Warm memories of chilly childhood home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2015

This is a day for gratitude that I have a heated house. Oh, it is so nice to stand in front of my electric fireplace and feel its warmth on my legs.

When I turn to bake that warmth into my thighs, I look out the window at a gray, cold and damp day. In the background, I hear the sound of my central heat coming to the aid of the fireplace. What a sweet sound.

A breeze stirs the few leaves left hanging on the trees and I remember other days when a chilly wind rattled the windows of my childhood home. Back then, there was no central heating system keeping the whole house evenly warm. (In fact, most houses had no central way of heating or cooling.)

Nope, we had an oil-burning floor furnace, space heaters and a fireplace that used coal as fuel. The house had high ceilings and little, if any, insulation. There were no double-paned windows either, so drafts were a part of life during the winter.

As I settle into a chair and drape a blanket over my legs, I remember being a kid and standing close to the space heater or fireplace (but not too close when I was wearing a flannel nightgown) or straddling one corner of the floor furnace to get warm.

My parents kept doors closed to trap the heat in each room. That meant when you passed the furnace and hit the back of the hall, the temperature dropped in a big way. I learned the importance of getting both sides of the body toasty before making a mad dash to the bathroom at the end of that hall.

After a hot bath, I pulled on my long granny gown, my thick housecoat, socks and slippers, hurried up the stairs, ran across the cool hall and jumped under the covers. Then I’d lie still until my body warmed a spot on the cold sheets.

Oh, I didn’t like getting out of that warm cover-cave when Daddy woke me up for school. I’d stick out an arm to test the feel of the air in the room, and more times than not, I burrowed under the blankets begging for a few more minutes of warmth.

This past weekend, I was back in that house having coffee with my mother.

“Are you cold?” she said. “It feels cold to me.”

With that, she turned on her electric fireplace.

“This helps,” she said, pointing to the heater.

She said sometimes her central heat just doesn’t feel warm enough and she gets cold. That’s when she uses the extra heater.

“I like having something to back up to and warm,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “I like having that extra heat, too.”

I smiled thinking that even with our houses much more comfortable nowadays, Mother and I still enjoy warming our backsides on cold winter days. It’s nice to sit down and have a tingle of hot on the backs of your legs.

Today, as I bent over to warm my hands, it occurred to me that perhaps it’s the memories as much as the heat I like when I stand at my fake fireplace. It’s recalling the sweetness of those chilly nights when I raced to my bed and drifted off to sleep with the sound of the wind outside the window and my parents’ voices softly drifting up the stairs.

Yes, this is a day for gratitude for my heated house and gratefulness for all those childhood days when I lived in a house filled with the warmth of love.