Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

This is the part of spring that I like the best—when it’s warm enough to have the doors of the house open, but there aren’t very many bugs flying around yet to get inside and annoy me.

I’m guilty of throwing open all my doors and windows during a mild January-thaw day, too, just to get fresh air into the house.  I always have my bedroom window cracked open a bit, even on the coldest of nights. I sleep better for it, and yes, I could very well be a fresh air junkie. I hate that stuffy feeling that you always get in winter. My mother was one to do this, to throw the doors wide a couple of times during the winter months, and if we were chilly for a day, she’d just tell us to put on some extra clothes.

She asserted that scientifically speaking, fresh air with more oxygen heated faster than stale air and she was right about that.

Of course, in those days it did take a bit longer to replenish the heat, because we didn’t have a furnace with a nice fan to circulate the warmth. We had two oil space heaters in our eight room, one and a half story house. For those who don’t know, oil space heaters were stoves, made of metal and in our case, black. The one in the kitchen was about 3 foot tall, the other, in our living room, more than four. They had stove pipes that came out the back, and were vented by chimneys. When the stoves went out it was usually due to too much carbon in the inside, and required a repair man to come and clean them out to get them lit and working again.

You had to spread newspapers all around the working area thanks to the high volume of soot and grime involved. Once it was clean, he’d turn on the flow of oil and light it with a match and a small piece of paper, inserted into the fire pot.

The good thing about a space heater was that you could put something on top of it to dry, or heat, as long as you kept an eye on it so it didn’t scorch. The mainstay on our kitchen space heater was a pan of water, to combat the dryness in the air the heat wrought.

The one bad thing about oil space heaters? Twice a year you had to pull down all the glassware on the top two shelves of the kitchen cupboards (those fancy dishes that weren’t often used) and give them a good washing. They’d be covered with a grimy, oily film.

It never even occurred to me until I was married and moved away and no longer used them that the presence of that film meant we were breathing in crud. There are often more down sides to things than we care to think about. Another negative aspect to those space heaters was that sometimes in very high winds, there’d be a gust down the chimney. It gave us some very stinky air reminiscent of car exhaust and often put out the flame, too.

Mom would light it again—yes, with a match and a small bit of paper—and it never occurred to us how dangerous doing that could be.

But spring and warmer air meant you turned off the stoves, and didn’t turn them on again until mid-to late October.

My mother’s house had several flower beds, and by the end of May that air coming into the house was scented with lilacs, lilies of the valley, and narcissus. That particular combination is an aroma I’ve missed over the years.

But the new lilac trees that we planted last year have buds on them, and those lilies of the valley my son gave me last June are also poking little sprouts up. I look out over the flowerbeds every couple of days and measure the progress of the growth.

As I do, I spend a few minutes in joyful anticipation of inhaling that sweet fragrance once again, and soon.


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