When Tim and I got married, we put a second floor on his house. This made a lot bigger house to heat and his old woodboiler, completely adequate up to that point, was not up to the challenge of the heating the bigger house. Tim began to look for a new woodstove. He is careful, and he is methodical in his research.
We had just gotten the internet. Tim had lobbied against it for some time, not wanted to give pornography and filth direct access to our home and our children. We debated back and forth, my take on it that if we set up the computer in the livingroom, kids would not be accessing garbage. The internet was an important tool, despite its many shortcomings, and it was important to have for the kids' sakes. This debate went on for some time, but finally, Tim gave in. The very first day we had the internet, we sat Tim down in front of the computer. Anxious to show him what it could do, we all urged him to pick something, anything, that he would like to learn more about. Mr. Outdoors extended his index finger, pursed his lips, and typed, painstakingly, one letter at a time, 'shotgun'. Of all the first words to choose, this should not have been that word. It turned out that 'shotgun' was also a euphemism for something that we had never heard of before, and, to be perfectly honest, would have been just as happy remaining ignorant of. As pure pornography poured into our livingroom, in full view of the children, Tim gave me a furious, 'I told you so' kind of look.
After that dubious start however, Tim really took to the internet. By the time that he decided it was time to look for a bigger woodboiler, he had the world as a shopping mall. He was pleased. He discovered a super efficient Danish woodboiler that he was just wild about. It burned its own smoke, making it good for the environment. It was also kind of pricey. Tim began to collect the data with which to convince me that this was the woodboiler of our dreams, which meant, for weeks, this was the only thing that we discussed. Any quiet time was perceived as yet another opportunity to discuss the woodboiler. Somehow, every conversation led to HS Tharm. As Mrs. Trouble Keeping on Track who is married to Mr. One Track Mind, I have to tell you that very quickly, the debate declined to one line. The line was this: "For pity's sake, Tim, I don't care what you buy! Do what you're going to do. Please, please, PLEASE, just stop talking about it!" By the end of the following week, I was begging him to make the call to the importer in Vermont. One week after that, I was prepared to dial the phone for him. One week after that, I was prepared to go to Vermont, pick up the stinking thing, and haul it home myself. On my back. Walking all the way. Anything to stop the endless discussions on various woodboilers and BTUs.
Well, eventually Tim became convinced that he had convinced me. We have a Danish model in our basement, and, let me tell you, she is hot. She's been there for three years now, and I have to tell you that given a choice between me and 'Bertha', Tim would have to stop and think about it. He loves his woodboiler. Tim understands all her little quirks. She, in turn, behaves perfectly for him. I think that she might be a bit jealous of me. Once I fed her. When I opened the fire door, a flash of pure heat exploded. I was horrified to find that suddenly I could not see. I was not blinded, however. My mascara had melted, gluing my eyelashes together. Once I pried my eyes open, I discovered that I would be saving money on mascara since I no longer had eyelashes. Regardless of Tim's high opinion of her, I personally think that 'Bertha' is a bit of a witch.
We collect our wood from everywhere. We collect the windfalls in our own woods. We harvest the 'tops' left over from timbering operations. This year, a nice lady in Warren had some storm damage that she needed cleared out, and we were glad to clear it out for her. One man's trash is another man's heat source.
We don't split our wood the old fashioned way anymore. I am glad of that. I am not a great wood splitter. I have poor hand/eye coordination. I was enthusiastic enough, but basically a threat to myself and axe handles. It was not safe to be anywhere around me while I held an axe, and Tim was scared witless to think what I might do to myself if no one WAS around. So Tim and the boys did the splitting. Dylan spent a lot of time in high school, weight lifting in the Eisenhower gym. He was not a big fan of "The Hornburg Physical Fitness Plan". Tim did not see the difference between working out at the gym and having nothing to show for it, versus working out in the back yard and having your fuel for the winter. For some reason, both Dylan and Mike saw a huge difference, the former labeled 'fun', the latter labeled 'work'.
When Central Tractor went out of business in Jamestown, Tim and I saw a log splitter. Even discounted, it was still pretty expensive. I talked Tim into it. He has a back problem. I knew that the boys would not be with us always. I knew also that this was a chore that I'd never be much help with. We bought it. We did not tell the kids what we had done. We couldn't wait to see their surprise. When we hauled it home, the boys were pretty excited. Dylan said, "I was so happy to see it that I had tears in my eyes. It was like Christmas, only better."
A lot has changed in these years since. The boys are gone now. Tim and I are the wood splitters. We work in companionable silence splitting and stacking our wood. The wood that we are stacking now is not for this year. We will not begin to burn that wood until it has dried for a year. Next year, Cara will be a senior in high school, on the threshold of moving out into the world. She is looking at the University of Prince Edward Island. She has always had this inexplicable desire to be Canadian. The boys will be graduated from college by the time we're using the wood we stacked last month. They'll head where the jobs are, no doubt. Brianna and Stacey are already on their own, busy with their own lives, one in Michigan and one in Jamestown.
And by the time we finish burning that wood, it will be just Tim and I. That day looms far closer than we'd ever realized. Now that its upon us, it just does not seem possible. But it is a fact. Just Tim, me, and Buck, our amazing wonder dog.
We've got kids scattered hither, thither, and yon. Before it's all said and done, I imagine that they will be even more far flung. We don't know what the future holds for them. Where ever they are, where ever they go, I hope that they will always know that on top of a hill in a quiet corner of the world, there is a house, snug and welcoming, filled with memories. There are two people who are always glad to see them. Tucked down in a quiet corner of the basement, Bertha waits too. She may harbor a grudge against me, but she has a warm spot for the kids.