Hearth and Home: The Wonders of a Fireplace

For years the tiny old coal-burning fireplace– about the size of a microwave oven– sat there totally unused, cold and empty, purely decorative (and not even doing much of a job of that).

Then someone told us about a guy who comes in and, boom, expands and makes useable such fireplaces, installs a “fire box,” shakes your hand with his gnarly, callused, working-man’s/bricklayer’s hand, effortlessly crushing all the little bones in your hand, presents you with an invoice, and splits with your check–all in a single day.

Now this fellow makes a good living, according to Mack’s calculations. You kids out there, you might want to consider fireplace-installation as a career path. For one day’s work, he and his 20-something apprentice-y partner, whom he probably pays $10/hr., absconded with our check for $2000. Do the math! His only materials cost: some bricks and some mortar mix. Even if he and his apprentice split it, which I know they didn’t, $1,000 a day X however many days a year he wants to work (and he was busy, all booked-up, months in advance) = righteous bucks no matter how you slice it.

Before deciding to hire this dude, Ms. Daddy and I squirmed, balked, and quailed a bit at the cost, but finally decided to do it.

But it turned out to be I would say the best $2,000 we ever spent, by a long chalk.

And it’s paid for itself, in a way, over time, in terms of savings on not going out.

When you have a fireplace, you don’t even WANT to go out. What’s the point? Go to some chilly bar or restaurant, pay triple the cost of everything, get dissed by the wait staff, have cold blasts of air wriggle up your legs and tickle your thighs every time someone opens the door– when you could be warming those self-same thighs in front of a toasty fire?

No thanks!

In fact, it might be a bad thing…we could get to be too much of homebodies.

But I’m left with so many warming memories of the holidays thanks to that fireplace. It’s funny, the thing is such a powerful draw. Our little tiny living room, which we never used to go into, now we spend a ton of time in there. The furniture, once angled so it points at each other, now all points towards the fireplace.

And we opened our presents in front of a warming fire. We played cards, chess, other board games. Ms. Daddy and I slurped down oysters and sipped martinis. Our offspring toasted marshmallows, impregnated with chocolate chips (an innovation of theirs, so far as I know).

To Mack’s everlasting amazement, sometimes our kids, our three boys, normally obsessed with their Game Boys, Wii, Xbox, TV shows, etc., might sit around the fire and just talk, tell us what’s on their minds.

And that is so precious, such a delicate thing, Mack is almost afraid to breathe when it happens.

And the kids seem to look forward to it, too. Last night, sitting in front of the fire, my second-oldest, JJ, piped up and said: “So. What’s on everyone’s minds?”

Those of you who have male children may understand when I say it almost brought a tear to this old croc’s eye.

Also, Ms. Daddy, perpetually complaining of the cold, perpetually battling Mack (who is descended from an hyperborean northern people and likes the cold and suffers in the heat) re: the thermostat (if we ever get divorced, both our lawyers will reference the thermostat), is, at long last, finally, and for once, warm.

And you can’t put a price on that.

Now it’s back to school, everyone, and for those of you who haven’t been working (like Mack Daddy, a workaholic) over the holidays, back to work.

Get bundled up and get out there! Just don’t forget to spend a little time, in the midst of all the hurly burly, with each other, with your loved ones, “in front of the fire,” whether real or metaphorical.

No place like home, babies! In front of a fire, or sitting at a kitchen table, tell each other what’s on your minds. Open your hearts and communicate. You’ll feel better, warmer, inside and out.

Happy end-of-holidays. Onwards and upwards. Over and out.

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