By Bruce Stambaugh
When I asked if anyone wanted to help bring in wood for the fireplace, only one person volunteered. Our two-year old granddaughter said she wanted to help.
On went her hat, coat, mittens, and the mini-muck boots that her older brothers wore when they were her age. Maren followed me around like a miniature shadow, constantly asking questions.
To play along, I asked questions too, like what color the blue wheelbarrow was. “Yellow,” she said without hesitation. I wheeled it behind the shed to the winter’s stacked wood supply.
I carefully tossed the split hardwood into the wheelbarrow. Of course, Maren wanted to imitate her Poppy. I handed her the kindling pieces. Now and then I gave her a weightier one, and the sharp little blonde quickly let me know that it was “too heavy.”
Maren hung in there like a trooper despite the cold. The tip of her nose turned red within minutes, quickly followed by her cheeks. She never complained, just kept helping to load and unload the wood from pile to wheelbarrow to garage. She even learned where the “little ones” went and correctly deposited them all on her own, while Poppy stacked the heavy pieces just outside the door to the family room.
Gathering wood is just one of the satisfying rituals of having a fireplace. The effort reaps more than needed wood. I enjoy the exercise, and find the aromatic discharge from the chimney invigorating as it mingles with the cold air. I even gain a certain satisfaction in watching the light smoke swirl from the top of the stubby brick chimney. Altogether it spells contentment.
Indeed, having a fireplace is really all about enjoyment. A fireplace may be inefficient. But I savor the all-inclusive ambiance of a blazing fire, its fragrance, its crackling sounds, the penetrating warmth and the simple beauty of a dancing fire.
There is nothing quite like the pure warmth of a fireplace fire to take the chill off of a frosty fall evening, to enhance the beauty of a snowbound day in Amish country, or to free you from the numbness of a damp and miserable spring day. In each situation, I sit in front of the fire until my bones are warmed.
Watching the fire flicker away in multiple colors, constantly changing shape and posture, and occasionally spraying golden sparks warms both body and soul. When family is home, like they were at the holidays, the fireplace becomes the center of activity except at mealtime, unless roasted hotdogs and toasted marshmallows are on the menu.
I think I got this affection for fireplaces from my father. On rare occasion, he would light a fire in the living room fireplace at home. When that happened, it was truly a special family time.
Each home we have owned has had a fireplace for all of the aforementioned reasons. Even our cottage, which my parents built, has two fireplaces, one on the main floor, and one in the walk out basement.
At home I buy my firewood each year, usually from a local farmer. It provides his family with extra income, and my family and me with immeasurable joy. Since the cottage is built in an expansive woods, we gather and split dead wood for our fireplace.
We often have a firewood frolic to get the job done there. The neighbor volunteers his hydraulic splitter. I round up some young, willing helper who enjoys showing off his youthful prowess to lift the heavy logs. My expertise is stacking the split wood just so.
Having a fireplace may be considered a luxury in some corners, an inefficient heating effort in others. I take a different view. Added altogether, the affable socialization, the exhilarating labor, the fire’s soothing pleasantries, yield rewarding results.
If your granddaughter helps bring in the wood, it’s all the better.