This is the house I grew up in. It was around 1000 square feet (Dad always said it was under) and it had no central heat or a/c. I’m thinking a lot about that house because A) It’s cold as crap here this morning (6 degrees…IN ALABAMA) and B) My downstairs heater is either overworked or just not working as the thermostat says 54 degrees inside. I didn’t want to get out of bed and meet the cold house air and that moment – pausing to think about how cold it would be OUTSIDE of the covers – brought me the most intense childhood flashback that I’ve ever had.
We had two sources of heat in our house. One was this baseboard heater you see under the table in this picture.
We closed off the part of the house with the kitchen and the living room and that baseboard header kept it just warm enough that we could tolerate our lives IF we were wearing adequate clothing. I mean, we wore toboggans and layers inside, but as long as we did that – it was bearable. Many nights, especially if it was really cold, we’d all pile up under that table and watch TV fighting over who got to smash their bodies up against the heater. Which you could do because it didn’t provide that much warmth.
The other source of heat was a coil heater that we ONLY turned on if we were A) Using the back of the house on days like Christmas or B) Needing a more powerful source of heat after playing in the snow. That heater DID get hot to the “touch” so when you were REALLY cold (from being outside in the snow) it was awesome to defrost by leaning up against it. That’s when I learned how hot those little metal rivets on the pockets of blue jeans can get. The technique after hours in the snow was as follows:
- Come inside and take off outer wet layers by the front door.
- Push your father and your brother to the side to get to the fire-hazard heater first.
- Lean against the heater in a way that the handle on the TOP keeps you from touching the metal guard on the coils directly.
- Stay on it JUST long enough to warm up a bit, but NOT so long that you give yourself blisters when the rivets heat up on your butt.
- Jump off and make room for the next person, BUT GET BACK IN LINE, because no one can stay on the heater long.
And then our beds all had electric blankets on them. That was part of what made it SO hard to get out of bed in the morning. The only actual warm place in the house was under the electric blanket. Knowing you were getting out to greet the frigid temps of the house was almost impossible of a hurdle to overcome.
So…here I am this morning typing with gloves on (so difficult) and feeling a little nostalgic as I bundle up just to function around the house. The cold this morning – even though it may be from a faulty heating system – is kinda’ making me smile.
Donnie, however, is not smiling at all. He’s leaving for work at 5:15am just to get someplace warm. He finds no joy-bringing nostalgia in the cold house this morning.