When the furnace failed in the middle of a very cold winter, I built a fire in the fireplace, cooked a chicken in the oven, left the oven door open once it was cooked, ran a hot bath and steeped in it until the sweat ran down my face, then climbed beneath several blankets to sleep. I left the water running so the pipes wouldn’t freeze and went for a long walk in the metropark across from my home the following day, kept my parka on when I returned, ate leftover chicken for dinner, took another hot bath and slept soundly for the second night. I built another fire and tended it the following day, took a walk, ate the rest of the chicken, took another bath, and went to sleep. The following Monday, I called the repairman.
“Why did you wait so long to call me?” he asked.
“It failed while I was at work on Friday. By the time I got home it was 8 p.m. I couldn’t spoil your weekend.”
“It’s just me,” I added.
“Don’t wait, again,” he said. His face betrayed his kindness.
I lived in that house for 10 years. It was my sanctuary.
As the furnace aged, so did I. I worried about the cost to replace it, and how I’d manage when it did.
It all worked out. When my came home from school, her happiness to be home reassured me keeping the home fires burning meant something to her, as well as to me.
I watched the northern lights from my front porch, watched deer chase each other from my kitchen window, and was greeted by snow-covered fawns peering through my bedroom window on snowy winter mornings. It was home.
Someone else lives there, now.
This wasn’t meant to be an elegy, but perhaps it is. I’m sure a family of geese still nests near the pond, the pink and white waterlilies still bloom, the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, waxwings and sparrows still visit.