Ah, November. A glum, damp month. Not quite autumn, not quite winter, but definitely the type of month that makes you feel like staying indoors. It makes me long for the giant wood-burning fireplaces of my childhood home.
We had two of them in New Hamburg: an elegant marble one in the living room that glowed and crackled delightfully whenever we had company, and a more rugged looking one in the den that Mom liked to light for our movie nights.
At my place in Waterloo, I contented myself with a rather bland looking electric fireplace, since the house had no working chimney. Now, at Someday, we have a gorgeous stone fireplace with propane heat that keeps my toes warm on these chilly November days. But none of these heating devices can hold a candle to the wood-burning stove at Carman’s place in Blair’s Grove.
The big, black stove takes up half of Carm’s dining room and is positively medieval looking. It’s large enough to roast an entire lamb, or at least a really fat raccoon...but no one uses it. I had been begging the boys to put on a fire for me ever since my first winter visit to Blair’s Grove. They always refused with a handy excuse: the ashes hadn't been cleaned out, the chimney would catch on fire, we didn’t have enough wood, it wasn’t cold enough outside, you didn't bring your bikini, etc.
Then came the fateful November day when D and I were living there and the power went out thanks to 70km/hr winds. Having moved to what seemed like the windiest place in Ontario meant I finally got my wood stove wish.
Fire and wood stoves have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I’m a sucker for the crackling warmth afforded by my Dad's modern stove at his cabin. It throws off just enough heat to make me feel pleasantly drowsy, and I love the camp-firey smell that stays in my hair and on my clothes afterwards. In New Hamburg, I used to spend hours stretched out on the orange shag rug in front of the aforementioned den fireplace, soaking up its cozy heat. I was not prepared for the raging, creosote scented inferno at Blair’s Grove that lasted eight hours and made me feel as though I was bathing in lava.
I should have suspected what I'd be in for when Carm marched up from the basement carrying two chunks of wood, each as big as my torso.
"You want a fire, eh, Kimmy?" he said, creaking open the blackened doors of the ancient stove and shoving the wood in as far as it would go. "Well, I'll build you a fire."
Fifteen minutes later, I was basking happily in the delicious warmth. I'd plunked myself in the rocking chair that sits in the corner of the dining room. With a book on my lap, the dog at my feet and a cold drink within reach, I was in November heaven.
Carm smirked at me. "So you're gonna sit in here, are you?"
"Well, yeah," I said, with a "duh" look on my face. "That's the whole point of having a fire."
Casting a knowing glance at the indoor thermometer, which read 22 degrees, Carm nodded goodbye and left to do chores. With a sigh of pleasure, I opened my book. Ten minutes later, I was opening a window and discarding my sweater and socks. The thermometer read 28 degrees.
Another ten minutes passed and the thermometer hit 30. I contemplated putting on shorts, but couldn't lift my sweat-soaked body out of the chair to find them. When the temperature hit 32, I called up to the farm. My mother-in-law laughed at me. "Are you warm enough?" she asked. I could hear Carman chuckling in the background.
I’ve never been very good in the heat; I’m more of a fall-winter person than a summer person. If the temperature rises past 25 degrees, I bypass irritable and go straight to beast from hell. So there I was, trapped at Blair’s Grove with the angry stove, trying to get as far away as possible from the fire I'd so desperately longed for. Neko had long since retreated to the bathroom and wisely had her head up against the cool porcelain toilet. Since there wasn’t enough room there for both of us, I crammed myself into the far corner of the living room with the window cranked all the way open, pummeled by storm winds while I gasped for breath.
D arrived home from work after a scary drive through the storm. He took two steps inside the door, threw his arms wide open and said, “Ahhhhh!” The man loves his heat as much as I detest it. It’s probably good we live in Canada, where we can both be happy with the weather for at least half the year.
He threw off his coat and stretched out on the couch, basking in the 34 degree roasting pan that was Blair’s Grove. “Ahhhh,” he said again, smiling his lovely creased smile. “Kimmy, it’s the perfect temperature in here. Shut that window, would you?”
I think it's the only time I've declined to cuddle with him on the couch.