Friday, December 28, 2007

Fireplace Warmth [CCR]

Winter’s chill is upon us and has reached down to Tennessee and Alabama to give us a taste. As I stepped out the back door this morning I could see a glimmer of ice just to remind me of what could be happening. The newspaper tells me my home of last year in Ohio is plummeted in snow. I guess I should be thankful I didn’t actually invest in that mechanized snow blower.

Today many people enjoy the warmth of their fireplace as they look out the window and watch the winter wind cast its chill on anyone who dare confront it. They reach to an electronic gadget and push a few buttons. Soon the heat is blasting again. The unlucky few who do so may be missing out on more than they think. Yes, they avoid the chores of hauling the wood to the fireplace or even emptying the soot. But why do you think some of those fancy restaurants still burn wood?

When I step outside I can still catch a whiff of the lucky few who have placed a hickory log upon the fire. The fluffy smoke billows from the chimney and spreads its cheerful fragrance upon the neighborhood. Maybe you consider that smell an annoyance. For me it symbolizes warmth in a season of frost.

Dad and I spent much of the summer and most of the fall weekends gathering wood for the winter. As a boy it seemed more of a chore than a pleasure. We loaded the wood high upon the old truck and carried it home where it some would dry for the future season while the larger green logs might become the main stabilizer for an overnight flame.

Many times Mom would push a pot of beans over the blazing fire on the rack Dad had made to hold the iron pot. A few chunks of ham might give the beans some flavor which added with the wood smell to memorialize a scent of home. Mom would place an iron skillet of cornbread in the oven after the beans had simmered most of the day. It might even be after Dad and I returned with a load of wood that we sat down at the dinner table to a large plate of beans, cornbread, and Southern sweet tea.

The years bring change and today even Mom and Dad’s fireplace no longer sports the smell of hickory. The glowing embers have been replaced with the high efficiency of propane gas. I never knew I would miss those trips to the woods with Dad. But tonight Cindy prepared a large pot of beans with chunks of ham. She brought a large skillet of cornbread to the table. The doctor has forbid caffeine so water must substitute for the luxury of tea. I just can’t stand the thought of any substitute for true Southern sweet tea. But nobody can stop the memories.

So I sit to a plate of beans and cornbread, watching the cold wind blow its icy best upon our yard. The dogs have found their warm place in the barn while the cat snuggles in some unseen corner. In the distance I can see an old farmhouse where the smoke gently curls up and disappears into the evening sky. It is nice to be home.