somehow, once it’s working. It gains prominence in the room, and that’s only helped by Toddler-tron’s habit of yelling “HOT!” whenever someone walks by it. The Jack Russell Terror sheds some of his hyperness to lay, panting and turning slightly pink, right in front of it.
All this wood heat is reminiscent of my childhood, at Grandma’s old farmhouse. The black stove in their living room sat in a corner much as ours does – the same brand we have now, coincidentally. It puffed and bellowed and we all jockeyed to be the closest without getting in trouble. Even as we loved to find ourselves sweating on those freezing evenings, there was an aura of fear surrounding the stove. I always knew that only a Big Person could open the stove. (And even though I am now, technically, a Big Person, I have a pang of anxiety whenever I open our stove.) I never even wanted to try. Put wood in myself, just like them? No way! Are you nuts? I could burn the place down!
Grandma doesn’t have the wood stove anymore – she’s moved twice since the old farmhouse I still visit in my time machine. When she visits us, she always smiles at it, and I think it smiles back. It delights her that we have it, that her family is toasty beside it. She can’t quite express it in words, but I see it in her face, in the way she glances at us and in the way she holds her hands over it on a cold day.