Oak Park,…

Oak Park, #2.

It's been so cold. There's something wrong with the gas valve, our landlady says. She leaves long, rambling messages on the phone about her travails with the gas company. She has given up, she says, and will send a contractor on Thursday, which is still two days away. The days are fine, if chilly enough indoors that my fingers cramp up while typing. The nights are impossible. We bundle the children in layers for sleep -- socks and pants and shirts and sweaters and hooded jackets, all tucked under a double spread of blankets. They don't seem to mind. But I cannot stand it.

The first night, once they are safely asleep, I dress in long flannel nightgown over long-sleeved cotton shirt and pyjama bottoms. I stand in front of the open stove, baking in the profligate warmth which cannot reach more than a foot or two away. It flies up and dissipates, disappears. The second night, I take a long, hot shower, glorying in the tiny pinpricks of heat dancing against bare skin. I lean against the wall until I am so exhausted that I think I may fall asleep there. The third night, I check the time -- half an hour until closing, and I run out the door to buy a new comforter for our bed. Ours is in a box, buried in a garage, inaccessible until spring. You can never have too many comforters.

I wander too-bright aisles in a dizzy haze, unable to weigh the merits of down against down alternatives, all-season warmth versus extra-heavy. I finally choose; I must; the store is closing. I am outside again before I notice the forgotten slippers on my feet. They were so soft, so comfortable.

Today, the heating man came to walk through our house with me. He said, no, it's impossible, fifteen years in this business, and I can see the ductwork patterns in my head. You cannot get from here to there; you need another furnace. Maybe two. He has picked the perfect day to make his plea. Today I can all too vividly imagine the children freezing in the night, their small bodies curling up into tiny icicles. I tell the man that somehow we will make it work. I leave the contractors bending their heads back, looking up at the open rafters, trying to picture the twisting ducts, trying to find us a better solution.

In the end, we will pay what we must. Winter is coming.

***

My backyard parking lot, 118 S. Home Ave., 10/5/10

2 thoughts on “Oak Park,…”

  1. Mary Anne,
    Why are you considering using hot air furnaces? Is there some reason you discounted hot water distribution? The piping would take less room, is easier to route through floors and walls, and is easier to zone for different areas of the house. A warm air furnace is suitable for small bungalows, but your new house is much larger.
    Talk to your contractor to see about a hot water system.

  2. Dennis, we did think about hot water — there were a bunch of reasons why we decided against, but honestly, I can’t even remember most of them now. One reason, though, is that I sometimes get chilled badly, very fast (side effect of thyroid issues, I think), and it really helps to be able to have instant hot air blowing on me.

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